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Author's Chapter Notes:
Chapter 8 by Pixis.
Chapter 8

After Raquel's altercation at the sewer grate, the king's men were on high alert, searching for the intruders. The orcs and bounty hunters had fled deep into the city's subterranean depths but they knew it was only a matter of time before they were discovered.

Kroth was surlier than usual. He did not like having to retreat. True, the giantess had had them trapped in close quarters with little room to maneuver or fight. Retreat had been the wisest course of action. But orcs were not known for running from battle. And the bounty hunters he had allied with were now doubting his skill as a commander. The giant she-beast had hurt his pride and the chieftain swore that he would have satisfaction.

“Once Amot has found a usable route,” Kroth snarled, “we return to the surface and take the giant down. Flood the streets with her blood if we must. No one will stand between Djoland and our swords.”

Kane smiled grimly. “Now you're talking like an orc.”

The chieftain whirled around to face him, spitting angrily at his masked features. “Hold your tongue, human! What would you know of being an orc?”

Kane bristled and was almost ready to reach for his weapon had Amot not returned at that very moment.

“My lord!” the scout called to his captain. “The king's soldiers are scouring the city! And I found something else--something horrible!”

“Out with it, man,” Kroth ordered.

“An airship!” Amot shrieked. “The humans have an airship! Lord Kroth...we're outgunned.”

“Hippogriff shit!” bellowed the chieftain. “I'll tell you when we're outgunned! Has the airship taken to the skies?”

“No, my lord,” Amot said. “It's still docked but its crew is standing ready.”

“Then there's still time,” said the orc chief. “Lee, do you feel confident that your men could commandeer that airship?”

“With ease,” Lee boasted with a smirk.

“Then do so,” Kroth told him. “My orcs will make a direct assault upon the giantess and the soldiers. With an attack coming from multiple fronts, the city won't know what hit them.”

* * * *

Amot led the orcs through the sewer tunnel path that he had scouted and pointed out where the city's soldiers were patrolling. As soon as Kroth gave the signal, orc warriors burst from the manholes and sewer grates across the town, savagely attacking the king's men. The humans suspected the invaders had fled to the sewer system, but thanks to Amot's reconnaissance, Kroth's raiders knew exactly the right spots to emerge and ambush the soldiers from behind. The battle was soon begun in earnest with the two armies struggling against each other in the city's streets. Swords clashed, guns blazed, and men and orcs fell where they stood. The people of Tillinghast's realm cowered in their homes, listening to the fearsome cries of the invaders and the tumult of a battle that rapidly spread throughout the town.

As soon as the attack began, Durant began ordering the Dauntless crew for takeoff. Soldiers and crewmen rushed about the airship's corridors, firing up the coal-burning engines and drawing in the anchor. They thought to take the orcs by surprise with an aerial assault but instead found themselves under attack by Lee's bounty hunters. Dozens of brigands, rogues, and mercenaries swarmed onto the airship before the gates could be sealed. Durant's warriors were unprepared for this new enemy and barely had time to react. Orcs they had expected, but orcs with human allies? Men who turned upon their own kind to side with beasts? What treachery was this?

The swift brutality of the bounty hunters' surprise attack soon won them control of the Dauntless. Lee paced through the hull of the airship, where his men were tying up the surviving crew. His remaining eye practically twinkled when he recognized the ship's passenger.

“Emperor Durant, I presume?” Lee chuckled. “I believe I've seen your face on a gold coin once or twice. Oh, this is too marvelous. Such a ransom you'll fetch.”

“Traitor!” spat Durant. “Orcs are ravaging the city! And you aid them? If my hands were free, damn you, I'd--”

“Likely get a blister,” Lee shot back. “You royal types aren't much for fighting. But yes, I aid the orcs. For now. They're but a means to an end. Hell, we'll probably just kill them before this caper is through.”

“But Lee--” Hayden started to protest.

“Quit your sniveling, Hayden,” Lee told him. “There's only one orc I'm truly concerned with.”

“Djoland?” Durant asked. The bounty hunter's words had confirmed his assumptions about the invasion. And to think he'd begun to grudgingly respect that orc!

“That's the chap,” said Lee. “And now we have this lovely airship of yours to storm the palace with. They either turn Djoland over to us or we kill you and everyone aboard. Won't that be fun?”

* * *

As the fighting continued, Raquel rushed towards the city center, her rumbling footsteps shaking the houses to their very foundations. She was a beautiful and terrifying sight – supple curves and towering, athletic legs looming above the tallest buildings, long crimson hair flowing behind her like a dragon's tail. The giantess's mid-section was bare where Pixis had cut through her garments to form the makeshift bandage on her hand. This left the vast expanse of her belly and the sleek muscles of her torso exposed to all the world. With this tattered, half-clothed appearance and the frantic expression on her face, Raquel resembled some wild warrior queen magnified to staggering height.

Pixis and Claude rode in the cuff of the giantess's boot, pressed snugly against her shin. As soon as the battle drew near, the two warriors hoisted themselves out and slid down the leathery exterior. They landed in a crouch upon her instep before springing, catlike, off the toe section of the boot. The elf and human drew their weapons and charged into the chaos, seeking to aid their friends.

Raquel too was anxious to do her part in the defense of the city but her size proved as much a hindrance as an asset. With the men and orcs locked in such close combat, the giantess was likely to wound or crush as many allies as enemies if she dove straight into the fray. With a careless step, friend and foe alike would be squashed underfoot. Besides, Raquel found the use of violence against those smaller than her to be...unsportsmanlike and more than a little messy. She was a kind soul at heart and would prefer to avoid crushing the little invaders (not to mention Tillinghast's soldiers!).

With this goal in mind, the giantess dropped to her knees in the nearest open area and reached a massive hand carefully into the heart of the battle. From a distance, Raquel resembled a girl crouching before a swarm of battling beetles. She swatted at a few of the orcs with the back of her hand, not hard enough to kill but with more than enough force to send them careening away. When they ducked or dodged her blows, she began to pluck orc after orc off the ground, drawing them away from the beleaguered soldiers. With flicks of her trunk-like fingers, she knocked the tiny creatures unconscious or (in cases of extreme resistance) broke or fractured their miniature arms or legs, before setting them aside and reaching back into the fracas for more.

“Slimy little creeps,” Raquel said, grabbing a handful of orcs in her fist. “You're lucky I'm a gentle giant.” With a swift flick of her index finger, she gave her little captives concussions. “Well, more or less.”

Raquel continued to incapacitate the orcs, but chose not to kill them. However, she little realized this desire to show mercy might prove her undoing.

“Blood of the ancestors!” an orc swore as he stared up at Raquel's gargantuan form. Her shadow stretched full across the battlefield, blocking out the moonlight. “The she-monster's back!”

“Aye,” his compatriot agreed. “So why ain't we all toejam by now?”

“The giant's pullin' her punches!”

“A weak-bellied softie she is!” another orc declared. “C'mon, lads, we can take her!”

“Ready the grapples!” an orcish lieutenant bellowed. “Now, men, just like Lord Kroth planned!”

* * *

Djoland watched the invasion with distress from the window of his room. Down on the streets below, his former kinsmen and countrymen were slaughtering Tillinghast's soldiers. His jagged teeth gritted as he fought back the rage. It was always this way! Violence and death followed wherever he went! If it wasn't some ignorant peasant or bounty hunter fighting him, the attack was on those who gave him shelter.

Claws of the forefathers, why couldn't the world leave him in peace?!

Anxiously, the orc rushed to the large wooden trunk that carried his possessions. Djoland flung it open and searched through his stash of weapons. Kroth's army was here because of him and by the gods, he'd have to make it right.

“Here now, what's all this?” a palace guard said, hurrying into the room. “Off to join the war alongside your fellows, orc?” A second guard followed behind him, both men drawing their swords.

“I knew he couldn't be trusted,” the other guard announced. “Probably led the monsters right to our door!”

“Don't have time for this,” Djoland growled. “They're not here with me, you morons, they're here FOR me! Don't you see, Kroth wants me dead!”

The guards advanced on him with menace, weapons gleaming in the flickering torchlight. “Can't say as I blame him. I'm beginning to want the same thing. My city's burning, orc, and someone has to pay for that.”

“The only good orc's a dead one,” his cohort said. “Come on, Fergus, I say we gut him like a fish.”

Djoland stood his ground, a pistol in each hand. He didn't want to kill these fools but neither did he want to die. A clawed finger hovered over a trigger hesitantly.

Just then, a pair of orc warriors came bounding into the room. It seemed that Kroth's forces had made their way to the palace. They charged for the guards with their cleaver-like blades shimmering, their faces worked up into a lather of battle-frenzy. The two humans turned in surprise, too late to mount any sort of counter-attack.

A hail of gunshots rang out, the bullets whizzing past the guards to strike dead center on the orcs' foreheads. The brutish creatures slumped to the floor as the astonished humans turned once again. A short distance away, Djoland stood as stoic as a statue. Smoke curled from the necks of his pistols.

The guards were too shocked to respond as he walked past them. Djoland looked down at the bodies of the slain orcs, grimacing as he realized he had known them. These two had enlisted in Kroth's army the same year as he had. They'd been comrades and sword-brothers before Djoland grew disgusted with the endless raiding. Krelmar and Bjarn. Those were their names, he realized.

Djoland bowed his head and begged the ancestors to accept his former friends into the hall of honor. After a moment, he marched towards the door and turned back towards the stunned human guards.

“Well, are you coming or not? This city isn't going to save itself!”

* * *

Far below on the city streets, Kroth's warriors began launching their grappling lines at the giantess. Raquel was bewildered as an entire volley of ropes and hooks latched themselves to her arms and shoulders and tunic. Weighted hooks were caught on her clothing and flesh, pulling at her from all sides.

“Hey, what gives?!”

Raquel stood up awkwardly, dragging the orcs and their ropes along with her. She tried to pry them off of her but the orcs were far too numerous and too quick. Soon, there were ropes tangled over her legs, wrists, and fingers, curtailing her movements. The orcs bearing these lines spread out across the city square in two directions, tugging at Raquel's arms like tiny puppeteers. With all her strength, she pulled against them, lifting many an orc off the ground to swing wildly below her wrists. They dangled like sentient jewelry as the giantess flailed her arms and tried to shake them loose. Some fell screaming back to the earth but others held fast. In truth, it didn't matter if they could keep her ensnared for this was all but a distraction.

As Raquel struggled to remove the grapples from her arms, a new set of orcs charged towards her legs. They flung more ropes and grappling lines, looping them around the giantess's ankles. Unaware of this, Raquel took an absent step forward. She immediately lost her balance and felt herself wobble, then stagger, then fall.

Anticipating this, the orcs had already cleared the square. But the human soldiers were caught by surprise. They stared up in horror and awe as the giant redhead tumbled towards them. The shadows deepened as a curvaceous mountain of flesh, leather, and cloth descended over their heads. Soldiers scattered to all sides, seeking to avoid the giantess's collapse. She was no longer Raquel, their friend and ally, but merely a collection of colossal deadly shapes – a mountainous chest, a vast wall of stomach, a crushing juggernaut of pelvis or thigh.

The escaping soldiers were thrown to the ground by the thunderous shockwave of Raquel's impact. In fact, the whole city felt the vibrations as she made landfall. The giant redhead winced from the pain and tried to shake herself out of it. But the orcs kept flinging more grappling hooks onto her, climbing the ropes and scaling her form. They were soon swarming over her and surrounding her on all sides. Orcs bearing swords and spears and pistols positioned themselves at strategic points about her body.

“That's it,” Lord Kroth bellowed, watching his army with pride. “Slay me a giant, boyos!”

The Dauntless sailed overhead, its cannons firing a warning shot past the palace. There was a crackle and a hiss and soon Lee's voice could be heard projected by a bullhorn on the top of the airship.

“I bear a message for Rupert Tillinghast. The orc called Djoland will be turned over to me or this wondrous new ship of mine fire-bombs your castle and everyone in it. I repeat, we want Djoland. In fact, if you turn him over, we'd be more than happy to take these other pesky orcs off your hands. I was getting rather weary of them anyway. And the smell.”

Kroth stood on the top of Raquel's head, staring up at the sky in rage. “Why, that two-timing, scum-sucking, son of a wood gnome! You die this night, giantess, but I swear by all the gods, Lee and his pink-skinned cronies go next!”
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