So elated was I, initially, that it was many moments before I realized it.
"God's Blood!" I exclaimed: "Where is he? Where is Holgar Gudfredsen!"
"Fear not," Lin Kuei replied: "He is quite safe."
Whereupon, the Cathayan did smile and remove something from around his neck. Something that had previously been hidden by the folds of his saffron robe and matching cloak. It was a small burlap pouch on a rope. And, what he transferred from the interior of that pouch to the palm of his left hand...was the very man we had come so far, and endured so much, to rescue!
Then, did Lin Kuei place this man upon the ground, in order to re-enlarge him. And, only then, did I get my first satisfactory glimpse of Holgar Gudfredsen.
I did look from him to Skogul. And, I could, indeed, see a family resemblance. What could best be described as a "grim pout" around the jaw lines of each one's visage.
"Well," I began (seeking to end the awkward tension I did sense between them): "What will you do, Lin Kuei, now that Ovaria is no more?"
"Ovaria?" muttered Holgar: "T'was not Ovaria you vanquished. T'was her old maternal aunt and wet nurse! She who was variously known, to the ancient Greeks, as Artemis Laphria; Potnia Theron; and Echidna ('Mother of Monsters')!* "
"What???" screamed Skogul.
And, Svyatogor weakly nodded: "He speaks the truth. During those first few agonizing moments that I did spend, within her digestive juices, a vision somehow came to me. Showing me the truth! Where the true Ovaria is imprisoned, even Echidna has never been able to ascertain. But, she was determined to avenge all three of her nieces, never-the-less. Towards that end, she even dedicated her own son...whom she promoted to Captain-General of the Korybantes."
"Regardless of whose demise we accomplished," rebutted Lin Kuei: "Her dream of re-conquering this world has died with her. And, I must needs return to my other duties."
Whereupon, he did shrink back down to the size of a bug; leap back on to the neck of the honey buzzard; and off they flew!
When they were beyond our sight, it did become Skogul's turn. She did resume the height of a hundred English feet tall. Whereupon, she picked up her father and Holgar Gudfredsen in her right hand. While using her left to perch me upon her left shoulder.
And, when this had been accomplished, she began her march.
Where she and her father had required stealth, to come this far eastward, they had traveled at night for three straight nights. Yet, now that it was merely Skogul, this Valkyrie giantess marched westward, in broad daylight. And, with unapologetic swiftness!
It was sunset by the time we reached the easternmost shore of the Khazarian Sea. But, she did not stop. Instead, she waded across, as swiftly and directly as possible. Not caring what fishing boats might accidentally be capsized, in the process!
It was approximately the ninth hour preceding midnight when she came out upon the northwestern shore. And, yet again, she did proceed without stopping!
It was the third hour past midnight when she finally did stop. Yet, surely, there must be some mistake. She must have taken a wrong turn, somewhere, amidst all her gigantic striding. For there was no fortress-city, here!
Merely a series of gray, rectangular stone walls that did bear a resemblance to nothing less than...
...a giant stone coffin.