"BARBARIAN SHE-DOG!" Ovaria did heatedly exclaim: "How dare you address a goddess in such a way?"
No sooner had she said this than she was equal in height to the Valkyrie of Jomsborg!
Whereupon, they did spring at each other. Each clutching the other's throat in a two-handed grip. And, each trying to sweep the other from off her feet, so as to complete the strangulation while sitting on her mid-riff!
Yet, all they served to accomplish, by the latter, was plow furrows into the sand-covered arena floor. Or, failing that, they did unknowingly crash into the wooden grand stands around them. Crushing the latter into kindling; and flattening those acolytes too slow to flee with the others!
It was then I heard the shout.
I did instantly look up and espy a familiar brownish-colored bird descending toward me.
"Lin Kuei?!" I exclaimed.
It was, indeed, that self-same Chinese pilgrim. No sooner had the honey buzzard landed at my feet, than he did leap from its neck and re-enlarge himself!
"No time," he replied, immediately thrusting the bow and arrow into my hands (after divesting me of the falchion and buckler).
"No time for what?" I demanded.
His response was the shrinkage of us both.
Again, he replied that there was no time for elaborate explanations. Instead, he did bodily haul me upon the back of the honey buzzard's neck. Whereupon, the bird did bear us aloft!
"Are you crazed?" I shouted at him: "We cannot abandon Skogul to fight this fight, alone!"
"And, we are not," he hastened to assure me: "But, neither can our feathered friend, here, hover like a fly o'er a dung heap! He must circle around until such time as we have an opportunity to prove your skill as a horse archer."
That opportunity did arrive sooner than we could have anticipated. One moment, both giantesses were evenly matched. The next moment, Ovaria did collapse to her knees! Her mouth gasping and retching, and both her hands now folded cross her stomach, as if she were a first-time sailor upon the high seas during a storm.
At first, I took this to mean Skogul's grip had proven the stronger. But, I soon learned differently. For, an instant later, Lin Kuei did shout:
This was to the honey buzzard, rather than to me. For, the bird of prey did swiftly descend and land amidst the flowing strands of Skogul's beauteous golden hair. Whereupon, Lin Kuei hauled the both of us off its neck. And, when he had once more made us the height of normal men, he told me to make ready.
"For what?" I demanded, again.
He did point below me, with the forefinger of his left hand. I did look in the indicated direction. And, I soon espied what had given Skogul her temporary advantage.
"God's Blood!" I muttered.
For, Ovaria's stomach had suddenly begun to expand, like an over-filled goatskin of wine! And, upon reaching the limits of that expansion?
It did similarly explode!!
This explosion, in turn, did cause Skogul to involuntarily leap backward. Thereby, broadening my field of vision. By this means, I did espy...that Svyatogor had returned to Earth!
* * * * *
For what seemed like an eternity, I stood there, aghast. Wondering how Skogul's father had regained his power of growth-alteration. Then, was I struck by realization.
Just as Skogul had regained her power, via the anguish of seeing her father swallowed alive, so, too, must the physical pain (caused by Ovaria's digestive juices) have had a similar effect on him!
Lin Kuei, gazing upon my countenance, did yell at me:
"Stop gaping like a fish, man! Nock the shaft, and let fly, before she fully regenerates!"
This was true. For, Ovaria's entrails were beginning to re-enter her body (via the gaping hole in her stomach) like a lure-bag being pulled on a rope in the training of scent hounds! So, I did put the blest-headed arrow to the bow. I did pull back on the string. I did lean backward, ever so slightly, to insure proper aim. And, then, I did release it!
Up, up, UP, it did arc. Naturally pausing at the zenith. Then, slowly at first, it did commence to descend. Finally, lodging itself...
...in a fragment of one of Ovaria's intestines.
This fragment then rejoined its fellows in Ovaria's body, before the hole in her stomach did completely close. Whereupon, the demoness sprang back on her feet. A grin of malicious triumph once more on her face!
That is; till the divine energy within the golden arrowhead did finally begin to take effect. Something I did find easy to ascertain. For, the grin swiftly turned to a frown of puzzlement. Followed by a wide-eyed expression of panic co-mingled with chilling realization. Whereupon....
...Ovaria did finally burst into flames.
To Be Concluded