Brutus and Avianna - Chapter Five

Part Two, Chapter Five

Chief Korarassh kicked a maple tree out of his way, splitting the trunk easily with the flat of his foot. He stepped through the opening in the thick underbrush and looked back at the band of trolls behind him. They were a lumpy lot, vicious and ill-tempered and eager to destroy things.

Almost half of the trolls in his band were young ones, or reborns, which was just as bad as being a young one. A reborn troll had regenerated from a lost limb and retained none of the intelligence of the previous troll who had lost the limb. Reborns also tended to have one limb that was too large, having regenerated a proportionally smaller torso and other limbs. Given time, they had grown to full size, but the oldest limb was always the largest and strongest.

The Chief picked his nose with one clawed finger and scrapped the bloody snot off on one of his yellowish horns. “Hurry up you stupid small-horns!” he shouted at the younger ones and reborns. He had little patience for stupid trolls.

Korarassh was smarter than the average troll, and he knew it. The Troll King had spotted his intelligence, as the Troll King always did, and placed him in charge of a band years ago. Every chief owed his position of leadership thanks to the Troll King and his wisdom. Likewise, every chief lived in fear of the Troll King. His intelligence, magic and power made him practically a god. Indeed, he was now worshipped as such.

And one did not disobey a god.

A rule that every troll knew was a simple one. No attacking or raiding outside of the Troll Lands. The penalty was death by fire, the only death trolls could even imagine. Any troll who had ever encountered fire knew the power of fire and the pain that it caused.

Normal pain did not bother trolls very much. It just made them angry. But fiery pain was different and permanent. Injured limbs or body parts did not grow back when burnt.

The only trick was, where was the borders of the Troll Lands? It was difficult to say. In the distance Korarassh could hear horses on the road. That road was, by Korarassh’s estimate, the border. Everything on the opposite side of the road was off limits. Creatures travelling on the road however were open game.

Korarassh picked up a handful of rocks. To be safe, he had already determined that he would stay behind and not actually go on to the road. The trolls following him however wouldn’t know any better. He turned and held up a jagged rock. “We kill da humans on da road! Don’t go past the road! Troll King says no going past road!”

The trolls following him nodded dumbly and started picking up rocks of their own.

Korarassh led the way, picking his way down the hill through thick fir trees until he was standing almost beside the road, a mere troll arm’s length from it. The horses started to whinny as they got closer. Korarassh started to drool. Horse meat was tasty and juicy. He would feast on blood today.

Not waiting for the other trolls to get into position he decided to attack now, lobbing his rock at the lead horse.

Raelean’s pointed ears seemed to perk up slightly at the sound of a horse’s whinny. From where the boy sat on top of one of the carriages reading his spell-book he could see the entire caravan. A horse’s whinny meant trouble and he therefore was not at all surprised when his sharp elvish eyes saw a rock fly out of the woods to the east and smack a horse in the neck.

The stallion gushed blood and wobbled for a moment, its neck at an awkward angle. Suddenly it collapsed, taking the knight that rode it to the ground with him. Judging by the size of the rock, Raelean guessed the horse’s neck was broken.

Chaos and shouting erupted from within the caravan and from the woods that ran beside it. Long limbed trolls, some with horns longer than Raelean’s arm, leaped through the woods onto the side of the road, throwing rocks with both hands. An especially large troll emerged from the woods at the head of the caravan and approached the knight who had one leg trapped under his horse.

A large jagged rock came down, crushing the knight’s helmet before he even had a chance to defend himself.

Thinking quickly, Raelean spread himself flat across the top of the carriage, hoping that the trolls wouldn’t notice a lithe elvish boy hiding there. Maybe they would even presume him to be dead. He tried to remember what his teachers at the magic academy had taught him about fighting trolls.

Fire was essential, he knew that. But size and speed was also an issue. Trolls were huge, gangly creatures and could run as fast as a horse. Without thinking he pulled a pinch of powdered iron from a pouch he wore on his belt and blurted out the words of a Shrink spell, pointing at the nearest troll.

The troll’s eyes went wide as the world around it suddenly seemed to grow bigger and bigger. Where once there was a hulking eight foot tall troll, there now stood a four foot tall halfling of a troll.

The squire who had been driving the carriage’s horses suddenly felt a lot more confident with his sword and swiftly cut the shocked troll in half and proceeded to cut it into even smaller pieces. Raelean knew that wouldn’t do however, for the troll would start to regenerate soon.

“Get the brandy from inside the carriage and burn it! Quickly!” shouted Raelean. He stood up and looked about, feeling safe now that there were no trolls immediately near him. He was supposed to be riding inside the carriage, but he was not known for paying attention to silly human rules. It had been a calm beautiful day until ten seconds ago.

Behind him there were four more trolls attacking knights and carriages. The front of the caravan had two more trolls, plus a third who appeared to be a very cautious leader. The knights in the caravan, front and back, were holding their own, but that would not last. The trolls would regenerate quickly and the knights were too busy to light a fire.

Thankfully Raelean had thought ahead. This was his third trip passing near the Troll Lands and he knew how important fire magic was when dealing with trolls and had memorized a number of fire spells that would certainly scare the trolls away, or possibly even kill them.

But first he would need to get them closer.

“Hey you big dummy!” he shouted at the troll that was attacking the carriage behind his. The squire that had been driving the carriage was already dead, as was the two horses. The elvish boy drew his dagger from his belt and threw it, sticking the troll in the chest. He started to rub his hands together quickly, feeling them get hotter.

The troll roared in his direction and began to lumber closer, ignoring the frightened woman inside the carriage it had been attacking. “Run for it! Get out of the carriage!” Raelean shouted at her. Then he quickly said the words for his spell.

The woman had barely enough time to act as flames erupted from Raelean’s hands, engulfing the troll and the front of her carriage. The troll collapsed to the ground, writhing and howling like a demon as flames spread and covered the troll’s body.

Suddenly Raelean had the attention of every troll and human on the road. Women and children were fleeing the carriages. Knights and squires started to fight their way towards the burning carriage. The trolls now showed signs of fear, howling in rage at the loss of their kin.

The squire from Raelean’s carriage pulled a spear off a rack on the back of the carriage. He drove it into the burning carriage and pulled out a chunk of charred and burning wood. He lit the remains of the troll he had chopped into pieces (Raelean had almost forgotten about that one), and proceeded boldly forth with spear in front of him like a victory standard on a battlefield.

Injured knights and squires rallied to this, forming a weak line beside the squire as they held their ground against the trolls. The trolls were much more cautious now that fire had been introduced into the battle and their tactics now seemed more like those of a wolf pack, darting in quickly and trying to take the opponent off-balance, stumbling back just as quickly in order to avoid the squire with the burning spear.

Pleased, Raelean started to get out the spell components he would need for a bigger spell: A squished up ball of sulfur held together by smelly bad guano.

Suddenly his carriage tilted upwards and he found himself flying sideways, off of the carriage and into the ditch beside the road. He tumbled for a bit, dropping the sulfur/bat guano and then tried to collect his bearings.

He was in the ditch, and the leader of the trolls now stood where the overturned carriage now was. He had apparently overturned the carriage and killed the horses.

The leader ripped the broken axle off the carriage and swung it in one hand like a club, smashing in the head of the nearest knight. The man had tried to block with his sword, but the axle was simply too huge to be stopped. It crumpled the sword and the knight like mere paper.

Raelean looked about hastily, trying to locate where the ball of sulfur had fallen. He needed it to the cast the spell. He could not possible cast it without it.

He heard the screams of the knights and squires as they died, one by one, and still he could not find the stupid sulfur. He was looking frantically in the weeds and flowers by the road, scratching his hands on thorns and rock, but to no avail. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. He was just a small boy. His magic was the only weapon he had against such monsters.

Silence halted him and he looked up. Of the squires and knights, only three remained and they were retreating towards his side of the road. Another troll looked to be burning to death, but there was still five more, including the leader. Five trolls versus two knights, one squire, some women and children and one elf boy who couldn’t even find what he needed to cast a spell. Raelean did not like these odds.

The knights were discussing the possibility of fleeing into the woods, hoping to stall for time. Paladins almost never fled the scene of battle unless it was absolutely necessary.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The trolls lined up as they advanced across the road, a formidable line. They were still cautious of the squire with the flaming spear, but the flames on his hunk of wood had died down a bit now and was less fearsome. Now they seemed much more cautious of where they stood on the road, something which didn’t quite make sense to the elf-boy.

Then Raelean spotted what he was looking for. The sulfur and bat guano ball was underneath his spell book, lying beside the carriage. The book had fallen off the carriage and landed partially on the ball.

Jaw firmly set Raelean began to chant his spell softly. He picked up the book and the ball of smelly sulfur. He tucked the book under his arm, walked towards the trolls, a grim smile on his face as he smushed the ball between both hands. His tears still watered his eyes and he tried to blink them away.

Bewildered, the knights and the lowly squire parted to let the elf-boy through. Even the trolls paused, confused at the sheer bravery of the boy. Then he opened his hands, palms facing towards each other and a sphere of blue flame appeared. He spread his hands further and the flaming sphere grew larger.

The leader of the trolls roared something guttural and began to back away, his eyes wide with terror. The others, also fearful of the fire but not fully understanding stepped back less quickly.

Raelean opened his hands, palms towards the trolls and the ball of fire roared outwards, engulfing the trolls in a brilliant blue fireball.

When the smoke and the roar of flames died down, only the leader of the trolls was still standing. The leader had managed to get away from the centre of the blast and his back and side was only partially charred. He roared at the elf-boy and threw the axle from the carriage at him.

The two knights grimly stepped forward and blocked the axle with both of their shields. It clattered heavily against their shields, dropped to the ground and rolled a little.

Furious, the troll stomped into the woods, bellowing guttural curses towards the knights and the boy.

Suddenly a flaming arrow caught the troll in the neck and he stumbled into a tree and fell backwards, clutching at the arrow that was lodged all the way through his neck.

A minotaur and a tall human rushed in, coming from the north and teamed up on the injured troll. The minotaur hoisted the troll into the air and the barbarian (for that’s what he appeared to be) sliced the troll in half with one swing of his axe.

The squire rushed forward to join the two, lighting the troll on fire with what remained of the embers stuck to his spear.

Raelean fell to his knees, rather in shock. He was trembling and trying to focus, but his vision was all blurry from the tears streaming in his eyes.

“Are you okay?” asked a feminine voice in elvish. “We tried to get here as soon as we could when we heard the fighting. Are you injured anywhere?” The voice was strange, non-standard elvish and seemed a bit formal.

Raelean looked up at an elf-maid in dark leather armour. She was carrying a bow and her eyes were full of concern.

“No, I’m not injured,” he said at last. “I’m just- I’m just…” He began to sob uncontrollably.

She knelt and dropped her bow, pulling him close into a hug.

Chapter Six