The wind howled and a fine mist swirled as they climbed the stone steps. By the time Zy’an led them to the last of the monk’s structures, they were covered with beads of moisture.
“The inner sanctum?” Frank pointed to the last, and largest of the buildings above them. It was like the others, set into the hill. The day had grown later and so the sun had fallen below the clouds. All was cast in a dull grey light.
“Yes.” Said Zy’an. He paused at the entrance. “Follow me.”
Thrak pulled out his axes and entered behind the monk. Frank watched while Iricah shuffled her bags around. She eventually grabbed her shovel, and held it out in front of her, spade first. With the shovel, she seemed slightly more at ease. “What?”
Frank smiled. He was holding his mace and his shield before him. “Nothing. I was just going to ask if you had brought a weapon.”
“Doesn’t this look like a weapon, Lord of Three Harbors?”
“I can dig it,” said Frank.
“Har har har,” said Iricah stepping aside. “I’ll let you go first.”
“I think you mean third. You know what that means, right Iricah?”
“No. I don’t.”
“You are the Fourth. Of Spade.”
“We’ve got company,” said Frank. It was the only word he uttered until Frank prayed over their dying bodies.
Iricah charged in shovel first, and nearly bumped into a pillar of stone. Then, the stone moved.
It’s a leg! She thought. The leg of a ….She looked up. And right into the face of a gigantic troll, larger than a house. It’s head was so massive that it bent below the ceiling, snarling at the figures moving below it. Then, another head swiveled around. Oh goodie. There are two.
The troll was twirling like a leaf caught in the wind, slashing Thrak with a massive claw. Then, the beast reached out to slash at Frank, who stood his ground behind his shield. The weight of the massive thing’s arm made his feet slide right across the stones. Behind it, one more troll was crawling down along the side of the back wall.
It was a terrible position. And it felt like a trap right from the start.
Bleeding, Thrak tried to lift an axe against his foe, but he could not even muster the strength to swing. He fell to one knee, just as the troll picked him up and threw him like a piece of wood against the stone wall of the inner sanctum.
Then, it roared and threw Frank with it’s other claw against the opposite wall. Zy’an, who was bounding from wall to wall, dropped the smaller of the trolls with well placed strikes and came back to stand before Frank. With a mighty kick though the troll caught him at just the right moment. Zy’an fell too upon the stones. Iricah, now alone, stood behind her shovel. The troll’s massive heads swiveled around to face her. “LASTTTTT!!!!!!” It’s scratchy voice rumbled around the walls.
It had suddenly become quiet. As quiet as death.
The troll’s body swiveled around along with it’s heads, an arm the size of a battering ram came with it. Vicious claws dragged along the ground, making a terrible scraping noise.
“Say!” cried Iricah. She couldn’t think of anything else to do. “Say, do you…do you like music?”
Iricah smiled. She closed her eyes and waited for the claws to shred her torso. The scraping sound stopped.
Iricah opened one eye.
“Mujhic?” Both mouths asked simultaneously.
Iricah, trembling on the inside, put her shovel down. Never losing the gaze of the troll, she slowly, carefully, pulled out her lyre from her most handy pack, and strummed a light tune. The troll didn’t move. With a soft melody, she began.
Oh I’ll sing you a tune,
Of a merry band of monks.
Who did dabble in the arts of the dead.
And you’ll be happy to know,
My gigantic mighty foe,
that this song will help put you to bed….
The trolls eyes, both sets began to droop, it’s eyelids closing over the massive red pupils. And just when she thought her magical spell had worked, the eyes blinked open once more. “Master!!!” Master calls!!!” The beast had bent over slightly so as to hear the music, but now it shot back up straight, striking it’s head upon the center beam. It roared!!!! “You trick VARDAK!!!!! You trick him!!!!”
Iricah, stood there. Strumming her lyre and prepared to be squished into a fine congealed mass of human bones and guts.
“LET THE LIGHT GUIDE YOU BACK TO YOUR DEMON HOLE!!!!!!”
It was Frank! Somehow, he had found a way to heal himself for a change. From his magical mace, which he held before him, blasted out the light of the Silver Flame which he so ardently held dear. The light showered all in the room, striking Thrak and Zy’an. They both stirred and lept back into battle as if they had never fallen. The smaller troll that Zy’an had felled had begun to stir once more, but the light obliterated the creature into a pile of ash. It crumbled right there before their eyes into a heap on the ground.
“Iricah bent down, just as Vardak’s claws scraped the air where her torso had been. She picked up the shovel and rolled to the side. Frank, Zy’an and Thrak hacked, punched and kicked their way around the troll. The thing swirled and pivoted, trying to slash out at them.
The battle had swung back to their side. They would make it!
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Who’s there?” called Frank. He kept attacking with his mace. Unbelievably, he was smiling. Areia would have liked that, he thought.
It was like watching time slow. The troll slashed and kicked at them, while 6 robed figured walked nonchalantly into the chamber. The leader leaned upon an old walking stick.
He pulled his hood back with a darkened hand. Revealing sparkling eyes and strange features. He had curled ears and an elongated face. His voice was deep and though he spoke softly, it echoed in the chamber. “You’ve done well Vardak. Now, bring back to the boy to me. You know the one I mean.”
Their eyes turned to Zy’an. Zy’an stared at the lead figure. The others, he knew were those monks who had once been in the inner circle. The ones who had asked him to kill his mentor. And the master, the elder was none other than…
“Koh’an!” cried Zy’an.
The monks waded into the battle, moving like Zy’an. He tried to back away, but Vardak caught him in midair. Squeezing with his mighty claw, Vardak took the last strength that Zy’an had left. The monk’s body went limp in the troll’s mighty hand.
“Go Vardak! Take the boy!” called Koh’an.
“We’ve got to stop them!” yelled Frank.
Iricah, who had accidentally but fortunately just smacked a monk in the face with her shovel, cried out, “I’m working on it, Frank!”
With monks pummeling his armor, Frank strode forth, bashing all aside. Behind him, the troll was pulling itself up by it’s massive arm. With the other it held Zy’an. It climbed through the massive space between the wall and slanted roof, and crawled along above them.
“He’s leaving!!!!” yelled Thrak. “I’ll get him!”
Thrak ran in his loping tail-less gait towards the entrance just as the creature jumped upon the stones onto the stairs leading down the hillside. “Hey, stupid! Fetch!”
The troll turned, just as Thrak’s axes whizzed through the air, striking it in the chest. The beast swayed side to side. Landing along the stone railing, it’s torso extended over the hillside, and it’s arms dropped over the wall with Zy’an in it’s grasp!
“He’ll drop him! It’s hundreds of feet! Do something!” Yelled Iricah. She couldn’t believe it, but her shovel had struck another of the monks in the groin. He gave a little yelp and fell over like the others.
Frank, Thrak and the creature that Zy’an had called Koh’an both reached the railing at the same time. They all looked over, forgetting for just a moment that they were battling one another. Below, Zy’an’s lifeless body was held in the troll’s grasp. But the hand was loosening. He was gong to fall, right into the clouds below.
Koh’an climbed nimbly up the troll’s body and along the arm to where Zy’an was. Thrak and Frank could only watch. Neither was capable of such a feat. Koh’an grabbed the monk’s tunic and pulled him upwards just as the trolls hand opened!
“Bring him to us you son of a Ketian!” Called Frank. “Or you’ll suffer the same fate as all the rest of your friends behind me!”
Koh’an held Zy’an firmly. He looked up. His adversaries were stronger than he thought. He was now alone to take the boy. But Koh’an had prepared just such a spell. He let go of the trolls arm, and fell back into the clouds pulling Zy’an with him. This was his prize. He had waited years for the boy to return, knowing he would trace back to his roots. Now he had it. The answer was in his blood. His research complete, he would survive the darkening. And rule once it ended.
With a wicked smile, the creature fell backwards into the cloud, holding onto Zy’an. His spell would stop their fall.
And then the troll eyes opened once again. For trolls have the power to regenerate, their bodies imbued with a special ability. He knew that, but couldn’t possibly know that this would happen now.
The troll, crying for it’s master reached out into the air and swiped. Befuddled and confused, it caught a figure and brought it to the top of the railing where the rest of it’s body lay. The other, fell into the oblivion.
Vardak set the figure down. It turned around to face him.
It was Zy’an. Behind him, Iricah called forth magical missiles which blazed around Zy’an striking the troll’s chest. Killing it. This time, for good.
Zy’an turned around.
“Devil hole Frank? Really?”
Frank put his mace away. “Best I could do on short notice.”