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Chapter 4

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Chapter IV

In the Troll Den

 

It took a while for the fear to pass, but eventual Jack Wolfrick was able to feel more secure in his courage again, the troll, a great hairy beast with two sets of red eyes. That all changed however when a scuffling sound came from outside. Jack turned around curious, he hadn’t seen anyone following him in here, and couldn’t think why the troll den would be acting up like this.

The elder of the group started grunting angrily, agitated at the noise that was coming from outside. As it did so, two trolls came inside, hauling something wriggly between them. This seemed to anger the elder even more, as the troll banged his spear against the ground. It was only then that Jack recognised the thing that the two trolls had been carrying.

Evert, the young lad that had rode with him to Bredon was thrown to the ground coughing up a spatter of blood. Jack stood up and placed himself between the elder troll and Evert, not that it would do anything if the creature wanted to act, but he thought that he had earned enough trust for the troll to get the meaning of the gesture.

A few grunts followed this gesture, and even though Jack had no idea what was being said, he was pretty sure it wasn’t. ‘Let’s talk this out peacefully.’ This left him with a problem, he had his gun holstered to his side, but he didn’t so much as reach for it, as that would mean nothing but a very slow and painful death.

“Wait.” A voice said from behind the trolls, it took Jack aback, as he wondered whose voice had spoken, in an imperial accent no less, not the crude tones of the north-men.

A black, shaggy haired figure came out of the darkness, the man was about medium height and build, as well as supported a thick unruly beard to match his hair.

“Stay back kid.” The man said as he walked slowly up to the elder troll and started grunting and stamping his feet in front of the creature. And the troll responded, grunting and pointing towards Jack and Evert as it did so. after a few minutes of this, the hairy man walked up to the two teens and nodded.

“You should be alright now.” The stranger said looking at the pair of them.

“Who are you?” Jack asked, he was amazed to see that there was a person living amongst these creatures.

“My name is Auraily. Or at least I think it is.” Auraily said, scratching his head as if he had not used his own name in many years. It was at that point he turned his attention to Evert, looking down at the younger teen, he proceeded to hold out his hand, and helped him to his feet. Behind him the troll began to bang its spear on the ground again. Auraily turned to face it and started to grunt at the creature again.

“Wait you can understand that thing?” Evert asked looking up at Auraily in slight confusion, this was followed by several angrier bangs from the troll.

“Yeah, and that thing can understand you. Now shut up kid before you get us all killed.” Auraily said in anger himself now, and Evert took the hint and closed his mouth, hoping not to cause any more damage than he thought he already had. It took a few moments, where Jack feared that his companion’s outburst had finally done it for them, when the troll elder suddenly sits back down on its seat.

Jack begins to take a few paces forward, before stopping quickly, not as a response to anyone, but due to his still high levels of fear. However, the troll clearly wasn’t done with him yet, as it began grunting at him again.

“She wants you to continue your conversation.” Auraily said at the nervous look in Jack’s face.

“Erm… She?” Jack asked, looking at the bearded man in confusion, although he didn’t know why he was confused exactly. It was just that he had never thought that these creatures had genders.

“Yes, young one.” Auraily said looking as confused as Jack had been a few seconds before. As Jack sat back down on the stone bench, the troll elder began grunting again, and pointing at Evert. “You too boy.” Auraily said but looking slightly more concerned as Evert took a seat next to Jack. The troll began to grunt and stamp again with Auraily translating what was being said. “Chieftess Hailith welcomes you to her home and hopes that you come in peace.” Auraily said turning to face the two north men. But there was more as the troll continued to grunt. “She wishes to be a good neighbour to the north men. But askes that you and your kind leave her people in peace.” Auraily continued as the grunting stopped, and he turned to face Jack, waiting for his response.

“Oh, great one.” Jack started, feeling weird as he spoke to a being that it was questionable whether or not she understood him, and hoped to the gods that the translator was good at his job. “I came here to investigate a problem at a nearby guard post. Now that I have done that job, you will have no more problems from me.” Jack said, and nodded to Auraily who began to translate, he had another motive, but he thought it best to answer the trolls request first, before making one of his own. This was followed by a few more grunts from the troll elder and Auraily turned back to him.

“Chieftess Hailith is gladdened by this news and hopes that you honour your word. But is still curious as to why you are here.” Auraily said, finishing the translation, looking as confused as the troll claimed to be on that matter.

“I came to the north men at the request of King Fierhand of Normanguard.” Jack said, and the sound of stamping feet could be heard around the room, even Auraily didn’t look happy at that news. But Jack ploughed on, thinking that he may as well get his request out before they killed him. “We are at war. And I’m requesting that you join our forces to ours, to help us win the battle against The Shadow.” Jack finished looking around the room, it had gotten quiet, too quiet for his liking, only the sounds of Auraily translating what he had just said could be heard, that and the sounds of Jack and Evert’s breaths, coming in hard and fast.

“Chieftess Hailith, son of snows does not recognise the authority of Fierhand, the usurper of the mountain. And once again asks that you leave her home.” Auraily said, looking apologetically at Jack.

“Well, that’s that then.” Evert said in an undertone, so as not to have what he had said translated by Auraily. However, Jack simply bows and turns to leave the building, closely followed by Evert. Although he turns around one last time, partly to see if they would change their minds on the mater. But mostly to see if they were going to attack them. On both counts though Jack was disappointed, the trolls had gone back to grunting amongst themselves once more and showed them no more interest in the pair of them.

 

Back on the mountain road, all was quiet, made even worse by the silence that was all that was emanating between Jack and Evert.

“Why did you take no for an answer?” Evert asked, wanting to break the unnatural silence that had formed on their journey back. At this however, Jack merely laughed.

“What did you want be to do. Threaten them. I thought you were more intelligent than that kid.” Jack said, continuing to laugh at Evert’s foolishness, whilst also wondering how the lad had survived so long with that little intellect. “If I had insisted on them coming with us, we would have been dead before we had got up to leave the building. No if they want to sit out this war. Well, I can’t say that I blame them.” Jack finished looking behind him, despite their lonely path, he had the distinct feeling that they were being followed, but by who, or what, he didn’t know.

“Why?” Evert asked, looking genially curious at the statement.

“Last time, the trolls were basically used as cannon fodder.” Jack answered, he was pretty sure on that fact, which explained the reason why they had been reluctant to join their army. He had hoped that the feelings had dissipated, but clearly, he had been wrong about that fact.

After that little bit of information, the pair continue on in silence for a little bit longer, before Evert broke the silence once more.

“I’m sorry I almost got you killed back there.” Evert said, not meeting Jack’s eye when he turned around at the noise. Jack for his part, had been waiting for this to come up, as the kid had almost well and truly fucked up the meeting by startling the trolls into anger, and the pair were only saved by Auraily’s timely arrival.

“Well, I can’t say that I was anticipating your sudden appearance.” Jack said shrugging, before a question came to him. “My question is though, why? Why were you so determined to find me?” Jack asked. If truth were told, he wasn’t surprised, he knew that the towns governor had it out for him. But he doubted that the old fool would try anything, what with the amount of support that he had both brought with him from the couple of towns he had already convinced to join him, and from the support he had from Normanguard, being here at the request of the king of the mountain.

“I overheard some of the town guards talking about something going down when you got back.” Evert answered, it hadn’t been much, just a couple of overheard words. But it had been enough to spook him and caused him to go off and warn Jack about whatever he had overheard.

“I see.” Jack said, and continued walking, although his hand gripped his gun slightly harder than was necessary as he continued to walk down the mountain path.

 

The town was in darkness when Jack and Evert arrived back, a much gloomier place than it had been when Jack had left a couple of days prior. His hand reached for his gun instinctively. He didn’t know why, but he sensed that they were being watched.

“Where is everyone?” Evert said, looking around, but the town main street was deserted, it had the look of a place that had been cleared out in a cleared out in a hurry. Jack too looked around, his green eye scanning the buildings, even when he had first arrived in this town, there had been people around, sure they had kept to themselves, but they were there. But now, the town seemed to be completely abandoned.

“Stay frosty.” Jack said in response, and moved forward, his gun raised. He crept forward, as to be as silent as humanly possible.

“Do you think a hoard got them?” Evert said, but Jack only shook his head in response.

“No. Trust me kid, if a hoard had gotten to this place, we’d know about it.” Jack said, remembering the scenes at Bergskort painfully. No something else had happened here, and it was if anything even worse. But before he could state these thoughts, a deep voice bellowed out from one of the buildings.

“Freeze!” A guard said coming out through the open door, his weapon raised. Before either Jack or Evert could react, they were quickly surrounded by others, until a circle of guards formed around them.

“What the…” Jack started, but before he could finish an all to unfamiliar voice came out through the crowd of guardsmen.

“We here in the north do not tolerate failure outsider.” Valter said coolly as he walked up to Jack and Evert, Jack for his part, was looking around, trying to find a weak spot in the line, but when he couldn’t locate one, he decided to just play along with this idiot’s power fantasy.

“There were, complications.” Jack said, hand still on his gun, his axe still lay on his belt, but his other hand moved towards it as Valter continued to move forward.

“Dear me, conspiring with the trolls, I assume that you know the penalty for such a blatant act of treason boy?” Valter said, an evil grin on his face that reached his cold eyes, the first time that Jack had seen an emotion in them.

“Treason?” Jack asked, looking around at the people that had surrounded himself and Evert.

“Take them below, they can join the other rabble rousers.” Valter said, and the group pushed and shoved both teens towards the town hall, but completely unaware of the creatures that were watching them from the hills.

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