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    The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-Bad Things Always Come In Twos
    Posted on Tue, February 20, 2018 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "Four of the trolls were the same kinds of monsters the companions had been fighting over a week now, but the fifth one was another matter entirely. The towering monstrosity was an even more disgusting shade of green than his underlings, if it was even possible, and two heads sprouted from his broad shoulders. One of them chattered eagerly in the mishmash language the trolls used to communicate, while the other one was laughing wildly.


    Chapter Four

    Bad Things Always Come In Twos

    So far, so good, Amyalla thought to herself as she returned from her scouting mission to the companions’ camp. Now we just need to decide how we’re going to do this…

    The Oakdale Flan had told Weimar and Revafour where they had found signs of the trolls’ passage. From there, Revafour and Weimar hadn’t had much trouble finding the trolls’ lair. The companions’ two days of travel from Oakdale to the vicinity of the lair had been uneventful, and they’d found a suitable place to set up camp. From there, they’d sent Amyalla to scout the trolls’ lair. That was easy for the halfling, who’d spent a day and night watching the cavern to see what the trolls might be up to.  

    Amyalla quietly hailed Airk, who was keeping watch, and he led her back to their human friends. All of the companions looked up eagerly at Amyalla, eager for her news.

    Once she’d had some of the tea Luna had prepared, Amyalla began explaining what she’d seen at the trolls’ lair.

    “There’s almost a score of the wretched things in a large cave,” she said. “Always at least two of them standing guard at the cave entrance. They’ve cleared away most of the brush and stones in front of them, so they get a good view of the area. They hunt once the moons are high in the sky, always in a circling pattern like the tracks confirmed. So, how should we do this?”

    They pondered that for several moments, before a thin smile crossed Seline’s face.

    “Likely they’re expecting us to come to them, aren’t they?” she said.

    Most likely, Ma’non’go signed back, an intrigued look on his face. What do you have in mind?

    Picking up a stick, Seline began to outline her idea, tracing it in the dirt next to the companions’ fire pit.

    Gods, I love this, she thought to herself. We shouldn’t come to the trolls…they’ll be ready for us.

    Instead, we need the trolls to come to us…

    “Faces not even a mother could love,” Weimar said to his companions as he folded up his telescope. “There’s just the two of them gathered there, and neither one looks like he’ll leave his post. You’re ready, Seline?”

    “Of course I am,” the wizard said with a smile. Holding up her free hand, she winked to her companions as she faded from sight, the opal stone in her silver ring twinkling brightly.

    Quietly…quietly…Seline thought to herself, as she approached the cavern. Despite herself, she shuddered at the sight of the wretched trolls, who thankfully hadn’t noticed her. They seemed nervous and on edge, peering intently at the woods ahead of them as if expecting an attack. They shook and twitched, constantly muttering to themselves as if eager for a fight.

    Taking her wand out of her pocket, she began chanting softly, praying that she wouldn’t attract the trolls’ notice. Fortunately, the trolls were too intent on the woods ahead of them to notice Seline’s chanting. When a thick fog cloud, the result of Seline’s casting, they raised their voices in alarm. Their cries prevented them from hearing the chant of Seline’s next spell.

    That spell filled the air with the sounds of clanking metal and angry war cries, the sounds of a war party come to beard the trolls in their lair. Already alarmed by the fog cloud, one of the trolls ran back into the cavern, while the other held his post at the cave entrance. Seline soon heard a loud metallic ringing, as the troll who had run back into the cavern rang a bell to alert his fellows. She heard the angry cries of the rest of the trolls in the lair, and their running footsteps as they came to support the guards.

    Nodding, Seline turned and ran back towards her companions, who had emerged from cover and were quickly coming to join her. The noise of the trolls and her magic, along with the fog she had conjured, made the perfect cover for the companions to join her.

    A flurry of debris emerged from the fog cloud as the trolls tossed everything from tree stumps to giant rocks at their apparent attackers. Smiling to herself, Seline shifted the spell she’d cast to create the sound of invaders to make it create cries of despair and pain, as the trolls’ missiles apparently crushed their victims. The missiles were soon replaced with the trolls’ cries of eager delight, which prevented them from hearing Luna’s chant as she chanted a spell of her own.

    Several of the trolls emerged from the fog cloud, eager to tear apart what they thought was the decimated ranks of their invaders. Drool ran down many of their faces, mixing with the dried blood and gore all over their claws and hides. Murder was in their eyes as their hunger and blood lust overcame them.

    The trolls’ eager cries were replaced with howls of pain as Luna finished casting her spell and it took effect. Thorns sprouted from the grass beneath the trolls’ feet, piercing them and knocking the monsters off balance. Howling in pain, the trolls quickly regained their bearings, knowing their regeneration would heal the wounds they suffered. Heedless of their injuries, they continued pressing through the field of thorns Luna had conjured, eager to kill the companions they finally saw.

    The companions spread out in front of the trolls, beyond the edge of Luna’s spell. Ma’non’go was the first to meet the trolls, goring one on his trident and hurling the wretched creature back into two of his fellows. All three creatures rolled back through the field of thorns, crying out in pain as their bodies were further torn. Revafour chopped one troll down in a single strike, tossing him back at another troll. Airk hamstrung a sixth troll with his military pick, forcing the thing off balance and driving it onto the thorns with his shield.  

    One of the trolls tried to make his way around the warriors, but he stopped short as Weimar hurled a flask full of darkened liquid at his face. The flask shattered as it struck the troll in the face, and the flaming oil it contained spread all over him. Screaming in agony, the monster fell dead as his friends looked askance at him. Those trolls began screaming in pain, as Weimar picked up his bow and began shooting flaming arrows at them. Amyalla worked with astonishing speed behind Weimar, setting fire to the rags she had already wrapped around his arrows before handing them back to him to shoot.

    The trolls’ assault was now bogged down. Badly torn and wounded by the thorn field and further injured by the warriors, the creatures were unable to move. Seline cast a flaming sphere at the creatures, and they were helpless to avoid the sphere as Seline directed it towards them. Many of the trolls howled in agony as the sphere burned them in their faces and their hearts, slaying them instantly. The rest of the companions joined in with bottles of acid and flaming oil, and it wasn’t long before the battle was over. A dozen trolls lay dead, their smoking corpses reeking disgustingly in the morning sun.

    Despite their victory, the adventurers’ faces were grim as they regrouped.

    “That was too easy,” Revafour said, voicing what the companions were all thinking. “These things were just fodder.”

    “So now it’s just us and the master, and whatever he’s got waiting for us,” Weimar said. “Somehow, I don’t think he’ll be in a welcoming mood.”

    “You never know,” Amyalla quipped as they made their way into the cavern. “Perhaps he’ll be pleased that we decided to deliver his next meal.”

    It was fortunate that Amyalla was leading the way down the passage, and that she spotted the tripwires before the companions triggered them. It was a simple matter for Amyalla to disconnect the wires-trolls were not known for their mechanical skills, after all. Unfortunately, the spears the traps had been poised to shoot, now visible from the entrance to the larger cave chamber, were no laughing matter. No troll would have had to worry about them, but they would have easily run any of the adventurers through if they’d been released.

    The passage led to a large open cavern. As the adventurers made their way in, they were split up when they were forced to dodge a flurry of hurled rocks and logs coming their way. That was just as the five remaining trolls expected, as they leapt forward to greet their new guests.

    Four of the trolls were the same kinds of monsters the companions had been fighting over a week now, but the fifth one was another matter entirely. The towering monstrosity was an even more disgusting shade of green than his underlings, if it was even possible, and two heads sprouted from his broad shoulders. One of them chattered eagerly in the mishmash language the trolls used to communicate, while the other one was laughing wildly.

    None of the adventurers could understand what the troll leader was saying, but the meaning of his words were all too clear as the trolls attacked.

    Revafour scored first blood on one of the trolls, tearing a long gash across its chest, but the creature merely laughed and responded in kind. Crying out in pain, Revafour stumbled back, the momentum of his attack broken as he was knocked off balance. Soon, it was all he could do to block the troll’s blows as he struggled to strike back.

    On the other side of the large log separating her from Revafour, Seline shuddered as the troll crashed into the magical barrier she’d cast to protect herself. Backing up hastily, she chanted frantically, releasing a series of magical bolts into the creature’s face. The troll howled in pain, but simply shrugged off the bolts’ effects as he advanced once again.

    Lunging forward with his claws, he soon found the limits of Seline’s barrier. One of his clawed arms struck the barrier’s top and Seline was forced to duck the slash of the second. Leaning over the barrier to bite Seline, the troll howled in pain as Seline brought her hands together and chanted quickly. Her spell caused flames to burst from her hands, exploding in the troll’s face. Stumbling back, the troll held his face, screaming in agony as Seline raised her wand. Another burst of what seemed like fog emerged from the wand, but the troll screamed once again at the painful burns the steam inflicted on him. The troll sank to its knees, shuddering violently, before Seline ended its misery by throwing a vial of acid in its face.

    Ma’non’go winced as the troll he was fighting bit into his shoulder, but the silent warrior grimly endured the pain. Repeating the tactic he had used at the battle in Oakdale, Ma’non’go drove his fingers into the creature’s eyes, forcing him back. Raising his trident, Ma’non’go repeatedly slashed the troll, tearing long, jagged wounds in his body. Frustratingly, however, the creature just kept on coming, its wounds regenerating even as it impaled itself on Ma’non’go’s weapon. One of its arms lashed out and slashed Ma’non’go’s arm, even as one of its legs lashed out and cut him in the stomach.

    His mind racing, Ma’non’go glanced around for another option. Raising his trident, he threw it forward, sending the troll crashing headfirst into a nearby boulder. The troll’s head cracked open from the wound, and the creature lay there for several seconds before he managed to rise to his feet. Tearing Ma’non’go’s trident out of its chest, the troll tossed the weapon aside, before looking for his opponent. It soon caught sight of Ma’non’go, and more particularly of the ignited flask of oil the large Olman hurled.

    The troll howled as the flask of oil struck him in the chest, splattering burning oil all over his wounds.

    The troll facing Revafour was a cunning thing, constantly ducking and dodging and attacking him from several different angles. Unable to mount an effective counterattack, Revafour could only manage minor strikes, most of which the troll’s regeneration were healing. Gritting his teeth, Revafour cursed in pain as the troll fastened his jaws on his arm, making him lose his grip on his sword.

    The troll began to lash out with his claws at Revafour’s torso, but before he could he suddenly released his arm. Crying out in pain, the troll stumbled off to the side as Revafour saw the long burn mark down the monster’s back. He also saw Luna, who smiled at him as she raised the mace-shaped flame in her hand.

    Revafour only smiled back as they finished the wretched thing off.

    Weimar was thankful indeed for his shield, which shuddered as it took another blow from the huge two-headed troll. While Weimar had managed to inflict several blows on the creature, he hardly seemed to care about that. Ignoring his wounds, which were healing from his regeneration, the two-headed troll simply continued slashing at Weimar without even trying to block the human’s attacks. So far, Weimar had managed to avoid being injured, but he knew his luck wouldn’t last forever.

    The wretch is strong, but he’s not too fast, Weimar realized. Perhaps…

    Looking around quickly, he soon saw what he was looking for. Jumping back, he turned as if to flee, the blood-crazed troll howling gleefully as he pursued him. The troll was so consumed by bloodlust that he failed to notice the log Weimar deftly hopped over, and fell flat on his faces as he tripped.

    Whirling around to face the troll, Weimar tore a vicious gash in the side of the creature’s right head as he tried to get up. The blow made the troll shudder and collapse on the ground again, and Weimar moved to strike again.

    Weimar stopped short at the sight of Amyalla appearing as if out of nowhere, nimbly making her way up the troll’s back with a vial in her hand. The troll’s left head turned around as if to bite her, but she tossed the vial into his mouth, causing the vial to shatter as the troll’s mouth slammed shut on it.

    The troll began crying out in agony, smoke pouring from his left mouth as he involuntarily began swallowing the acid in the vial Amyalla had thrown at him. He shuddered dreadfully, his left neck and face turning a disgusting black in color as the acid began to melt it.

    Amyalla and Weimar were hardened adventurers, but even they couldn’t help but shudder.

    Airk had beaten the troll into submission with his military pick, and set it on fire with his last flask of oil. He stared impassively at the dying troll, feeling no sympathy for the monster as it writhed in agony.

    Airk had more experience battling trolls than Amyalla or the humans, following his older brother Tarnek’s lessons. Tarnek had taught Airk that the best way to slay a troll was to disable its joints, gouge out its eyes, and then burn it while it was helpless. Airk’s pick had served admirably in piercing the troll’s knee and slashing the creature’s eyes. Blinded and unable to walk, the troll couldn’t stop Airk from lighting an oil flask, much less dodging the flask once the gnome threw it at him.

    Turning away from the dying troll, Airk’s mood brightened as he saw that his friends were alright. Luna had already healed Ma’non’go’s wounds, and she was now healing Revafour. Ma’non’go and the rest of the companions had begun searching the cavern.

    Airk was surprised at the cave’s small size. It was simply one large chamber, filled with dozens of the stinking nests the trolls made for themselves. The trolls had haphazardly thrown a pile of supplies into one corner by the largest nest, and Amyalla was now digging through the pile. Airk came up to join the halfling as she dragged a large iron chest out of the pile, a wide smile on her face.

    Not caring to search through the filthy troll nest for the key to the chest, Amyalla had little trouble picking the padlock. Her smile was wide as she opened the chest, glancing over the large pile of copper and silver coins the chest contained. Looking over Amyalla’s shoulder, Airk could see a few jewels sparkling among the coins. To his surprise, there was also several sheets of parchment on one corner of the pile, which he could see were written in the gnomish tongue.

    “Let me see those,” he said, before Amyalla passed the parchments along to him. Airk stepped away from the chest, reading the parchments intently as the rest of the companions came up to help Amyalla gather up the treasure. The gnome was so focused on his reading that it was a long moment before he realized that his friends were all staring at him expectantly.

    “…Are you sure you don’t want your share of this treasure?” Amyalla said, raising an eyebrow.

    Airk didn’t reply, his eyes narrowing.

    “Damn them all…” he said.

    “…What did we do?” Luna said, concern evident in her voice.

    “You? Nothing,” Airk said. “These parchments show why the trolls were rampaging and attacking the people of places like Oakdale.”

    What do you mean? Ma’non’go signed curiously.

    “The trolls were being paid to raid and plunder the surrounding communities,” Airk said, “and bring the treasure to their masters. These parchments give directions to where they were to meet their employers.”

    “And the trolls were able to read that?” Seline asked incredulously.

    “Larger two-headed trolls are cross-bred with ettins,” Airk said. “Believe it or not, that makes them smarter than your average troll. What I find strange, though, is why this was written in gnomish?”  

    “Perhaps we should find out,” Luna said. “Who’s to say they might not attack the Flan and the other goodly people of the hills once again?”

    “And we can deal with them, can’t we?” Weimar said, a wicked grin crossing his face. “I have to admit, I like the sound of that.”

    Most of the companions returned his smile, but Weimar noted with concern that Airk didn’t seem to have heard him. The gnome was reading the parchments again, a clouded expression on his face.

    “Farewell, brother,” Dennine said as he and Revafour clasped hands. “We cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done for us.”

    “We acted only as we should,” Revafour said with a nod. “Take care, and may Pelor’s blessings continue to shine upon you.”

    Revafour turned to join his companions, who had already mounted the horses and ponies they’d bought from the residents of Oakdale. Soon, the adventurers rode off, the waves and calls of gratitude of the villagers of Oakdale following them down the hill.

    Dennine sighed as he watched Revafour and the others go, wondering what the future held for the younger Flan. They had had their final conversation in their ancestral language, and Dennine had not failed to notice how much more relaxed and at ease Revafour seemed to be in speaking the old Flan tongue than the Common one. Revafour even seemed somewhat and withdrawn with his fellow adventurers, uncomfortable with fully opening up to them.

    How many of us have such feelings still? Dennine thought to himself. We cannot change the past, but we cannot help but be shaped by it.

    How do we stay true to who we are, while still moving forward, in this new world?

    Dennine thought back to the last time the dwarves of the citadel of Greysmere had visited Oakdale. The dwarves had told Dennine about a bitter feud between two of the families who once lived there, a conflict that had ended with both of them driven out of the mountain fastness they called home. Now forced to wander, each of the families had eventually found new homes. Unfortunately, the pain and bitterness they’d endured from their banishment had taken deep roots among them.

    And then there was Dennine’s nephew Belden, who had left Oakdale to find his own way in the world because he found village life intolerable. Dennine’s brother had been less than pleased with his son’s choice, and he’d bluntly accused Belden of abandoning his people and community. Belden had in turn been less than pleased with the accusation. The younger man had left in a bitter acrimony, swearing that he would never return.

    Dennine thought long about Belden, the dwarves and Revafour, wondering what to make of it all.

    He thought long and hard, but he could not find an answer.

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