The sun dawned early, drowning everything in a golden morning light. Coming out from their tents, Jade, Matthias and Bree were all dazzled by the bright light trickling in the river Fenrien before them. Discerning by the position of the sun, they had not waken any time too early; All three were immediately inclined to begin breaking down their camp and starting off once again.
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This they did, and soon the river was flowing beneath them once again. As they noticed, the river had calmed down quite a bit, and suddenly realized the damage the current from the prior day could inflict on a mere ferryboat. From then on, they decided take it a bit slower, and giving the boat time to ease its way through the flow.
Even though the sun was up, and the river was bright, the peacefulness and quiet of the forest was overwhelming; it felt as if a heavy barrier was set over them to muffle any sound that could penetrate through the trees. Jaden’s face was dull, though his eyes were alert darting from side to side, as if expecting something or someone.
Matthias, regardless of being occupied with steering, was no less aware of the silence. Even the splashing of waves against the boat seemed like soundless pattering. Bree tried to ignore it altogether. She tried very hard to imagine she heard the noise of forest life, and the sweet but illusionary conversation passing between them.
“I wonder why,” Jaden started, and his other companions knew very well what he was talking about. “I wonder why we haven’t heard much of forest animals around here…do you think possibly there’s a reason for them to avoid this area?”
“I suppose there could be,” Matthias answered. “I believe I have seen, or rather heard, unnatural silence in a wood as such…its cause was the animal life being afraid of a large bear who roamed that area. But I have never seen such silence as this for so far a span of area!”
“Do you think maybe it could be?” Bree whimpered along in the middle of the boat in a high pitched voice.
“Could be what?”
“A bear…or any sort of creature big enough to cause this—this—quietness?”
“Once again, it could be possibly, and I’m not sure.”
They had traveled on a little further still in a silent forest, and eventually agreed to rest for a while. Pulling their ferryboat to the side of the river as they had done the previous night, Bree, Jaden, and Matthias all sat down on the dirty ground to have a break.
Jaden toyed with a twig in his fingers, annoyed with the hushed atmosphere, and Bree and Matthias were uneasily rocking back and forth. “Well it’s not much a break, is it?” Bree finally remarked. “As if any of us were getting a chance to relax a bit…”
“I know. I don’t fancy it that much either, in fact at all, and I feel as if something or someone were watching us.” Matthias whispered, his eyes becoming slits and scanning the border of dense trees all around.
“I don’t know about the two of you, but I’d prefer to keep traveling on until we’ve left this abysmal place behind!” Jaden voiced his suggestion none to quietly and through his twig into the river. “I’m getting rather tired of this sailing in a ferryboat…to be honest I’d much rather walk in a variety of environments…everything here is just trees, a river…and more trees.”
Very suddenly, and without warning each one heard a large snapping from a ways away. They all snapped their necks around to see what it was, as if expecting something like this to happen soon anyway. There came a strange sound, like a grunt and a high pitched moan mixed together that sent chills through everyone’s bones.
“What was that?” Bree whispered her eyes as big as large pebbles. It came again, the strange grunting and moaning, in choppy intervals. More massive snapping was heard, most likely tree branches, and both Matthias and Jaden leapt to their feet.
It was somewhat involuntary, and they were both alert of something approaching. Jaden stood suddenly on guard, however Matthias stood out of a panic. “I-I agree we c-continue to sail on…” Matthias stuttered quickly.
“Right, well then…” Jaden began, though never got a chance to finish.
For right in front of all three of them, a tree snapped like a cannon fire, and fell towards them. Bree screamed and ran out of the way as it came tumbling down with a resounding crash. What had really scared her was that where the tree had fallen, in its place stood a massive forest troll.
Standing ten feet high, its skin was a pale green, and dull red scars marked its body all over. It wore practically nothing, save a dirty brown cloth girding its waist, and short legs the size of tree stumps coming from it. It had a sick, oversized belly though very powerful chest and shoulders above it. Its mammoth arms were packed with heavy muscle, and one could feel the sinews flexing powerfully. Its head was disgusting; a large mouth bore long, yellowish fangs, broken and chipped, and drool dribbled down its chin. All three could hear the inhaling and exhaling from its wide dilating nostrils. Its eyes were like hot coals burning with rage that could bore holes into someone. Two gruesome horns grew from either side of its bald head and curved down toward its great jaw.
“Bree get in the boat!” Jaden shouted over to her, somewhat finishing what he was going to say in the first place. It was harder to tell who reacted the most to this, Bree or the troll. For at the sound of Jaden’s voice, the troll roared, the terrible sound echoing everywhere. In one of its large hands, it held a giant club, which was mostly a massive tree branch, gnarled cruelly at the end.
The troll let out a howl of rage once more and lifted his weapon. Jaden and Matthias had both jumped nimbly out of the way as it smashed down on the ground leaving a large crater in its place. Jaden drew his sword, not caring to look at it and ponder whether he to have a new one.
Nor did he care when Matthias did likewise, drawing Avenfern, it glaring magnificently under the water’s reflection. Matthias could not control his hands from trembling now matter how hard he tried, and he shut his eyes tight for a second to clear the blindness of sweat overcoming him.
Jaden, on the other hand, held his blade securely, never removing his eyes off of the monstrous beast before him, and slowly walking from side to side.
The troll looked stupidly yet enraged from one sword to the other, not able to decide who to attack first. Bree had already revealed her bow, and notched one of Firman’s arrows expertly to the string. She pulled it back as far as she could, and aimed, though unsure of where a troll’s weakest point would be. She never got the chance to fire just yet, for when Jaden approached closer to her he whispered,
“Bree, don’t fire anything whatsoever…just wait.” He commanded her firmly, never looking away from the troll, and continued on. He wanted to wait for a moment partially to see what would happen, partially to try and form the best plan in his mind that he could, and partially for Bree not to draw the troll’s attention to herself.
She, of course, didn’t think of this at all, but knew that Jaden had what was best in mind, and lessened her pull on the string. She never took its aim away from the troll however, and kept it pointed and ready at it the whole time.
Abruptly, the troll had come to a conclusion of making Jaden its first victim, and brought down his club. Jaden leapt away just in time once again, and lashed his sword towards the trolls wrists. It made contact, and Jaden was surprised at how sharp his sword still was, as he looked down at the dark gashes in the trolls forearm, now spitting blood.
The monstrous troll let out a scream of anger and pain, swinging his club from side to side. Jaden tried to dodge it once again, thought the edge of the branch caught his shoulder and he was thrown to the ground. The troll did not go further, and merely backed off a few steps howling at its lacerated arm. Soon though, its rage outweighed the pain and he came at Jaden once again, completely forgetting Matthias on the other side.
It raised its club above its head and came down with a great rush of wind. Jaden barely had time to roll out of the way before a large dent where he only had just been now laid. Jaden clenched his teeth and gave a throaty groan, rising in pain. It was obvious the club had hit him fairly well in the shoulder and he put one hand tenderly to it, the other still clutching his sword firmly.
The troll bent down to him with a grunt and scrutinized him dumbly for a moment before clobbering him with the back of its hand. Jaden let out a grunt of defeated pain, and flew ten feet away where he lay motionless on the ground, too long for comfort. Bree couldn’t stifle her fright and she half screamed half choked.
Matthias at the same time was terrified, and not knowing quite exactly what he was doing, charged the troll with mad cry, Avenfern in front of him. The troll had only the time to turn around, remembering once again that there was one other, before it felt the tip of a great sword pierce its side, followed by the rest of the cold iron running like fire through its body.
Matthias couldn’t believe what he had just done, and he yanked his sword from the side of the monster, gazing dumbfound at the red blood glistening across the entire blade. He took a step back, turning his attention to the troll.
The troll looked no less stupidly at itself, where blood was pouring like a fountain from its side, before emitting a low groan, one of completely agony where no trace of anger was left. The groan grew louder and louder until it screamed one last time, swinging its arm in the Matthias’s direction. Unfortunately, Matthias was not as nimble, and received the force of the troll’s elbow fully. He yelled painfully and wheezed, feeling every bit of air leaving his body, and before he knew it, found himself flying backwards towards the trees.
He crashed into one of them and lay still on the ground, conscious, yet in too much pain to move. Bree let out another scream, and let loosed her arrow. It had been holding so much tension in the last few minutes, and now it flew fast and furious, digging itself firmly in the troll’s chest.
The troll stopped suddenly and gave one last low whining noise before stepping towards Bree. She was more than horrified, and fumbled madly for another arrow. Though she needn’t have done so, for the troll had only taken one step, before tripping on its next and falling like a giant oak to the earth where it impaled itself wholly on the arrow and lay still forever.
Bree was nearly just as silent, and she swallowed hard, looking stricken at the motionless beast before her, the blood from the wound in its side still pooling on the ground next to it.
* * *
Jaden and Matthias lay still on the ground, cool wet cloths to their bruised bodies. Bree had a hard time bringing the two of them around to their senses, and now attended to them carefully.
Jaden shoulder had only stopped bleeding as heavily, and now stayed limp at his side. His face was bruised badly on one side. Matthias had been hurt on both is chest and back. They were a dark blue and he had received a large slash to his back from a tree branch. He, too, lay still on the ground, breathing slowly. Bree ran back and forth giving them both water to drink and looking frightened.
She was changing a new cloth for Jaden’s shoulder when she whispered softly in a aching voice. “Why does it have to happen?” She seemed angry and ready to weep at the same time. “I don’t want to be doing this…it’s too hard to see you this way, and I wonder why we started out from Wynpen in the first place…”
“And yet it has happened,” Jaden answered slowly and laboriously. “None of us agreed to this task, thinking it was a simple stroll to retrieve something. I for one am not surprised in the least of this encounter. Things like this happen to everyone. Not necessarily encountering a troll, yet facing times that are uncomfortable and difficult cannot be helped…Bree, these things have to happen, and it won’t be the last time either.”
“Then…I-I don’t want to do this.” She replied in a strained, faltering voice, closing her eyes and making a face of pain. She put a new wet cloth on his shoulder and stood up. Bree stared out to the river for a long time with a face suddenly wiped of all emotion.
“When do we continue on?”
“Whenever we have the strength. But no later then the day after tomorrow.” Jaden replied, obviously having given this thought earlier. He then shut his eyes and tried to gain some rest.
Matthias as well had fallen into a deep slumber, resting peacefully on the ground, his hands laid carefully across his chest. He was still very much shaken from the encountering with the troll, yet could not help but feel a spark of excitement. It had been the bravest thing he had ever done, attacking a troll…and it all was merely to save Jaden—and he had. Matthias tried forcefully to throw the ideas out of his mind about what would have happened if he had not done so….
* * *
Time had gone by, and soon both strength and energy had returned to the two victims of the troll attack. They spent some time looking over their supplies, checking if they had lost anything since then. When the results had shown that no damage or loss had come to anything (save themselves of course), the three found themselves pushing off from the small bank into the river once again.
There were still aches and pains for both Jaden and Matthias maneuvering around in the ferryboat, but nothing too serious…they were recovering strength rapidly anyway.
The day passed quickly, and soon a warm night fell over them, and the three had already made camp alongside the river once again.
The sound of forest life had returned, and no doubt the silence from before was simply because of the troll. Jaden, Bree, and Matthias all sat round a campfire, two of them thinking, the other studying a map the Lord Ragmar Hramm had given them.
“I believe we’re coming to the end of the Lum wood now!” Jaden suddenly exclaimed, piercing the night silence like a knife.
Both Bree and Matthias jumped ever so slightly, and looked up at him.
“What are you going on about there, Jaden?” Matthias asked, cocking his head to the side, trying to catch a glimpse of the map he was holding. Bree also leaned in slightly, keen on knowing where their location might have been at the time.
“Well…I’ve been studying the map, and doing some rather complicated estimation on how many miles we travel a day, and it seems that from the chart I follow here…” He let his voice trail and his eyes scanned the map. “…We should be nearing the end of the forest. Well, I suppose that is good news then, isn’t it?” Jaden smiled, feeling relieved to be leaving the Lum woods.
He as well as the other two had been growing weary of the dense foliage ever surrounding them.
“Yes, of course that is,” Bree sighed.
Matthias said nothing about departing from the forest, but let a small smile creep onto his face. “You know what that means don’t you? Well, what I mean to say is that from our location of where we are…and if we really are leaving the woods from the northeastern end…would we not be near the realm of the elves…the land of Tolphecia?” Matthias now whispered, his voice growing intense.
Jaden and Bree were silent to his question, before either of them spoke.
“Yes, I suppose that—that you would be correct. But I’m afraid we have orders from the council not to enter that land. The Lord Cindain had told me he didn’t want elves knowing of our business…”
Bree and Matthias somewhat nodded their heads, and shrugging off disappointment at the same time.
“Look,” Jaden continued on. “I think it’s best we all got some sleep now. I know I’m looking forward to tomorrow…when we leave the Lum wood. And I’m sure you both are too, so let’s try and go to sleep can’t we?” He looked sort of imploringly at his companions.
Once again, Bree and Matthias nodded wearily, and stood. The three companions turned and headed off to sleep. There would be an entirely new journey for them in the morning when they would be leaving the forest.
They all had no doubt had enough of never ending trees, the sound of the river Fenrien flowing, the boat riding…and of trolls…
Nathan D. Gage