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Chapter Nine: Makas the Troll
All of a sudden, Brandr was Thorn or was it that Thorn thought he was Brandr. Then, neither was the other or even himself. Eventually, the world settled down and they both became Thorn as Brandr finally gained control of his technique. Once he did, he zeroed in the strongest memory associated with ‘the troll’ and the world reshaped itself into a battlefield.
Brandr braced himself for an interesting ride, his sharp, experienced mind noting things that even Thorn had not and using what the sprite had as well as his contextual knowledge to draw conclusions concerning what was happening around him. Slowly, he let himself sink fully into the sprite lord’s memories letting himself see what Thorn saw, hear what he heard and feel exactly what he felt. He could even pick up the thoughts that ran through the sprite’s mind at the time.
Thorn was facing the biggest crisis of his rule. His sharp eyes picked up the figure skulking around their corner of the woods. Wary, he cautioned his people, “Be careful, we do not know what it is or what it is after, only that it is connected to the destruction of the Western Commune and maybe the Southern Haven as well. That is more than enough to be suspicious.”
Behind him stood several sprites each of them seemingly itching to confront the fell creature. Further behind the assembly was a beautiful hawthorn shrub. It was no simple hawthorn bush but one that had been grown and moulded by fae and turned into a home. Bright lights and soft sounds spilled from it. The wind rustled it leaves, causing its flowers to let out soft, peaceful chimes. To Thorn’s horror and surprise, the creature appeared to hear the faerie chimes. Its strangely glowing eyes scanned the area where the chimes came from and its nostrils widened to an alarming size as it inhaled lungfuls of air.
The creature was nearly two metres tall. It had swarthy, dark green skin. Large bumps, like those of a toad, covered a significant portion of its skin. Besides this, the creature was incredibly human looking. ‘Not humanlike’, Thorn’s mind supplied as it noted the creature’s slender physique, fair facial features and long, pointed ears. ‘Elfin!’
No one could simply find a faerie haven. Not even other fae. Not unless they were invited or a power on par with a court ruler. There were spells, illusions and animal scouts that hid the site, discouraged careful scrutiny and warned the fae when any came close. And yet this creature had come so close without aid. Even now, the sprite lord could tell that it was searching for them. How? He did not know but he could not ignore what he was seeing and what his intuition was telling him. Motioning for his warriors to ready their weapons, Thorn watched intently as the creature’s visage faltered, failing for a few seconds and allowing him to catch a glimpse of its true form.
“TROLL!” he yelled.
A pleased smile split the creature’s face and its disguise slipped further. Its elfin features gave way to a large head with bulbous eyes, a wide nose and mouth full of sharp teeth that sprouted boar-like tusks from its lower jaw. A few moments later, its face twisted itself back to the elfin look from before. However, it was done hiding. With large loping bounds, it rushed in their direction tearing through several wards as it did so. Its arms lost their slender shapes and spontaneously grew hulking muscles and wicked claws.
One sprite screamed in fright. Thorn tried to not to fault him. They were unused to battle. Sure, there were the internal scuffles and the goblins that roved the woods every so often but they were nothing compared to a massive shapeshifting river troll bearing down on you. On his part, his sword came out. It had distinct look compared to the other sprite weapons but that was because it came from his old life, from before he became a simple forest lord.
Raising his ten centimetres of sharp platinum, he exploded with more power than he’d had to use in a hundred years. “With me!” he commanded. “The evacuation has only just started. We cannot let it get close!”
“You!” he said pointing one of the younger sprites out. “Go get the wisps! We’ll need their help with this one.”
His warriors were awestruck for instant and then the import of his words dawned on them. Sparing a glance for the Faerie haven behind them, they raced to join him, pulling out explosive seeds, thorny spears, blades fashioned from animal teeth and anything else they had that would qualify as a weapon. In some ways, sprites were like bees. With their home so clearly under threat, they were fully ready to lay down their lives for their homes and people.
Thorn resolved to not let it come to that even as he raced ahead of his warriors. His gossamer wings thrummed angrily through the air with how fast they beat as he cursed himself for missing the signs. He didn’t know what they were but they had definitely been there. Two portions of his kingdom wiped from the forest, hundreds of sprites gone in a matter of days with nothing to explain how or why except a report from some forest creatures about sighting a giant fae before the disappearance of the second haven.
He had immediately suspected that the creature was connected and he was right. Its current aggressive actions proved it may have even been responsible. A mature river troll could easily destroy a sprite haven. But why? Besides protecting his people, he needed answers and now that the creature was close enough, he would get some. With no hesitation he used a skill; [Examine].
[Name: Makas Race: River Troll (Fae Variant)]
[Age: 271 years old Sex: Male]
[Status: Mutating, Sickly, Ravenous]
[Rank: 5 Class: Pillager]
Your skill is unable to retrieve any more information about this foe.
Before Thorn could contemplate the impossibility of having a fae-kin river troll or the meaning of its strange status, it attacked. Luckily, he had no trouble slipping past its grasping hand revealing that whilst it was a rank higher than him it was not as agile. That didn’t make the power gap any smaller. Knowing that the only way they stood a chance was if they put everything they had on the line, he activated a skill he’d thought he’d never need again. [Curse Field]
It was useless, the creature was gone, fading into the backdrop of the forest like a … ‘Like a sprite’, he realised. That fading skill was called [Shimmer] and whiles sprites were not the only fae to use it they were among those who used it the most. It allowed them to slip from sight in a soft shimmer that made it seem like they had simply faded away, never there to begin with.
By this point, his ‘warriors’ were now nearing him but Thorn couldn’t care less. The creature had slipped away and his rank being below its own he doubted he could track it. Was the attack a ruse? Was it going back to some place for reinforcements? Thorn scrambled to find an answer. His people’s lives depended on it. He couldn’t let them go the way of the other settlements.
“Heavens no!” he exclaimed in realisation. The other havens. There were no survivors. Sprites weren’t fighters. They were caretakers. There was no way they hadn’t tried to flee and yet there were no survivors.
“Secure the evacuees!” he yelled frantically even though he knew that he was probably too late.