This story is similar to the previous one, Knights and Monsters.
The End of the Troll
His armour went clink, clink as he moved. His horse’s hooves went clop, clop as they trotted along. Pebbles skittered down from the cliffs above and the knight cast a wary eye upwards. He caught no sight of anything, no enemy grim or wild animal innocent. The pass wound on ahead of him, narrowing here and widening there. The knight of Weissland was not scared, he was bold and brave and true. But he was cautious, tense, alert, and ready for anything. The knight was alone and could be ambushed here. Unbidden thoughts seemed to tap him on the shoulder just to say what if? But the knight ignored them. Still he clutched both the reins and his lance tighter.
Did he really hear the footsteps? The young knight wondered. It was strange as the sounds seemed to reverberate and echo in the pass. He could not be sure where the sounds came from. The noble knight would ride on though, he was sure that he needed to get through the pass. He was so sure of that, but for what purpose the knight could not remember. He was dimly aware of a noblewoman who meant a great deal to him, but where she was, was cloudy and obscured. The knight resigned himself to find her and keep her safe. But this pass was beginning to worry him. He wished his older brother was with him. They could do anything together; even overthrow the vast forces of darkness. But now, Nathaniel got the impression that Arthan could not help him. That was a disconcerting feeling, and the rocks seemed to drain of their colour as he travelled on. The sky was faded, to a pale blue now, rather than the crystal clear, ocean blue it had been minutes ago.
Suddenly the bold heroic knight had a nagging doubt about the route he was taking. He took the map from his pouch and unfolded it. Even as he tried to read it, the place names swam on the paper. As Nathaniel watched the map crumbled to dust in his gauntleted hand. The proud knight felt the taste and said “Some fell, dark magic. What foe awaits me here? I will not turn aside; none can stand against a knight of Weissland ready for battle.” He saw visions of hundreds of knights charging into battle with Weissland’s enemies, armour gleaming, banners resplendent, and lances keen points of metal with the light of the sun shining upon them. There was a thunderous sound of horses galloping and the clear, practised note of the knights’ war-cry ‘For Weissland!’ Enemies were overturned, scattered, run through and brought low. Dark forces and monsters and wicked men could not hope to stand against the rightness, the truthful, and the courageousness of such knights. These men were noble, just, fair and wise. The past was in their hearts, the present in their minds, and the future in their eyes.
But that was then and this was now. Nathaniel Drakkon, knight of Weissland, was alone. Deciding to stay his course he urged his horse on, picking up speed. As he got further and further into the pass a shadow began to grow in his mind. It had a shape but it was constantly changing. It seemed to lash out and constrict. He tried to force it away, to concentrate on his mission. Nathaniel had to think for a minute to remember what his mission was. He had been charged with an important quest. As a knight of Weissland he had a duty to fight the land’s enemies, protect the people and do what was right. His mission was to reach the city of Kynair before travelling on with a column of supplies and merchants bound for Cerylia. They were vital for an important battle. But the passes were dangerous, and who knew what evil lurked there to overtake the unwary. About an hour went past before his cause for concern proved well founded.
As the bold knight, resplendent in his polished armour, upright and true, turned a corner in the winding pass, he heard it. A feral, beastly, disheartening cry. He recognised it at once, like something spawned from the very blackness of a troubled dream. It was a troll. It lumbered out of a cleft several hundred metres away from him, snorting and snuffling like a pig with a cold. The monster was ten feet in height but crouched and sagged, keeping its arms near the ground. The vile thing grunted with animalistic malice, its teeth jutted out from its mouth like the timbers of a crooked palisade. Jowly flaps of skin hung to either side of its head. There was a scaly aspect to the skin of the troll, but it was dry and hardened, not slimy or reptilian. The whole creature, claws, skin and all seemed to be a greenish-brown colour, like some evil god had sculpted swamp water into the form of a monster.
Without hesitation the knight settled his lance under arm and spurred his warhorse into a charge. The sleek metal weapon glinted with righteousness, aimed at the troll. The monster had little time to react, a throaty roar signalling its anger. The knight kept his lance steady and hit home. With a shattering, cracking impact the lance struck the trolls hide and there was a squealing, shrieking, horrible howl. At once Nathaniel let go of his splintered and shivered lance, seeing it embedded deep in the torso of the monster. Quickly out swept his sword, a slash of silver whistled through the air and brackish blood flashed and spattered the rocks. It was a grievous wound and yet the troll lashed out at him, scraping dirty claws into the sheen of armour. The knight gasped as sharp stinging pain reached his side. Once more he hacked out with the broad-bladed sword, opening a gaping score, in the gangrene flesh of the troll. An impact knocked Nathaniel from the saddle and as he regained his feet the knight saw the troll leap. Fast reflexes saved him. He braced himself and raised his mighty blade. The troll landed, the sword impaling the head from up under the chin. The tip of the knight’s trusty weapon had thrust its way through the top of the skull. The weight and crashing momentum dragged him down and sideways. The knight stood slowly and wrenched his weapon free. Cleaning it he stoically climbed back onto his horse and prepared to ride on. With his sword at the ready the knight was like a portrait of authority, part of a giant fresco showing the battle between good and evil, mighty figures locked in deadly combat.
Before he could leave there was a chilling, grumbling cry, then a second, and a third, answered seemingly by a dozen more. He had time to look up as the trolls leapt down from the cliffs at him. With a start the young ten year old Nathaniel Drakkon awoke and sat bolt upright in bed. He wiped his forehead, and blinked a few times, before lying back with a sigh. He tried to get back to sleep and hoped that was the end of the troll.