The next morning: Lokir POV
With the sun hanging high in the sky and a gentle breeze rustling the trees, Lokir woke up with his head comfortably nestled between two soft objects.
"Oh, Ayla... You shouldn't have." He mumbled.
The prince rolled onto his back and started laying kisses on the two soft, cold mounds.
"You're cold... I can fix that-" Then he opened his eyes and looked up...
"You're a weird one, aren't you?" Hogunn asked while staring down at him.
The prince, though extremely confused at the sudden appearance of someone other than Ayla, managed a glance at his surroundings.
He saw Ayla, Hali, and Findral off to the side staring at him with almost identically confused looks on their faces. Turning his head even further allowed him to see the elves and human soldiers doing their best to ignore everything and focus on their breakfast.
Then he turned just a little bit more and saw the creature that haunted his dreams... Torga was staring him in the eye from only a few feet away.
"Having a nice dream, eh?"
The prince felt fear and dread flood his system at a rate he'd never before experienced.
Like a man trying to escape a predator without provoking it into attacking. The prince slowly looked down and saw the two water packs he'd been using as a makeshift pillow and mistaken for Ayla's chest, just lying there innocently.
"Damn, it felt so real too." He glared at the pouches. "If I die... I'm haunting whoever made you."
The prince slowly raised his head and smiled at Torga.
"Nope, it was absolutely dreadful."
"Oh ho... Is that so?" Torga returned his smile... With his approximation of one; Exposing his extremely long, extremely sharp teeth.
"What was it about?"
The prince's smile fell and he nervously started to slowly back away, while climbing to his feet.
"Well, uh... You were there and you were... Um... Threatening me?"
Torga stared at the prince for a few long seconds, then he nodded his head.
"Ah! I see what you mean. That does sound awful... and completely out of character for me."
"It does?" The prince asked skeptically.
"Of course, it does!" Torga emphatically nodded. "Because Lokir... May I call you Lokir?"
"Great!" Torga followed the prince closely while keeping his face within a few feet of Torga's mouth. "You see, Lokir. I don't make threats... Especially to someone I've already told not to do something. So~ If that dream were 'in character' for me... I wouldn't have been threatening you." Torga's eyes drained of their previous amusement and humor.
"I would've just killed you and been done with it."
The prince swallowed thickly and started to take a few steps away from the dangerous looking fangs and their owner.
"I'm glad... Now get ready, we'll be leaving here in an hour."
Lokir saluted Torga with as much confidence as he could muster and held his place until Torga moved away from him.
As soon as the prince was in the clear, he collapsed to the ground and began heaving for breath. His palms were suddenly very sweaty, and his knees were shaking... But underneath all of that, was the sole emotion he'd felt since he first saw his possible future 'Father-in-law'.
"He terrifies me more than any monster I've ever seen... How the hell can Ayla stand to be near him!?"He wondered.
Suddenly, something touched Lokir's shoulder causing him to spring to his feet in fear. When he spun around and faced the thing responsible for almost giving him a heart attack, he saw Ayla standing with her hand outstretched and a worried look on her face.
"Oh... It's only you." He sighed. The pounding in his chest slowly returned to normal and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Who'd you think it was to react like that?"
Ayla's face fell and she stepped closer to him. She reached up and gently cupped his cheeks, prompting him to lean into her hands and close his eyes.
"Sorry about him... I... I want to say he's actually a really nice guy, once you get to know him, but... That's not exactly true."
"Because he's a terrifying monster?" Lokir responded with thinking.
He didn't see the look of annoyance on Ayla's face until she'd stepped away from him and dropped her arms back to her side.
"Don't call him that." She whispered.
Lokir's eyes snapped open. "Ayla..."
"No!" She snapped. "You do not get to call him that!"
"Okay," Lokir said. "I won't call him a monster."
"Good... Because he's not." She turned away from him and walked back over to her group, though not before she stopped and pointed to a dimly lit campfire with a bowl sitting nearby.
"You should go eat. You'll need your strength for the journey home." Then she continued to walk away, leaving the prince standing there... alone.
Lokir kicked the ground in frustration and stomped his way over to the campfire.
"You might not want to see it, Ayla. But he is a monster... and a dangerous one, at that." Lokir brought the bowl of soup up to his lips and drank some of it down.
He sat down on the grass and pulled the remnants of his broken sword out of his bag and glared in Torga's direction.
"And I'll prove it to you."
"You know he's glaring at you, right?" Fenris asked while watching Lokir out of the corner of his eye.
"And you're not worried about him doing anything?"
Torga eye's slowly drifted over to meet Fenris',
"I'm counting on it."
"You're plotting something." Fenris said.
He didn't bother asking for the details because he knew Torga well enough by now to understand how his mind worked.
If he had a part to play in Torga's plan, then Torga would've told him what it was by now. The fact that he was leaving Fenris in the dark could only mean one of two things.
The first and least likely was Torga was planning on doing something that could potentially harm the prince and he didn't want Fenris to blab to his wife and daughter about it...
The second and most likely...
"You're testing him." Fenris suddenly said, prompting Torga to look at him.
"I don't know why, but... You want him to see the worst in you."
"I'm sure you're just overthinking things, Mutt."
"No, I know you, Fatass. If you wanted the kid dead, then nothing any of us could say or do would stop you from killing him.
So... What makes this kid different from everyone else you've killed?"
"What makes you think he's different?"
Fenris sneered at Torga.
"I've known you for over a decade, Torga. Want to know how many people I've seen you give this kind of opportunity too?"
Before Torga could speak, Fenris interrupted him and pressed on.
"Not a damn one.
I've seen you kill kings without a moment's hesitation. I've seen you kill more people than I care to remember... Granted, most of them deserved it, but even still you did not hesitate to kill when necessary."
Fenris stared at Torga's profile while he waited for the answer to his question.
"Ever since I came to this 'world' I've lived by one creed. A saying that I've long since carved into my heart and is the drive behind everything I do." Torga took a deep breath, which involuntarily drew magic towards him creating a static like effect in the air around him.
"Protect those I care about with everything I have, Kill those who stand against me as quickly and efficiently as possible... And under no circumstances do I allow them to attack first. Strike fast, hard, and kill without mercy, has been my strategy in almost every fight I've been in and it's served me well... But it won't work here." Torga motioned towards Ayla and Hali.
"Ayla will try to follow me anywhere, even to the depths of hell itself if it meant I wouldn't leave her alone... But, if I continue to allow her to follow me, then I and I alone will be responsible for her eventual death."
Fenris stared down at Torga for several seconds... Then he snorted and smacked Torga's head with a paw.
"You're an idiot if you think she'll choose to stay with the kid over going with you. If it comes down to it, I have a feeling Ayla would kill him if it meant protecting you. I mean sure, she'd feel like absolute shit later but... You're her father. The man who raised her, protected her, and always ensured she was taken care of.
If your goal in this was to make her so angry, that she'd choose to stay with the prince, instead of following you then I think you've already fucked that plan up." Fenris used his tail to point to an angry Ayla who was currently giving Lokir a death-glare.
"And if you think she'd pick anyone over you, then you're even stupider than I thought." Fenris grinned.
"And I'm very aware of just how stupid you think I am." Torga laughed.
"Then, what's the real reason you're doing this?"
"I... I can't control myself any longer."
"Control yourself? What do you mean?" Fenris was starting to get worried now. Torga was starting to shake as if he were vibrating in place...
"That brat just pisses me off so much! I mean, I get that he's okay looking, but did she have to go after a fucking moron like that!?" Torga yelled so loud he caused Fenris to jump.
"Every word out of the little shits mouth makes me want to strangle him, but I can't do that without hurting Ayla, so I have to put up with it.
Every cocky smirk, every boastful word, and every lustful look he gives her makes me want to petrify him and turn the cocky prick into a lawn ornament!"
Fenris motioned for Torga to calm down and stop yelling... But he was on a roll now.
"But every time I almost do it; almost get rid of the problem, I hear those three damn words again and again 'Ayla's getting married.' Have you any idea how maddening that is? Or how pissed off it makes me that his idea of power is a fucking enchanted sword?
Nevermind the blood, sweat, and pain I endured to get to where I am. This little shit's greatest accomplishment is he was adopted? Are you fucking kidding me!? Then he has the gall to boast about his 'accomplishments' to Ayla, The arrogant little Fuck!"
"Are... Are you done?" Fenris snickered.
Torga turned his head and saw the entire camp staring at him in equal parts shock and amusement. So, he did what came naturally to him.
"What're you all standing around for? Get moving, I want those tents down and everyone ready to go in fifteen minutes!" He barked.
His outburst caused several of his friends to laugh and or chuckle at his expense... The rest did as ordered and quickly got back to work.
"You know... you were a lot more intimidating before you shrunk yourself."
"I don't know, at your current size I think I could eat you in one gulp-" Fenris slowly trailed off as he saw Torga's eye slowly turning black.
"Uh... Coming dear!" Fenris yelled, then ran away with his tail between his legs.
"Damn, you'd think he'd learn to take a joke."
Fifteen minutes later: Torga POV
The sun was finally high in the sky and the group was ready to leave; Lena and Fenris were in the lead, with Ayla, Lokir, Uriel, Hali, and Findral behind them atop their horses. Next came the goblins; Siofs was sitting on Holstig's shoulder in place of a horse and Hogunn was standing beside them looking bored... As usual. Then the humans and elves were atop their own horses at the back of the line.
Torga rose himself to up and allowed Ayla to pick him up and wrap him around her neck. Though this terrified her horse for a few seconds, it was too well behaved to do anything more than whine.
"Comfy?" She asked while smirking over Torga's head at an annoyed Hali.
"Don't get used to it, Brat."
"Yeah, yeah... Killjoy." She mumbled.
Torga ignored her and rose to his full height.
"Alright, listen up! We're heading for Asgarn and we're not stopping until we get there!" Torga draped himself over Ayla's shoulders and looked at Uriel.
"How's the 'gift' for the king?"
Uriel's response was to smile and point over his shoulder at Hogunn who, in turn, lifted the limp form of a human into the air.
"We found him after sunrise this morning. I managed to stop the internal bleeding, though I doubt he'll last past the end of the week if we don't get him some aid."
"So long as he tells us who hired him, I care not whether he lives or dies."
"Understood, then I will do my best to get that information out of him before he expires." Uriel said.
Torga shook his head, "No, let Siofs handle the interrogation, as she's the one currently lazing around."
Said woman at least had the decency to look sheepish for a moment, before she nodded her head and had Hogunn throw him into a nearby cart they 'borrowed' from the nearby town.
She hopped off Holstig's shoulders and into the cart, while he lifted the front of the cart and began pulling it along behind him.
"I'll get right to work, Master." She said.
"You do that..." He mumbled.
Torga then turned his head to the side of the group where ten rows of three human statues were placed and waiting for the next 'gift' Torga had planned.
He closed his eyes and focused on the ground beneath their feet...
"Focus... Don't destroy them... And...-" His eyes snapped open. "Lift!" He hissed.
Torga's third eye turned a deep brown color as the ground beneath the 'statues' feet began to rumble and for a few seconds, it looked like nothing else would happen... But soon enough, the ground was ripped free and raised into the air where it began to levitate.
"Oy, 'Prince'." Torga sneered.
"What do you think of my wedding gift?"
The prince's eye twitched for a moment, then he looked away.
"What wedding?" Lokir mumbled.
"Would you look at that... It can learn a new trick." Torga said just loud enough for the prince to hear, which earned him a glare and a smack on the head from Ayla.
"Father, be nice,"
"I'm not sure what you mean, Ayla. After all... I'm always nice."
Ayla snorted but chose not to say anything else.
Torga looked to Fenris and Lena and gave them the go-ahead to start moving.
"Last one there is a Fatass snake!" Fenris cheered as he broke into a run.
Torga glared at Fenris' backside and whispered to Ayla...
"I want him to be the last to arrive... Get me alongside him."
"Aye-Aye, Father." She smirked, as she spurred her horse into action.
The rest of the group, as well as the 'gifts', began to move immediately after as they raced to catch up with the leaders, and the journey to Asgarn began in earnest...