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~*~

If not for his thigh, that seemed to grow hotter with each step he took, Matthew would've been gawking at the mountains' sheer sizes. The dragontooth mountains, which bordered his home from the northern unknown, were larger. But those had gradually steepening gradients and plain almost flat expanses that often made one forget they were on a mountain. These, on the other hand, were more like piles of rocks that had somehow been stacked up to insurmountable heights. Looking up the jutting bluffs made Matthew a little dizzy.

Or perhaps the dizziness was a result of his now seething leg. He could feel sweat dripping down his torso despite the sun having dipped a little over the horizon behind them. The sun-kissed tips of the mountain tops did little to alleviate the pain. Their resemblance to burning embers only made him feel even hotter so he tore his eyes away from what he would have considered beautiful and looked ahead.

The path they were on lead them to what looked like a tear on the mountain wall. Matthew grew suddenly very eager to be within this crevice, thinking of the cool air that would hopefully be contained within.

Before continuing on, he looked back and found that the knight had stopped walking. He now stood, hand on the hilt of his sword, listening. Daniel too had stopped, his eyes glued to the path they'd just left behind. The princess noticed the sudden tension and even she spun back to check on what happening behind them.

Matthew's head swirled, the dizziness blurring his vision. He started hating the stunted trees that had suddenly replaced the yellow-flowered grass he had begun to get used to.

Where were these bastard trees when I needed shade?

Now, they only served to further blind him from whatever was coming. But he did not need to see it. A shift in the wind carried the salivary scent of wet fur into his nostrils and his adrenaline spiked.

"Run!" he barked.

Snarling and bounding on their muscled forearms, seven foot, ape-like trolls broke through the scarce shrubbery and ran straight at them.

The horse neighed and pulled on its reins causing Daniel to stumble back. The knight hoisted him up and pushed him forward, leaving the horse to bolt into the wilderness. Matthew waited only for the princess to catch up to him and they ran in formation, keeping her at the center of their makeshift triangle.

As mice into a hole, the travelers slinked into the tear in the mountain. Steep unscalable cliffs jutted into the skies besides them trapping them in a narrow path.

The trolls gave chase. Some jumped up to the cliff's sides, using their arms to swing from boulder to boulder. It was not long before a few dropped down ahead of the travelers, cutting off their only escape and halting them in their tracks.

"So... No sudden moves?" Nadia squealed.

The knight didn't hesitate. With a flash of his sword the first troll was beheaded and the second impaled. The third was more careful. It moved around the first thrust and swiped out with its clawed paw. The knight jumped. The paw went under. The troll's head fell.

The beasts seemed to realize that going one at a time was a lousy tactic. All at once, they ran at the travelers.

"Feline! Help me clear a path for the princess." The knight barked over the growling and clanging of sword on claw.

Blood spilt everywhere. Matthew was kicking and tearing trolls bare handed, shoving others in every direction as they closed in on them. The knight dodged and sliced spewing more blood into the air. Daniel had drawn from his cloak two kote that he wore like gauntlets and used to parry swipes that would have been otherwise fatal. Nadia stood in the middle of the three's protective circle, watching with horror as the trolls clambered over each other in an attempt to get to them.

Matthew edged towards the knight and they slowly started to clear a path. As a unit they moved forward leaving dead trolls which were instantly replaced by living ones. The were less trolls ahead than behind making it hopefully possible to open their route. Daniel had one hand in a troll's mouth, the gauntlet the only thing saving his hand from decapitation when Matthew shouted:

"Clear!"

The night pulled a startled Nadia by the hand and shoved her out of the chaos.

"Run!" He bellowed.

She didn't need to be told twice. She was up and running just as Daniel cried out.

"My hand!"

Matthew dove at the troll with Daniel's hand in its mouth. He caught it on the chest with his shoulder, body slamming into its brethren. If the trolls had been organised and weren't trampling over each other, the fight would have been already over.

Daniel's hand was yanked free and he lunged out the same opening the princess had gone through. The knight stabbed another troll and and pushed through to the outside. When he looked back the opening was completely closed and Matthew was nowhere in sight. Daniel moved back to try and free Matthew but the knight placed a hand on his chest, stopping him.

"There's nothing we can do for him now," he said.

Daniel looked to the mound of seven foot trolls that was forming over the poor feline.

"The horse?"

The knight pointed further behind them were a larger mound had formed. In the confusion they had not heard its dying cries as it had returned to rejoin then. Such was a proper battle trained horse. It had attracted most of the trolls and in a way, saved them.

"We need to leave." They turned and ran.

*

Nadia ran. She ran faster than she'd ever ran in her entire life. The weariness from the long walk in the sun had evaporated, washed away by fear. The mountain pass grew narrower with every step and arced further and further away from her companions.

Moments passed and her legs finally gave way. She stumbled to a gentle rest on a mound of rocks. No trolls had followed.

She struggled to catch her breath as her lungs tried to inhale and exhale at the same time. Her heart was pounding so fast she almost couldn't feel it. All she felt was a throbbing lump in her throat that she assumed must be her heart. Sweat dripped down and formed small rivulets on the dry rocks she leaned against.

She decided to wait for the others for a little while before continuing on her journey. As much as she dreaded it she would have to go on her own if the others didn't make it. She also could not wait for too long and risk the trolls catching up to her. She was about to stand up and leave when the rocks shifted under her weight. First she thought she had caused it but took a step back in alarm when the whole bundle of rocks shuddered and quaked.

Her calming heart spiked once more and jumped back to her throat. The rocky mass tore out of the earth and the whole thing stood upright. Nadia could not believe what she was seeing. The stony monstrosity stood twenty feet tall. The entire thing was made of stone. It stood, apelike, gazing down at her with glowing white circles that were its eyes. For the first time in her life, Nadia stood frozen in fear.

It swung it's massive arm and as Nadia stood there, faced with death, her life flashed before her eyes.

*

Matthew was swarmed. He fought to breathe under the countless troll bodies. He felt his body being crushed and gave a scream when a troll managed to get a bite of his leg. Its teeth sank into his skin like knives. He cried out and inhaled a lungful of the musty air that smelled of wet dogs. There were limbs and heads everywhere. Some trolls bit and tore at one another in the confusion. Blood was dripping onto his face but he ignored it, focusing on staying alive. He could not allow the trolls' weight to squeeze the life out of him. He had to ignore the burning pain in his leg as as the teeth sank deeper and scraped against bone. He clenched his own teeth and refused the cool embrace that death offered.

That's when it happened. His calf's burning intensified and it was not because of the troll trying to bite his leg off. It changed and alternated from hot to cold along with his racing heartbeat. If he could see it he would have noticed the flame symbol's buzzing yellow light also pulsing with a vigorous intensity.

A heat wave washed over him and Matthew gave a loud wail as a white light drowned his vision.

~*~

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A note from Maxwell Dark

///What on Linderyl just happened? Do find out next time on King of Solace!

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About the author

Maxwell Dark

  • South Africa
  • Mr

Bio: *Published Author: English Alive 50, a National Magazine. Phuluso-My story (A little token from when I was in high-school, good were those days.)

*Editor of The Lost Redeemer by @DavidMusk (Currently editing this. Check it out, it is Epic!)

Maxwell Dark is a pretty great fella. If he is not writing wholesome fantasy novels or poems, then he can be found reading wholesome fantasy novels and poems. Not that he does not have a life mind you. He does occasionally do the socializing and has a few he calls friends.
Now, back to the writing. Here are some of the stories that he'll be sharing on here. He would really appreciate you checking them out and perhaps chatting with him through comments or personal messages. He will make it well worth your time.

Some books to watch out for by Maxwell Dark.

*The Blades Of Fate Trilogy
- King of Solace (ongoing, also available on Wattpad)
-King of War (Coming soon)
-Demon King
*Dark Reviews (Only on Wattpad)
*Lillian and the Seeds Of Hope (A Blades of Fate prequel)
*Beauty In Darkness
*Mascara Tears (A Romance, Crime Thriller)
*A dreamer's Journey (A Short story Collection, featuring: Phuluso- my story)
*A Broken Man's Ballads (A poetry collection)

Do consider donating to my Patreon to keep my works free! Link can be found on my fiction.

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