Alliance for antrim, p.24
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       Alliance for Antrim, p.24

           Thomas Lombard
 

  ***

  Faldon nearly fell down when he heard the story, more from fright than chagrin over his dereliction of guard duty.

  “It was a damnable troll, it was!” said Orris. After a moment’s reflection, he added, “But I can’t understand why the horses didn’t kick up a fuss when they got wind of its smell. We’re lucky to all be alive, including the horses.”

  “A troll?” asked Nevin. “Just what does a troll look like?”

  “It depends on its age,” Orris responded. “The biggest ones are taller than you and stout as an oak. They live in caves and wander about, making mischief of all sorts.”

  “Are they dangerous?”

  “They don’t like humans much at all, except for blood sport, and, some say, meals,” offered Faldon with obvious anxiety.

  “I have heard that said about them,” Anson chimed in, as he passed around their morning meal. “If you are caught, either you provide them food to their fill or you become the filling. Let’s be sure to carry enough food with us.”Nevin could not tell whether Anson was kidding.

  Orris sounded serious enough. “It is said a troll won’t kill you quick because it likes to squeeze and bounce you about, so it can enjoy your caterwauling. We will have to be on our guard from now on. Strong as they are, a troll will still die by a sword and that is what they will get if they try to take us on.” Orris unsheathed his sword and examined it, frowning over some nicks in the edge. He took out a stone from a small bag of personal articles to restore the blade’s sharpness.

  Nevin thought he caught Orris and Anson exchanging mischievous looks, but he asked the obvious question, “Have you ever actually seen a troll, Anson? Have you, Orris?” Both men waited before shaking their heads, then they broke out in laughter at their mutual gullibility. Except Faldon.

  Nevin’s willingness to believe this talk about trolls marked some changes in his way of thinking, but he had not completely abandoned his “scientific chauvinism,” as Bartram had called it. His sore joints made him feel pretty sure he was neither hallucinating nor dreaming this last three days of wagon travel. He accepted as a fact that he was present in a land both unknown and unlike anywhere he thought existed. After extensive discussions with Anson, the notion of spellcasting was also becoming more acceptable. He could even come up with some explanations for these magical occurrences. The indifference spell, for example, could work if the spellcaster reduces or ceases giving behavioral and verbal cues and becomes a background figure in the visual field of others. That was a simple enough explanation, but some of the other spells were more of a challenge. Especially Bartram’s demonstration back in Nevin’s apartment. And the deliverance via ley lines, although transmutation was hard trick to figure out.

  Anson motioned to Nevin and the others for their attention. “Let’s keep our minds about our business. I have an idea for our route today.” Anson sat down between Nevin and Orris while Faldon remained standing, keeping a wary eye for uninvited guests. Large ones.

  The mage continued, “I think we should stay off any roads and keep to lesser used paths. I have travelled this area before, but not in a long time. A mage known as Worad used to reside some distance northeast of here. If we find Worad’s home, he will provide us whatever comfort he can and safety for a night. This route will take us along the edge of a deeper forest that local people call Elvenwood. I do not believe it is as sinister a place as some think, though I have not travelled into it. I think this is a safe route and we would benefit from a respite with Worad. Are we agreed to this plan?”

  The other men readily agreed, then quickly completed their morning necessities, doused the fire and started off under Anson’s direction.
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