A Troll Hunting We Shall Go!

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Ancalagon
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A Troll Hunting We Shall Go!

Post by Ancalagon » Wed Apr 26, 2017 7:21 pm

A Troll Hunting We Shall Go! is an adventure in which I played during GenCon 2012. For those not in the know, MERP is Middle Earth Role Playing, produced back in the day by Iron Crown Enterprises.

The party for the adventure consisted of

Indrazor, a Black Numenorean Warrior
Belefleca, a Dunlending Scout,
Lolindir, a Noldo Elf Bard,
Galadhil, a Dunadan Mage, from whose perspective the tale shall be told, and played by yours truly.

The events recounted in this journal occurred during the Third Age of Middle Earth as the group, having set out from Bree as hired muscle to protect a merchant's wagons and wares, arrived in Rhudaur by way of the Great East Road.

http://www.middle-earth-map.com/



Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Wed Apr 26, 2017 7:25 pm

We finally arrived in Rhudaur after a long and wearisome trek from Bree. When I agreed to serve as part of an armed escort for the merchant's wagons and wares, I should have asked for a mount as part of the arrangement. It was an oversight I, nor the other hired protection, shall repeat!

We made our way to The Last Inn… the only inn. The Last Inn was fairly small but well-kept. A plump and tired looking woman of middle age greeted us as we entered. She seemed pleased, even relieved, at our arrival. We moved to a table but before we could be seated, the woman began asking us for help to find her son who had “been taken” the day before. Seeing how distressed the woman now was, I listened to her. Before she could speak more than a few sentences, the Black Numenorean interrupted her by demanding food and drink. Annoyed by his oafish lack of tact, I struck the floor with the base of my staff and fixed my eyes upon the brute. When I looked back to the woman, she had already retreated to the kitchen.

A few moments later, a middle-aged man, also looking tired, emerged from the kitchen carrying a tray loaded with mugs, bread, and cheese. The man placed the refreshments upon the table then apologized for his wife and explained she was quite distraught and preoccupied. I noticed a worried look upon the innkeeper’s face. My Black Numenorean travelling companion ignored all of us and greedily devoured bread and drink.

“What is wrong?” I prodded.

The innkeeper told a tale of recent events in which his two sons were roaming the countryside searching for herbs when they were set upon by… a troll! His eldest, Leddon, a man of twenty winters, was carried off. The younger son, Lindon, a lad of twelve winters, managed to escape with only an injured arm. Now the innkeeper and his wife sought, with a raised voice and sideways glances of disdain towards other patrons, “brave and hearty folk” who might help them find their son before it was too late.

“How much?” blurted the Black Numenorean around a mouthful of food.

Before I could pick up my staff and again rap the floor, the innkeeper, excited by the interest shown (albeit self-serving), offered free room and board for any who searched and fifteen gold coins.

Without looking up from his plate or clearing his mouth, the Black Numenorean said, “Forty.”

The innkeeper began to stammer and backpedal as though he had been struck. Judging by the small size of the inn and town, forty gold coins was more than the man possessed.

I pounded the floor with the base of my staff, stood, and looked at the innkeeper, “I thank you, sir, for the generous offer of compensation. I will do what I can to help you.”

The Dunlending and the Elf stood and extended their own offers of help. The three of us stared at the Black Numenorean who had now stopped eating.

“Very well,” he said. “Twenty. And not one brass lower since I will certainly have to carry the Elf’s weight before this is over.”

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Tue May 02, 2017 10:25 pm

We spent the remainder of the evening relaxing, eating good cooked food in place of hard tack, and enjoying the comfort of a soft mattress and blanket rather than a bedroll upon the hard ground. During the evening, the Dunlending persuaded the innkeeper to allow Lindon to guide us to the place at which the abduction occurred. I vowed that I would look after the lad and no harm would come to him. I was amused to see how enthusiastic the boy was to lead our company.

Lolindir offered to play music for the innkeeper’s patrons to lighten the mood. Permission was quickly given and the elf maiden moved gracefully to an open space within the room. The crowd grew quiet as she walked into view. By their abject stares, it was safe to assume none of the townsfolk had ever before seen an elf. The bard already there, a man of moderate bearing but fine voice, looked none-too-pleased at sharing his audience with another performer. Some “ooooos” and “aaaaahs” joined the stares as Lolindir opened her pack and produced the strangest looking instrument I had ever seen. It appeared to be a type of horn, fashioned from brass. How it gleamed! But rather than being straight, like a trumpet, the horn was shaped in looping circles with buttons which could be pressed downwards. I very much looked forward to hearing my first musical performance by one of the fair folk.

With a nod from Lolindir, the man began to sing. He sang of gallantry, of a man undertaking perilous tasks to win the hand of a lady. The bard was quite focused, not wishing to be upstaged in front of his audience, if my guess was correct. The man’s performance was excellent; the faces in the room adorned with smiles.

With a gesture returned from the bard, Lolindir raised the horn to her lips to play an accompaniment to the song. What was produced could be described, with kindness, as the pained and panicked honk of a goose being slowly pressed to death.

The audience began to murmur. To his credit, the man continued singing without missing a note. Lolindir maintained her composure and again brought the horn to her lips. Her timing was perfect as she began to play. But what issued forth this time was the warbled cry of some beast the likes of which I’ve never known to fly, walk, or crawl in Middle Earth. People in the audience covered their ears. The innkeeper wrung his apron. Lolindir continued for a few more seconds before she noticed the singing had stopped. The bard, fists clenched at his sides, had fixed the elf with such a venomous stare that, had she been susceptible to poison, she would have died on the spot.

As the audience stared in disbelief and discontent, a slow, singular beat of applause began from the far corner of the common room. Lolindir remained stoic and began to place her horn into her pack. While she did so, a singular mocking laugh joined the slow clap. As he stood to give his ovation, it was the first time I had ever seen the Black Numenorean smile.

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Wed May 10, 2017 2:15 pm

The elven “bard” made her way to our table, at which the Black Numenorean did not sit, while Belefleca and I greeted her with puzzled looks.
Lolindir sat. With no show of emotion she said, “After decades of reciting poetry, telling stories, and acting, I am trying something new.” She spoke no more that evening.

At just after sunrise the next morning the company departed the inn with its new “leader”. The lad was enthusiastic early on but grew quiet and subdued as the afternoon passed and we neared the site where his brother was taken by the troll. Lindon told us this region is called The Trollshaws. The longer we walked, the more difficult the terrain became. The region was hilly with many rocks and largely covered by gnarled trees of an unsavory look.

Our scout advised that by scaling to a nearby hilltop we could have a much better view of our surroundings. To do so, the group would need to leave the road to cover the far shorter, but undeniably more difficult, terrain. The lad was visibly frightened by the idea of leaving the path. When asked about it, he told us his father always said, “Never stray from the road or a troll might pull off your legs and eat them!”
I went to a knee in front of Lindon to speak with him on a more face-to-face level. I placed my left hand on the lad’s right shoulder and looked him in the eye.

“I told your father we would find your brother. And you will return home with the same two legs that so bravely lead our company to this point!”

The boy was still anxious so with a half-smile and a wink I added, “And until we return to town, I have need of an apprentice to aid me during this journey.”

The boy’s eyes widened.

“Do you know where I may find a young man, stout of heart, who would be willing to help me?”

By this time, Lindon was excitedly hopping and waving his hands. “Yes sir! Yes sir! I’ll do it! I’ll be your apprentice!”

“Excellent,” I said. I stood, smiled, and clapped his shoulder. I pounded the base of my staff upon a stone then fixed the lad with my gaze. “Lindon, apprentice of Galadhil, my first lesson to you is this: Do not let fear be your master!”

And with that, I turned to rejoin the company.

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Wed May 17, 2017 9:42 pm

Belefleca was first to leave the road and enter the wood. Some five or six paces in he stopped in his tracks. He looked warily at the trees, the rocks, and the ground. As the scout examined his new surroundings, I saw his right hand move towards the hilt of the sword strapped to his left hip. I motioned to Lindon to get behind me then made ready my staff. Indrazor unsheathed his sword and assumed a fighting stance from behind his shield. Lolindir, her face a mask of emotionless calm, nocked an arrow and stood ready to draw.

Breathless seconds passed before Indrazor whispered, “Can you see anything?”

I shook my head ‘no’. Lolindir’s head was slightly tilted as she listened.

Belefleca still watched the ugly, gnarled trees. After a few seconds, his gaze was drawn down to his sword hand, whereupon he flinched, as if unaware he had grasped the hilt of his blade. Belefleca’s hands dropped to his sides and his posture straightened as he inhaled deeply. Our scout exhaled slowly then, without looking back, resumed walking quietly into the woods.

Though he said nothing, something had unnerved Belefleca. Normally relaxed, he now moved tensely and with some trepidation.

“Hmphf,” Indrazor grunted, “If nothing is there then there is no cause for fear.”

The arrogant warrior entered the wood without bothering to neither conceal nor quiet his movements. Though I find Indrazor thoroughly unlikeable, I followed a scant few paces behind as did Lolindir. I wondered if she regarded the Black Numenorean with the same disdain. As one of the fair folk, did she even bother to hold an opinion towards the rest of us whose life spans must seem little more than those of flies? She is impossible to read.

At that moment, Indrazor spun about! He had an alarmed look in his eyes as he brandished his sword and held his shield to his chest. Indrazor continued turning in place, gaze darting hither and thither, searching for some unseen foe.

And then I felt it; another presence, a malice beyond that of mindless orc rabble and the brutishness of trolls, watching, driven by a lust for woe and possessing a seething hatred without end.

Lolindir, her eyebrows raised, spoke softly, “A malevolence… like none I have encountered… haunts this wood.”

“Haunts? A ghost? Is that what a ghost feels like?” I asked nervously.

“I do not know.”

Lindon had grasped a sleeve of my robe and pressed his forehead to it. I heard him repeating, “Fear is not my master.”

As if in response, the malice abated. Lolindir continued peering into the wood as Indrazor lowered his sword and exhaled. Lindon released my sleeve. The poor boy was pale with fear. I thought it remarkable he had not fled screaming. I tried to reassure the lad but, shaken as I was, “Well done,” was all I could manage to say.

I was very much ill-at-ease as we followed the path Belefleca had chosen. The words of power for a blasting spell were ever-present in my thoughts as we pressed on towards something which intended for us a fate more horrible than I dared imagine.

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Wed May 24, 2017 8:49 pm

We walked for a short while, no more than half an hour’s time. To our left there stood a steep hill, dotted with lichen-covered stones, brambles, and sickly trees. The hill rose up, extending beyond the canopy of the trees beneath which we travelled.

Belefleca turned and spoke, “Climbing here should give us the best view of the area once we get to the top.” He paused long enough to take a drink from his wineskin then began his ascent.

Our scout may be a Dunlending but, considering the ease with which he scaled the hill, I suspect there may be some mountain goat in his ancestry. He knelt on a ledge some forty feet above us then lowered to me one end of a length of rope. I fastened my pack and staff so they could be pulled up and so I might attempt the climb unencumbered.

I followed the same route up the hill taken by Belefleca, though it took me considerably longer to traverse the distance… the fact of which was not lost upon our haughty warrior. Unwilling to wait, Indrazor chose his own route to climb. Lolindir climbed beside him. Nearly halfway up the hill, still armed and armored, Indrazor’s impatience caught up with him. A stone under his boot gave way and he began to fall. The warrior grabbed at everything within his reach: rocks, weeds, yellowed saplings, but to no avail. Lolindir was able to grasp the edge of Indrazor’s cloak but was unable to hold the warrior’s much greater weight. Indrazor tried to land on his feet but a grunt of pain escaped him as he hit the ground and collapsed.

Immediately thereafter a shower of dirt and leaves fell upon him.

And then Lolindir landed upon him.

During her attempt to help, she had overextended her reach and slipped free of the hillside. I doubt Indrazor envisioned this turn of events when, back at the inn, he stated he would have to carry the elf’s weight.

He was most unpleasant.

I completed my climb and discovered we had several hundreds of feet remaining, albeit at an easier slope, to reach the hilltop. Belefleca used his rope to assist Indrazor and Lolindir make their climbs. He seemed rather pleased that the arrogant warrior had actually accepted his help. I kept watch and instructed Lindon to do so as well. The only noticeable movement was that of birds flying south, fleeing before a miles-wide line of angry clouds advancing towards us. I wondered if we could make the hilltop before dark skies were upon us.

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Sun Jun 04, 2017 5:09 pm

Atop the hill were the ruins of what long ago may have been a watch tower of sorts, smaller in scale and grandeur than that of Amon Sul upon what is now known by the common folk as Weathertop. Time had not been kind to the original structure. All that remained standing was a portion of the easternmost wall, now no more than twice the height of a man. A large tree, which had originally sprouted to the western side of the tower’s foundation, lay partially fallen, supported by the wall. The tree was dead, its many branches bereft of leaves, a stark contrast to the forest behind us.

Indrazor joined Belefleca in leading us up the hill. As he walked, I noticed he favored his right ankle with a slight limp. Undoubtedly, he injured it as the result of his foolish attempt to climb unaided. I am fairly certain the prideful warrior would have denied any injury existed… if I had asked.

After a short distance, what at first glance I believed to be one of the tree’s branches, twisted beneath its trunk and pinned to the top edge of the wall, became more apparent as the mail-clad upper torso, left arm, and head of a body. A helmet was strapped to the head. Both helm and mail were dingy and weather stained. The rest of the body, if still intact, was concealed by the ruined wall.

A moment later a shadow overtook the hill as the approaching clouds passed over head. The air cooled quickly as the wind began to pull at my hair and cloak. I welcomed the respite from the late summer day’s heat.

Some two score paces from the summit, Belefleca motioned for the rest of us to wait while he scouted the ruins. Indrazor ignored the gesture and continued up the hill. As they pressed on, I leaned on my staff for a brief rest. I looked behind to the forest below us. The treetops swayed in the wind not so unlike the grass upon the fields of Cardolan. I noticed the rustling hiss of the air as it moved through the vast expanse of green and wondered if the sound was the speech of trees. I glanced at Lolindir and saw she, too, watched the forest.

“Is it true elves can understand the language of trees?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“What are they saying now?” I continued.
The elf maiden stared at the trees for several long seconds. Without averting her gaze she answered softly, “Nothing pleasant.”

I waited a few more seconds for elaboration but Lolindir offered none.

My attention returned to the hilltop. The wind abated and the trees’ speech subsided just as Belefleca and Indrazor reached the summit. They drew weapons then walked in opposite directions around the ruins looking for hidden danger. Finding none, they moved to more closely observe the pinned body.

When the pair reached the wall, the hair on the back of my neck stood up! The constant uneasiness I felt since entering the forest was crushed by an avalanche of hatred so intense as to be almost palpable. So foul was the presence that I wretched and involuntarily spat. Lindon cried out in fear. Lolindir was driven to a knee. Belefleca and Indrazor staggered as if struck. I would have fallen if not already supported by my staff.

A noise, like the cracking of thousands of twigs, originated from the hilltop. Near the top end of the dead tree’s trunk, two side-by-side depressions formed as the wood sank into itself. Next came the sound of hundreds of snapping branches as another depression appeared, this one larger and immediately below the two that had just formed. The three depressions were filled with shadow and arranged to vaguely resemble a face born of nightmare. I heard the rupture of bark and shattering of timber as the base of the trunk split in twain to function as legs. And then the dead thing stood up! The body upon the wall moved upwards for a few feet, in tandem with the trunk, before sliding off of a shorter, sharp branch, stained almost black with dried blood, which had impaled it.

The source of the overwhelming hatred swept us with its black gaze and I could feel its lust for torture and death. Its limbs shook and its mouth opened, producing a cacophony of the deep groaning of twisting wood and its splintering. And then our doom began walking towards us!

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Post by Ancalagon » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:59 pm

I wanted to run but my legs would not respond. Lindon wailed and fell to the ground. Lolindir stared, aghast, then spoke, “A huorn… One so corrupt of heart that its outward appearance now reflects its vile spirit. I understand now.”

Before the fell creature completed its third step towards us, Indrazor stood in its path, facing it with sword and shield at the ready. The huorn stood several times the warrior’s height, looming above and menacing the man with its black gaze. Again the dead thing’s mouth opened and produced its groan of twisting wood. Indrazor did not waiver.

By this time Belefleca recovered his wits, drew his second hand axe, and then began moving to flank the huorn. As he maneuvered, the monster flailed its two largest limbs at Indrazor. The warrior side-stepped the first limb then angled his shield so as to slightly deflect the frightening blow rather than feel its full measure. Even so doing, Indrazor staggered a few steps as the limb hit the ground and gouged large chunks of grass and rocky dirt from the face of the hillside.

Indrazor’s display of courage roused me from my malaise. Gripping my staff with both hands, I pointed it towards the huorn. I looked to the sky then began speaking the words of a spell so I might borrow from its essence. Within a few seconds a slight breeze began to slowly encircle me. It was damp and chaotic with many smaller currents moving separately across my skin through my hair as things alive.

While still on a knee, Lolindir took off her pack and quickly, yet calmly, removed items until she found what she wanted: the strange metal horn.

Belefleca proved himself savvy and opportunistic when battling the huorn. Always from the rear flank he chopped with axes as Indrazor drew the creature’s attention with shouts, curses, and sword.

The circling winds grew in strength as I continued the incantation. The essence of the living air began to gather in my staff, causing it to vibrate, then to hum, then for sparks to flash and dance about its head. Finally the spell reached its crescendo. The sparks merged, and with an accompanying clap of thunder, streaked outward as a jagged bolt of lightning that struck the huorn upon the upper region of its trunk, blasting away pieces of bark and scorching the underlying wood.

Before the thunder subsided, Lolindir, in one fluid motion, stood, inhaled deeply, and raised the horn to her lips. This time the sound produced resembled the loud squeals of a herd of frightened swine. Repeatedly she blew the horn with the same awful results.

I turned to Lolindir. “Do you seek to distract the huorn with that noise?”
“No,” she replied. “I seek to calm its spirit with a song.”
The huorn again attacked Indrazor with its largest limbs. The blows splintered the warrior’s shield and drove him hard to the ground.
“Nothing about that noise you make is calming!” I shouted to the elf.
And then, for the first time, I saw it: a crack in Lolindir’s composure. Her brow furrowed. A glint of anger could be seen in her eyes. For a brief moment she seemed to shine with light. Lolindir jerked the horn back to her mouth and blew it. This time the sound produced was so great that not even thunder could compare; the noise so utterly terrible that I have not the words to describe it. I thought my ears would bleed, my eyes would burst, and my teeth would split to experience the power of the elf’s magic. I was helpless.

I soon came to my senses and found myself behind Lolindir. Beyond her, atop the hill, the huorn staggered in place and thrashed to and fro as she continued sounding her horn! This was our only chance. Indrazor and Belefleca seized the opportunity and attacked with great vigor. I held aloft my staff, began my incantation anew, and the living air responded.

Within minutes it was done. Lolindir’s musical spell incapacitated the huorn and by lightning and steel the horror was brought down. Never again shall I complain if Lolindir should play her horn for without it, certain death would not have become victory.

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Tue Jun 27, 2017 3:20 pm

Lolindir dropped her horn and sat down hard, winded by her exertion. I breathed deeply, exhaled, and felt the tension begin to abate. Belefleca and Indrazor leaned against the remnants of the tower wall. They kept their distance from the remains of the huorn and took long draws from their wineskins. Lindon remained upon the ground, knees pulled to his chest, eyes closed tightly, trembling.

I walked to Lolindir and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She nodded without looking up and continued to catch her breath.

I sat beside Lindon and rested a hand upon his head. “There now, lad,” I said, “it's alright now. The Monster is dead.”
The boy calmed. “Is it?” he asked.
“Quite dead,” I said, “come see for yourself.”

In short order we gathered at the hilltop. Indrazor still rested against the ruin. While I have never liked the man, his display of courage won my respect. I sought to examine his injuries but the Black Numenorean pre-empted me by standing quickly and stating curtly, “I am unhurt.” He then turned his back to me and walked away to explore the ruins. Prideful ass!

Lolindir knelt beside the largest portion of what remained of the huorn’s trunk. Lindon stood several paces behind her and watched apprehensively. The bard’s eyes held sympathy, very nearly pity, for the dead monster. I could not help but wonder if the elf had ever felt such compassion for any of the race of Men. Just then, Lindon dashed forward and, with a snarl, kicked a small piece of the huorn’s remains. He watched the piece of wood tumble down the hillside. Lolindir stood, reverted to her normal expressionless demeanor, and turned her gaze to the surrounding countryside.

“That’s the spirit, boy,” spoke the normally quiet Belefleca. He took another long drink from his wineskin and walked to the side of the ruin opposite from the fallen huorn.

“Well now… What have I here?” It was Indrazor’s voice coming from within the ruin. “Galadhil,” he said, “come see and tell me what you make of this.”
I walked into what remained of the watch tower. Part of the outer wall and most of the foundation, cracked, pitted, and harboring weeds were all that remained… besides the armored, weather beaten and long dead skeleton over which Indrazor stood.
“I had hoped to find a shield or something of the sort to replace the one destroyed in the battle,” the warrior explained, “but instead I found this.”

He turned to me and held in one hand a nearly rotted scabbard and in the other a most remarkable sword. The blade was of a white metal, perfectly white, showing no scratch nor blemish from dirt or the decay of time. Even though we stood beneath a clouded sky, the blade reflected what daylight there was to create a white glow along its length. Were we under a clear sky, I imagined the glare could resemble fire.

I was briefly transfixed. From my studies I knew I beheld EOG, one of the rarest and most prized of substances. Of all the most highly skilled craftsmen of Middle Earth, to which it is quite likely none of the race of Men belonged, only the most gifted of them could have fashioned so wondrous a blade. The sword had to be incredibly old.

And now the Black Numenorean possessed it.

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Post by Ancalagon » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:23 pm

Belefleca and Lolindir stood together looking into the distance. The scout pointed in the directions opposite the way we ascended the hill. He said something to the elf to which she nodded. Belefleca turned to us, motioned us over and spoke, “I think I know where the troll den may be found… Come see.”

Many hours march from the ruins there sat a small valley closed on one end and possessing slopes covered by dark, broken stones and scattered clusters of trees and scrub. At the back end of the valley, barely discernible against the slope, I saw what appeared to be a shadow, perhaps the entrance to a cave.

“Yes, Galadhil,” said the elf, “a cave lies therein – one easily large enough to accommodate trolls.”

Trolls. Plural.

“It is the best lead thus far,” I said to the group.

“If we set a good pace and waste little time, I should be able to get us to the top of the western edge of the valley some hours before dawn,” Belefleca prompted.

“And then what?” Indrazor asked.

“And then the rest of you can decide how to go about getting into a troll den and finding the lad’s brother,” the scout replied as he cocked his head towards Lindon, “without getting anybody killed.”

The Dunlending spoke wisely. We would, without doubt, be slowed by the boy and I could not bring myself to lead him into a troll den. It was time for Lindon to go home.

“Apprentice,” I said with authority, “I have a task for you!”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answered.

I pointed and asked, “Do you see that small valley?”

“I do, sir.”

“Good. You must go back the way we came, back to your home, and tell your father that I and my companions are making for that valley. We hope to find your brother there and rescue him.”

The boy looked nervous. “But… what if I run into trolls on the way back?”

I met Lindon’s gaze with my own then said, “You shall not.” I placed a hand upon his head and spoke words of warding. “A spell now protects you.”

I knew no such spell but Lindon needed to believe it.

The boy’s eyes widened and he gasped, “I have a spell on me!”

“Listen now,” I said firmly, “Keep your eyes and ears open. Be watchful!”

Wolves certainly will.

“Hide from danger and do not dally,” I continued.

Trolls will not hesitate if they see you.

“Remember, Lindon, do not let fear be your master,” were my final words to him. Words with which I suddenly found myself at odds. Sending the boy alone through the Trollshaws to his home was exceedingly dangerous. And even though the greater peril lay before us, I feared for him.

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