Power without evil
pride without a darkened soul
A friendship never ending
and strength without fear
Lord Kelam wiped the sweat from his brow with a grimace, the sun was high and there was little shadow to be found this high in the mountains. He shifted his weight in the saddle and took a look around with a displeased look upon his face. This was a lousy mission, nothing but a waste of time. After all, he was one of the country’s nobility and a captain in the kings guard, too good to be sent out on such an insignificant trip. He should have been allowed to stay back home at the royal court where he could dazzle everybody with his wit and charm. He straightened his cloak and brushed away a few straws which were stuck to his pants. He was a handsome man and he knew it too, a little too well according to most of the court.
Around him about twenty men went with their arms ready, they were among the best of the king’s soldiers and they were on their guard all the time and very well armed. Behind him a man was leading two pack horses, it was the tax money from some remote area and he could not understand why he had been commanded to overlook the collection, he was much too important to do such petty work...
The truth was that the king was more than fed up with the young lord’s arrogance and lack of ability to see his own flaws. Kelam was spoiled from childhood and saw himself as next to the king himself in power and importance. In reality he was a know-it-all who nobody liked and he had none importance whatsoever but nobody told him that. They had fun on his behalf and found his extravagant style and arrogance quite hilarious. They all laughed at him behind his back but many wished that he would leave the court; he was not a likeable person.
He wiped his brow again, felt a little uneasy. The mission was not an easy one, the money was one thing but that was just gold, he knew the men feared for their lives. To reach their goal they had crossed an area that was relatively safe and the trip had been boring to say the least. Unfortunately that hadn’t lasted, a storm had raged for three days and it had made the rivers swell far beyond the normal banks.
This was the only way back to the capital. They could not cross the rivers now and these mountain roads were their only chance to return in time. The king was very firm when it came to keeping time, he hated it when people were late and the lord was terrified by the very thought of awakening his majesty’s wrath in any way.
These mountains were dangerous, very dangerous. They were swarming with orcs and other dark creatures and the whole area belonged more or less to the dark forces of the world, there were no villages or settlements before they reached the lower valleys and that would take them some time. The men were more nervous than a cat in a dog pen; they leaped high whenever they heard something and the lord felt a little annoyed by that. When they camped for the night they refused to light a fire and they seemed to ignore him. He thought they were just silly, they had seen nothing of these enemies and couldn’t they see that his impressive person would scare any attacker off?
He straightened himself again, looked around with a bored expression, what a dull and insignificant land. Just grey and khaki colors, dry straw and rocks and not a park or a tree in sight. He was angry since the seams of his trousers no longer were straight and he smelled off horse and sweat, what wouldn’t the ladies of the court have said had they seen him now. He considered himself a real ladies man but the truth was that none of the ladies of the good society would touch him with a pair of ten foot pliers.
He tightened the reins and the horse shook its head violently, he hit it across the neck as punishment. He rode an enormous brown horse, an exquisite animal that had cost even a wealthy man like himself a good share of his fortune. The stallion was a real warhorse and he enjoyed the feeling of how people were staring at him when he rode it. It was actually the horse they admired but he did not realize that. He basked in the glory of riding a superb charger and did not care about the animal as anything else than a symbol of power and wealth.
The horse was well trained but there was no point in telling that to the owner. He didn’t know how to treat such an animal and he fought a never-ending battle with the stallion every day. Such horses are bred and raised with respect and they are very proud with a strong will, which is important when they carry their riders into battle. The lord was used to small light riding horses which can be trained with ease, not a warhorse weighing close to a ton and more spirited and headstrong than any thoroughbred.
In front of the men walked their guide through the mountains, someone down in the valleys they had left had found him and the lord had almost protested when he saw the man for the first time. The lord hated to feel inferior and he did that when watching this creature. He was of all things an elf and the lord felt like he was worthless, weak and a coward compared with him, he did not like the man at all, in fact he hated him.
The men listened to this savage but they paid no attention whatsoever to their captain. The elf was surrounded by an aura of something dark and dangerous, you could feel he was a very dangerous being just by being close to him, and his beauty only made that feeling worse. He had managed to take them so far without any problems, and the men obeyed him without any questions. They knew a superior warrior when they saw one although their leader didn’t.
He had returned to camp several times with blood dripping from his weapons and big bloodstains on his clothes and the lord had shuddered and tried to avoid any contact with him. He was grateful that this man showed them the way but he was unable to understand how dangerous the path really was.
He did not realize that very few creatures could pick a fight with this elf and live to tell about it afterwards. The elf called himself Hawk and was very tall even for one of his race. All the other elves the lord had met in his life had been blond and friendly persons with an outgoing attitude. This man had black hair and dark skin and his eyes were black too and cold like two pieces of obsidian rock, hard and sharp without any hint of feelings of any kind. The lord had started to wonder if not this Hawk was just as bad as the creatures he was hunting, they could just praise luck that he was on their side, to have Hawk as their enemy would be the death of them all.
Every night the elf would stand guard by their camp-site and he apparently never closed his eyes once, some of the guys started to doubt that he really was made of flesh and blood, elves are tough and endurable people but even they have their limits and this man obviously had none. He only ate pieces of unidentifiable dried meat and when he removed his tunic they could see how his many scars almost made his body look like a road map of some kind.
Kelam could feel deep within that Hawk was a child of darkness, of hate and fear and worth both fear and respect. He had not dared oppose to any of the elf’s suggestions and that made the lord furious because he hated to find such weakness within himself. He was the leader of this mission, not this offspring of some unholy mating.
His horse pulled at the reins and he brutally pulled back, forced it to keep a short and unnatural gait as a riding horse is supposed to. He saw that the elf for a short second tensed his neck muscles in a way that didn’t exactly seem friendly; he reminded the lord of a mad dog who tries to pretend like it is obedient until otherwise is proved. The lord sighed and pulled the horses head up, sat straight in the saddle and enjoyed the knowledge of his own striking presence.
They camped for the night close to a rock wall down in a small canyon where they probably would be unseen and the lord left his horse to the elf. The man was a nobody, someone of the serving class so he could just as well groom the horse, the lord couldn’t even imagine the possibility of doing that job himself, he always had others doing everything for him and it never occurred to him that somebody may be offended by being treated like a common servant. It was cold and the lord took the best place, where the wind couldn’t reach him and the swift showers of chilling rain were stopped by the rock overhead.
The sky had become clouded during the afternoon and the temperature had dropped suddenly. The lord wrapped his cloak around himself and cursed the fact that they had been told not to light any fires. He could not understand why, one small fire could not possibly be any danger; nobody could see it down in this canyon? He wanted to get warm! He clenched his teeth together; he was the leader, not the elf. He decided everything and he demanded to have a fire going.
Hawk stood a few hundred feet from the camp-site and took the saddle and the bit of the horse, the animal waved with its head several times, it was not used to be ridden with such short reins, were not bred nor trained for it. It was an animal meant to be ridden by a warrior, it was supposed to find its way on its own and defend itself and its rider against any enemy. It was trained to think and show initiative and courage, the lord never let it use any of its training and he used the wrong riding technique too.
Such warhorses are not supposed to be ridden on short elegant walks in the park; they are born for power and speed, for the battlefield. Hawk was a man many would call a cold-heart consumed by hatred and darkness but he was good with horses and he knew everything there is to know about a horse soul. This stallion was suffering every day it was in the hands of this fool. He gently stroked the mighty flanks that were cut and bleeding from Kelam’s spurs and its mouth was bleeding too. The lord used a sharp bit and he did not know how to handle it in the right way, it was as if a knife had been put into the horse’s mouth.
Hawk made a grimace of anger as he went to a small creek and got some water, this horse was a warrior, a son of the battle. It deserved so much better than this. He usually never rode a horse because he could get around just as easily on foot but he understood the value and worth of a good horse, the lord did not deserve this steed, not at all. The man was a joke, an idiot, a spoiled brat who had no idea of what he had gotten himself into. Hawk guessed that the king wanted to make a man of the young lord but the elf guessed that it was an impossible wish.
He brushed the horse slowly, had done that every night the last week and the horse had started to react on his presence, it was an alien feeling to the elf but it felt good in a way, knowing that some living being liked him. The stallion neighed and he gave it some extra oats, it needed it because there was no food to be found here in the mountains.
It was a huge horse, almost nineteen hands in height with enormous muscles and long hard legs. Its long black mane and tail were curly and thick and it’s head quite heavy but aristocratic and handsome. It did not look a bit like the horses the elves prefer, slim elegant animals with thin hide and frisky temper but he liked this stallion. He felt like they had something in common, it was a prisoner of its own destiny just like himself and it was unable to escape from this demon who rode it every day. Hawk also had his demons to dodge, a past he never could escape from and a sorrow he could never forget. He stroked its ears and it pressed its nose against him as thanks for the caress.
Hawk smiled narrowly and ran his fingers through the long forelock. He doubted that the lord ever had taken care of the horse himself and he could not understand how anybody could sell such an animal to a man so completely depraved of understanding and compassion, if not to mention knowledge. The money value mattered to the lord, nothing else.
He sighed and wondered if Kelam at all understood the danger he was in, the area was crawling with orcs and small trolls, he had already killed at least three dozen orcs and had he not been who he was he would have been killed already. He touched one of the scars on his chest with a thoughtful expression on his face. His goddess had saved his life when he should have died and he had given her his skills as a warrior in return and his soul too. That was the only way he could seek vengeance, the only way he could pay for the sins he had committed without being utterly lost in the darkness of his own anger and hatred.
He was on his way back to the camp-site when he heard a low noise and he reacted immediately. There was a light flickering among the cliffs and he realized that the lord had been disobedient and started a bonfire, now the enemy was all around them. He cursed the man’s arrogance in every language he knew before he ran back to the horse.
He could see that the animal sensed danger, the ears were flat down and it was rolling it’s eyes as he untied it’s tethers and pulled it after him toward the camp. He did not want to risk the stallion’s safety, if those creatures caught it; it would simply be a great meal. He could smell the orcs now, their stench was strong and he also felt another more sweet and heavy scent which told him that there were at least one troll nearby. He clenched his teeth together and ran straight into the camp, threw the horses rope to the lord who looked at him with confusion and fear, the elf was suddenly a terrifying sight with his black eyes ablaze. “Arm yourself men, we are being attacked any second now, there are orcs surrounding us!”
The lord shook his head. “I don’t believe you; I have seen no signs of danger!”
He pulled the horse closer to him and the stallion snorted and waved its tail, there was anger in its eyes. The lord’s cocky expression was seen by the soldiers who had obeyed Hawk right away, they knew that he was right, that there was danger there. They had wanted to protest when the lord lit the bonfire but he was their captain, he could cause them some serious problems when they returned to the capital. They had grasped their weapons and the lord shook his head in disbelief. “You are chasing ghosts, believe me. I have been trained at the best academy and I tell you, there are no orcs here!”
Nobody even bothered to listen to the lord, a military academy would never be able to prepare you for such a situation and everybody knew that the lord had dropped out of school after the first semester since he claimed that the teachers did not treat him with the proper respect. He had been a terrible student, that was the truth, lazy arrogant and ignorant. The lord stood there straight with the same expression on his face until an arrow suddenly came buzzing and cracked against a rock, just a half foot from the lords shoulder.
Then the man suddenly went pale like a linen sheet and grabbed the rope again, threw himself unto the horse with a speed that was impressive when considered that he usually needed the help of at least one man to get in the saddle.
Hawk had grabbed his two long elven swords, yelled to the men that they should seek shelter wherever they could. He could see the glow of red orcs eyes all around them among the cliffs and he heard them growling with anticipation. He did not fear for his own safety, he knew he could escape this unharmed but the soldiers were a different story. The lord could definitely not lead them, he was utterly incompetent, and they did not stand a chance without a good leader. He let go of his civilized manners, let his instincts rule and the thrill of the fight consumed him.
He met the first attack with shining steel; there were five or six orcs who came running down from a crevasse with bone shilling cries. They were small fast and dangerous and he beheaded the first two with ease. Blood was dripping from his swords and the last noises from the orcs was drowned the by the battle roars of their fellow warriors.
He dodged a few arrows and the soldiers roared to each other to gather their courage before they engaged in open combat. The lord had drawn his sword and tried to turn the horse around for better protection but he was unable to control it. He did not give the right signals and was unable to understand that he didn’t have to tell this horse what to do.
It knew very well how to act but he did not allow it the freedom to follow it’s training and the screams and the increasing scent of blood spooked the animal. It felt its masters fear and got more and more agitated. It was spinning around aimlessly and only contributed to the mayhem surrounding them.
The lord screamed like a little scared schoolgirl and used his sword with an apparent lack of skill and aim. The soldiers had to get out of his way and he never even reached any of the orcs that seemed to sprout out of the ground itself everywhere.
Hawk used his swords with the unmatched elegance of a true master, blood flew from the blades and he killed an orc with every move but this was a huge group and more came crawling down the walls of the canyon. He moved with a predators speed and agility, almost too fast for the eye to follow. With the narrow blades he often went for the neck but he also gladly cut other body parts if he got the chance and screams and moaning filled the air where he went, like a silent reaper of death.
He suddenly heard a deep rumbling noise and knew that a troll was on its way down the narrow canyon. It was a small one but even that was bad enough, and he could already see the glow of its tiny red eyes. The orcs had stopped using their bows in fear of hitting their own but they were lethal in close combat, three soldiers had already fallen. He swore and kept fighting with no fear for his own life.
The beasts feared him, they knew what he was and they started to withdraw from him. They realized that they would have to fight hard to win when the soldiers were led by a man like Hawk and orcs prefer fights they can win easily, they were basically not very brave creatures.
The troll made a deep sound and came stomping towards them and the lord tried to turn his horse again in panic. He was out of balance and managed to pull the horse out of balance too so the animal lost its footing and fell over on one side. The stallion screamed in fear and anger and tried to get back on its feet. The lord let go of the rope leading to its halter and reached for his sword but it was too late. An orc saw him and pinned him to the ground with a spear.
Hawk saw that the stallion now leaped to its feet, nobody tried to stop him and he started to do what he was trained for. It kicked out with bone crushing force with its long hind legs in well balanced kicks and leapt forward to make way between the enemies. Hawk grew a little anxious on its behalf, he did not want to see this magnificent animal hurt, he called out to it in his own language. “Noro lim toron, le nar mirima, run fast brother, you are free!”
It ignored his voice, fought on with wild eyes and fast hooves; they hit the orcs like war hammers and crushed heads and limbs. The orcs started to retreat, they feared this animal who fought like possessed by a demon. The troll reached the line of men, it swung it’s huge hammer against the men who barely managed to jump out of its path, Hawk wished he had had an elven bow but he grabbed a bow from one of the dead orcs and managed to fire a few arrows with it but the troll had such thick skin it was impossible for the arrows to do any real damage.
There were only a few spots on the body where the troll was vulnerable and he could not get close enough. The troll roared in anger and staggered closer to the men who now had got their backs against the wall. Hawk had to stop it and knew he only had one chance, he had to put all his trust on his phenomenal speed and strength No human being is as strong and fast as an elf and he was exceptional even for his race.
He killed a few orcs as he passed them, almost as a preparation, then he threw himself forward and under the huge hammer that flew through the air with a shrilling sound. He cut deep, his swords were razor-sharp and they cut flesh but not bone. The troll was protected with an unusually stocky skeleton which protected all the vital organs like armor and he realized he wouldn’t be able to kill it this way. He would not be able to hit something vital.
He had to jump out of reach of a vicious hammer blow and the soldiers moaned at the sight. They did not have his speed and experience and if they left the cliff they would be unprotected from behind. The troll would turn them into meat dough if it hit them with that hammer and there were still orcs around who were willing to fight.
Then it happened, something Hawk could not understand. The stallion had been standing in one spot, violently kicking after any orc who came within reach of its deadly hooves but now it suddenly threw itself forward and made a giant leap which was unbelievable to say the least. It hit the trolls back with its wide chest and the troll made a roar of surprise and waved its arms desperately.
Trolls are not very agile and when they lose their balance it is hard for them to regain it. The troll fell forward straight onto its belly and the stallion reared above it. Its powerful front legs were whipping the air and it screamed in anger, a sound that made the hairs stand on everybody’s neck. Before the troll had time to turn around the stallion thundered down on the troll with all of its crushing weight on its steel shod hooves.
The front hooves hit it’s skull with a crushing sound that was sickening and the stallion reared again with eyes burning of something that reminded everybody of madness. The hard hooves hit the trolls head again and again and the troll never moved again, the head was soon crushed like a watermelon and the stench of blood and brain matter made some of the men turn around and retch.
The stallion remained standing over his dead opponent and the orcs stood like hit by lightning, they could not grasp the idea that a troll, who they saw as unbeatable, had been killed by a horse. No, this was no horse, it had to be something far worse, it had to be a God, or a demon of some kind. The stallion reared again, screaming in triumph and its beautiful dark eyes were glowing with power and rage as its coat was shining with sweat. It was an awe-inspiring sight.
The remaining orcs made a cry of disbelief and fear, then they all ran for their lives and the battle was over and everything went silent. Hawk counted the men, six were dead and more than ten more or less severely wounded. It would take time to get down from the mountains now. The men realized that the danger was over; they calmed down and tried to help their wounded friends.
Hawk calmly started to clean his swords and one of the men went up to him and asked anxiously. “Are they gone now?”
Hawk nodded shortly, his black eyes were still hard and cold and the man thanked the gods that the elf fought on their side. “They probably won’t bother you again but we must make haste, they may gather more troops.”
He pointed at the horses carrying the tax money. “Put the wounded on these animals, and leave the gold. No man’s life is worth a few sacks of coins.”
The soldier nodded and returned to the others to give them the order. He had a feeling of having stood face to face with the angel of death itself.
Hawk slowly walked toward the stallion, it was still breathing heavily and the eyes were wild but it heard his gentle whispering and calmed down. It stretched the arched neck and pushed its muzzle into his hands. Hawk caught the attention of the soldier with the highest rank. “I keep this horse as a payment for my services.”
The soldiers looked at each other, they did not dare to protest and they also saw that there was no reason why they should. If anyone could take care of this amazing animal it was this elf. Hawk knew that the late lord didn’t even have a name for the horse and he rubbed its forehead and whispered gently to it. “Now what should I call you brother?”
The stallion snorted and rubbed against him, he petted it gently and it whinnied and pulled at his tunic with a playful look on its face. “I know brother, I’ll name you Trollcrusher!”
The horse whinnied again and it looked as if it understood and accepted it.
When the soldiers finally returned to the royal castle with the sad news of the lord’s rather inglorious end there were naturally many questions regarding the whereabouts of the lord’s magnificent steed, the king himself had been drooling over that horse and had hoped to get his hands on it if something happened to the lord. He got very disappointed when he was told that the horse had run off during the battle and that the soldiers had been unable to retrieve the terrified animal.
They never mentioned Hawk and what he had done; they knew he deserved this steed and that it from now on would be cared for and loved by someone who understood it. It would live as it was supposed to. They had sworn a common oath of silence and in the years to come nobody broke it.
They all remembered that night, the flames within the dark eyes of the stallion which seemed to mirror the flames within the elf’s black gaze. If two creatures were ever born for each other it was these two and sometimes they heard rumors of an elf riding an amazing brown horse, doing incredible deeds. Then they would all smile in gratitude of the two who saved their lives and knew that Trollcrusher deserved the name he had been given.
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