Trials and Trollbulations
Ugaburk marched to the rear of the party, great sword over one shoulder and shield across his back as his thundering footsteps shook the earth. His pace was deliberate and shallow, not because of cowardice or any other unchivalrous reasons that flew in the face in the tenants of the Red Knight but simply because the rest of his party was already struggling to keep up with him. The bard and sage’s faces were already red with sweat and exhaustion and the rogue whose natural infernal heritage hid her exhaustion couldn’t hide her light sway as she struggled to remain conscious after such an intense walk.
“That’s it!” Faehana finally declared “I’m had it. I’m stopping” he declared quite loudly. Ugaburk quickly internalised his sigh, I miss breaking in newly minted pages he thought to himself at least they don’t complain half as much as this he mused as he lowered to one knee, his plated armour flexing with the crisp sound of metal on metal as he did, at the sudden halt Farren took the cue, unslung her lute and threw herself into the soft grass beside the path, her braided ponytail flicked away as the exposed back of her halter neck touched the deep green grass followed by a quiet giggle. Kalwala merely sighed and leaned up against a tree as Faehana struggled to remove his faetel, his elven bows wrapped neatly around his body and making his task even more herculean than it should’ve been. As the sage finally unwrapped himself from his belongings Farren lifted herself back up and looked across the pathway.
“There are people!” she called out with excitement before throwing herself back to her feet. Ugaburk looked at her confused as she rushed away. Seemingly rejuvenated by the sight of others.
“Lyth Fae’s going to get herself killed” Faehana muttered under his breath as he collected his things and rose to his feet following her
“You are the one who offered” remarked Kalwala
“Actually-” Faehana began before being interrupted
“But you said yes” she retorted before jogging off. As the party crested the slight incline, they finally saw what Farren had noticed. Arrayed in a circle of blankets and bedrolls sat 6 woodcutters, their haul of logs stacked neatly atop a cart and tucked away to the side. The woodcutters looked up from their campfire at the new arrivals.
“Good day, my masters” Ugaburk began, his voice crisp.
“Ai, good day to ye” replied the woodcutters in unison. One of the woodcutters frowned as they gestured to sit.
“What brings likes of ye folks out into these forests?” he inquired with a curious tone. At this, the rogue spoke first.
“We’re tracking a blacksmith who left his village in the dark of night against his will, his eyes glowing” she explained.
“Ay, wellaway we too lost cutters to the nights’ possession. Oliva of Skuld and Gervase of Calimport” the cutter solemnly reported. Ugaburks brow narrowed.
“Where were they headed?”
“Towards the troll, if I’s remember right” interjected another cutter, his index finger pointing along the roadway.
“Well that looks to be where we’ll be going,” Kalwala remarked as she rose from the ground. Ugaburk quickly followed her lead and soon with irritated sharpness so too did Faehana
“Good luck with the Troll, he don’ take kindly to ignored tribute!” called out another of the woodcutters.
“We’ll keep that in mind!” Kalwala called out, not turning to face them as Ugaburk followed closely behind her, Faehana sulking into his notebook as Farren’s arms waved in a wide arc, her feet skipping over rocks as she walked backwards. As Farren spun back to face the party her brow furrowed as she looked at the sulking sage, his pack held by Ugaburk and the heels of his feet dragging through the earth as he was gently dragged along.
“What’s got you agitated?” Farren inquired, her head tilting in an exaggerated inquiry. Faehana waved his arms in furious silent protest before letting them drop to his sides.
“The first chance I get to study spoken language in the wild and I GET DRAGGED AWAY TO FIGHT MONSTERS!!” he hissed, his decorum evaporating. Farren snorted in confusion.
“Aren’t you sworn to fight monsters?” she queried playfully.
“Consarn it! I’m a philologist, not a magic-wielding wizard!” he cursed waving his arms with even more futility.
“That’s exactly what you are” interjected Ugaburk as he abruptly let go of Faehana’s faetel. A smirk snaked across each of the party members as Faehana rose from the ground and continued to sulk, this time carrying his weight as he walked. As the party neared the bridge way they quickly saw the creature standing at the precipice of the Bridgeway.
“By her blade what in the Red Lady’s name is that monstrosity” Ugaburk immediately remarked as the party slowed to a half.
“One, moment I have that somewhere…” Faehana remarked absentmindedly as he sifted through his books before resuming his sulking “Consarn I left my bestiary back at Cliffton! But, if I remember my bestiary classes well enough that should be an Ettin” Faehana remarked, aimlessly pointing at the two-headed creature, its slovenly cloth and unkempt fur reeking as one of its two heads slept nestled in its collar.
“So what’s the plan?” Kalwala asked as she crouched, her knee nestled in the earth.
“Well clearly we’ll just go talk to him” Faehana plainly remarked before rising to his feet and striding off Ugaburk sighed Red Lady give me strength he thought to himself as the party rushed haphazardly to follow the clueless wizard.
“Good day master…s?” Faehana remarked, his language catching up with his train of logic. The Ettin rose from its large stump, careful not to rouse his slumbering second head.
“What’s. What’s do youse wants?” the Ettin quietly boomed. The wizard’s eyes widened, glistening with excitement.
“What ARE you speaking?!” he inquired, his feet lifting him into the air with glee. At this, the Ettin stared down in confusion.
“I. I’s speaks mys language” he firmly replied, forcing a form of confidence into his voice.
“Ay, but what dialect? Or is it an accent?” Faehana continued to probe with excitement
“I’s… We’s alls speak like this” the Ettin continued after a moment of confusion.
“So where are you from?” Faehana queried further.
“We. We’s from rights here. Buts I’s known giants to come from the mountains I’s knows” the Ettin continued, his tone shoring up.
“But where in the mountains?” Faehana immediately followed. At this, the Ettins confidence transitioned into a fury, his one giant hand curling into a fist while the other gripped its wooden club tighter.
“Looks ares youse heres to cross or whats?” the Ettin questioned with building fury. It was at this moment Kalwala stepped into the conversation.
“Forgive my friend here, ay we’re attempting passage across this Bridgeway” she smoothly remarked. “What will the fee be?” she inquired, hands confidently on hips as she said it.
“Is gonnas cost youse fives rations each” the Ettin said smugly, his right fist uncurling. Kalwala blanched at the price.
“Why does it cost that much?!” Kalwala indignantly queried.
“Is takes a lot. A lot… of… elju… eljun to guards this bridge. We needs a lot of food youse sees” the Ettin continued, his voice picking up strength with each full word.
“Well we don’t have that much food to sell, is there some other way we could pay for it?” Faehana interjected, his optimistic smile contorting as he heard their counteroffer.
“We’s. We’s ain’t hads no ones to clean our toes none in… a long longs time and as youse sees” the Ettin paused to indicate towards its grey and black toes, its disfigured nails shifting colours even as they looked on “We’s can’t gets to our feets easily” the Ettin happily replied. The two-party members turned away from the creature to discuss their next steps.
“So we are not accepting either offer. Do you have some sort of spell that can create the illusion that we’re taking their offer?” Kalwala inquired immediately. Faehanas brow pinched in righteous anger.
“What do you think I am some kind of street magician??” he replied indignantly.
“That is literally what wizards are, you’re just more pretentious and technically more trained” Kalwala retorted.
“Pretentious must have been a large word for you street scum” Faehana hissed back “And yes I do have the ability to cast minor illusion, but it wouldn’t work to replicate either of their demands” he hissed. Kalwalas eyes glazed over with a sigh.
“So, you are actually more useless than a street magician”
“I can conjure Firebolt, try getting a street magician to do that” Faehana huffily rebutted.
“It could be the Kings crown jewels for all I care it’s still useless to us right now” Kalwala sighed. “Look, I’ve got an idea. I’ll fake the death of a wild animal and we’ll cross while they’re distracted” at Faehana’s nod Kalwala turned towards the Ettin and immediately released a bloodcurdling screech. At this the Ettin’s second head rose and roared in fury at the disturbance, its bleary eyes slowly locking onto the source of the disturbance and with a contentious motion snatched the snarling rogue off her feet. With a taut expression, Faehana threw himself into a dash, his hands casting shield as he ran
“Oi don’s yu gets smarts wit me!” the Ettin howled as he pivoted his club towards the Bridgeway, the bottom of the tree and its various roots connecting with the sages back, its ballistic force throwing his body like a ragdoll across the bridge, his magical shield evaporating in an instant as the sages skull connected with the rails of the bridge. The two heads looked on with satisfaction before turning to each other.
“We’s got two of thems. You think the miss’d be pleased?” the first head inquire.
“Has to be she woulds” the second replied with certainty as they began to make their way across the bridge way, dropping their club as they snatched up the limp sage from the bridge.
“Is he alive?” Kalwala inquired curiously as the Ettin shook the tiny creature between their index finger and thumb before tucking him in their palm.
“He’s be alive alight” the Ettin unanimously agree “tough little thing he be”
“Normally theys be in pieces from that” the other head clarified. At that, a shiver ran down Kalwalas spine as the Ettin continued to stride away
Ugaburk gave out another loud sigh “Red Lady give me strength” he muttered as he rose from his crouched position, concealed behind shrubbery to pursue his captured companions. He has wisely stayed behind to monitor the exchange and was unsurprised when they failed spectacularly to distract the giant and get themselves knocked out unconscious. “It is going to be a miracle of the Red Lady’s grace if I can keep this Sage alive if he’s like this all the time” he grumbled, his wide feet ploughing through the earth as he moved before settling back into a crouch as he neared the bridge. He’d have to play this carefully because if he got too close, he would be instantly attacked by the giants and if he took too long his companions might die because the concern of tracking definitely wasn’t an issue with a 4-metre tall giant. After a reasonable period of time had followed and a reasonable gap had been created between his opponent and him, Ugaburk started off again, thundering equipment echoing into the forest.