They rode for half the day. At last, they reached the sinister forest. The trees were not as beautiful as the ones of the Guardes Wesselren or the Brithon woods or any in Eduin. They cast a dark shadow and grim face to any that looked on them. The trunks were huge and the high branches and leaves only let in a few rays of light.
Some of the trees were broken and shattered in certain places. Holes gaped at the riders. All small creatures raced around, cautious of the new arrivals. A looming whisper spread from the forest. The horses whined with a hint of fear.
“We are not going in there,” Slithbron cried on seeing the Grendels Voir.
“Yes, we are,” Aravoen said. “How else do we get to Mendil?”
“An elf will go in, a human would care less and a dwarf would cower,” Slithbron cried. “The horses are better than me, let us go.”
“I am half elven, Slithbron,” Aravoen joked.
“I know,” Slithbron, sneered. “But it is easier to say human. How can you say half-elven when you can say human?”
Aravoen smiled and urged Elben into the forest. It was silent and threatening inside. The undergrowth was thorny and flowers wilted on the trees. Everywhere that they looked, they saw a different shadow form on the dark forest floor. A foul stench hung in the air: a smell of rotting bodies, sweat and stale dung.
“I do not like this place,” Mindacil said.
“You can speak for us both Mindacil,” Slithbron added.
Aravoen dismounted Elben and crouched on the forest floor. He looked at the footprint on the floor. It was large and clawed. He could see where the talons had scratched the ground when it lifted its foot.
“Something is not right here,” Mindacil said, coming up to Aravoen and looking at the track.
“Mindacil, come hold this thing as I jump down,” said Slithbron.
“Yes.” Mindacil walked to the horses and took their reins.
Slithbron jumped off and Mindacil led the horses to where Aravoen was.
They walked deeper into the forest, holding onto their weapons resolutely, and ready to fight. As they passed deeper into the forest, they passed more footprints. Some were bigger than the others were whilst others were a bit small. It looked like the grendels were migrating in huge numbers. However, from what Aravoen knew, grendels were solitary beasts. Indeed something was wrong.
The horses neighed suddenly. Aravoen drew his sword and looked around them. Slithbron’s axe was ready in his hand whilst Mindacil let go of the horses, which stayed by their masters, drew his arrow and fitted it on his bow.
Aravoen saw it and his mouth fell open as Slithbron tapped him.
Its green skin looked as hard as any armour. Its eyes were the colour of horse dung, save for the yellow spot. It walked briskly and raised its hands in the air. They were muscular and scaly with fingers that had nails the shape of talons. Its strong stench ran before it.
“A grendel,” Slithbron whispered, glued to floor.
Aravoen turned to his companions and told them to keep silent. Mindacil tried calming the horses and they began backing away. Slithbron’s boot crunched a stick, breaking it in two. Aravoen turned to Slithbron and told him to keep it down.
“Too late,” Mindacil cried. “Run.”
Aravoen turned and saw the grendel rushing to them. Its nose screwed and eyes blazing. Its mouth was open and fangs were bared.
“Aravoen,” Mindacil roared a distance away from him.
Aravoen woke up to see Mindacil, Slithbron and the horses hidden behind a tree. He turned back to the grendel.
There was no way he would get to them. He ran away from where they hid.
Follow me silently; do not let it see you. Aravoen said to Mindacil through his mind.
He looked back and saw the creature catching up with him. He saw it out of the corner of his eye. He rounded the tree and dived beneath its roots. He waited, hearing the loud and angry roar of the grendel. He drew his sword and waited. The gap was large enough for only a man to enter, not a large creature like the grendel. He could see the scaly and muscular hand gripping through the hole. Aravoen pushed back on the wall and gripped his sword hard, ready to hack off the arm if it came any closer.
Slowly the arm withdrew and he heard the grendel move away, or so he thought.
After a while, Aravoen felt brave enough to go and see if it had left. Warily he walked out of the roots.
The thick tree trunks looked still. Nothing seemed out of place. Aravoen turned around just to be sure. Nothing. Slowly his heart returned to its normal tempo. Suddenly, something dropped onto his head. Aravoen felt his hair with one of his hands, and felt it.
It was sticky and thick. He removed his hand and looked at it. It was covered in a blue liquid. Swallowing hard, Aravoen looked up.
He stared into the grendel’s brown eyes. Its mouth was open and razor-sharp fangs were bared. The blue saliva was forming and a drop was almost coming out again…
To Be Continued.......