Stone Cold Deception
by Patrick Iversen
|part 2 of 3|
“I think it’s safe,” Arvid said to Tomas. “Did you hear where the noise came from?”
Tomas shook his head and shrugged.
Arvid finished reattaching the harness onto his horses and gathered up their cookware before scaling his wagon up to the seat. He cracked the reins, and they continued their quest deeper into the night.
“Do you think we’ll find one, papa?” Tomas asked after an hour. Arvid hesitated whilst staring ahead into the darkness. “I hope so, he will surely taste the bite of my blade when we do.” He laughed heartily.
His confidence reassured Tomas, but not so much himself. He hated lying to his son, but he had no idea what it would be like to face something like a troll.
Several hours after their initial departure, they had found nothing, but there was still hope, there was always hope. Usually the troll finds people. Not many people or, in this case, dwarves, attempt to find them.
The air became more frigid and difficult to bear. Arvid watched his breath each time he exhaled, constantly checking on his son, who had fallen asleep, to make sure Tomas didn’t freeze. Tomas would be all right, Arvid thought; he was a tough lad.
The trees seemed to be fuller as the dwarves ventured deeper into the forest, away from anything on the outer rim. The previous snowfall had completely covered the ground. Thankfully, the moon did enough to illuminate some clarity for the horses to know they weren’t headed into a pit or a ravine.
With his brown hood pulled up, Arvid’s half-asleep attention was toward the ground, his head bobbing up and down as the wagon hit bumps. He was trying hard to stay awake, but preparation all day and travel since nightfall had started to take its toll on him. But he could not give up, he would not give up. His vision became blurred and bouncy as the horses pulled him over divots and small streams.
As they continued down their path, they passed large patches of dirt on the ground. Another one, then another: they were everywhere. Arvid shook his head a few times to rouse himself, knocking his hood off. He surveyed the path in front of him, seeing parallel patches of grass several yards apart from one another, but as he looked closer he noticed they all formed the same shape. He knew what they were: footprints.
Arvid nudged Tomas to wake up, provoking the boy to force sleepy crust out of his eyes as his father pointed to the tracks. A brief look of anticipation had both of them rapidly looking around, seeing they if they could find what had created the footprints in the brush of the forest.
Arvid eased on the reins, slowing the horses to make less noise as they continued tracking the prints. “Papa,” Tomas started in a whisper, “do you think it’s a troll?”
“I hope so, boy, I really do...”
The tracks seemed to go on forever, when the horses suddenly stopped. Arvid could see there was a small gorge of rock on either side, too narrow for the wagon to fit through. He felt stupid. He had been so focused on the passing footprints that he didn’t realize they were headed straight for a blockage in the road. The prints also vanished as they came closer to the adjacent rock foundations. Where could the behemoth be?
Arvid signaled Tomas to jump down. The horses stood still, licking some snow off the ground. From both sides of the wagon, the father and son carefully walked ahead of the idle horses toward the passage between the rocks. The monster couldn’t have gone too far; his stink was everywhere. It was viler than any bowel movement imaginable.
The moonlight vanished as they walked deeper into the chasm. It wasn’t very long; they could still see the other side, but the wagon just couldn’t fit. Tomas felt his short legs sinking several lengths into the snow; it was almost as if he were wading through water at this point.
As Arvid lifted Tomas out of the snow, a drop of water landed on his broad shoulder. Wiping it off, thinking it was just melted snow he found it was oozy and sticky. He started to wipe his hand on the ground when another drop landed smack on top of his head. It slowly ran down onto his forehead into his eyes, momentarily blinding him. A crackling noise caused his horses to let out a loud neigh. But before they finished, a tree-sized mass flattened them, along with their wagon.
Arvid immediately turned around in horror and saw a giant, smelly, hairy tree on top of his once beautiful steeds. But it wasn’t a tree, it just had the magnitude of one. The other leg stepped down, shaking the ground so hard that little Tomas fell flat on his stomach.
“Get up boy!” Arvid yelled as Tomas wiped the snow off his face and got back to his feet. Tomas then ran over to his father who stood shocked, grabbing onto the side of one of the boulders with one hand, and with the other hand, he drew his custom blade.
Arvid was astonished. He’d heard tales from Odin that trolls were the size of trees, but this one seemed even bigger in person. Sizing up the troll from bottom to top, its long powerful legs were covered in hair, and it wore a small garment made of mud and branches casing its loins. It had a big belly and broad chest with massive arms on either side. Long, dark hair hung down to its shoulders.
The troll stared down on the dwarves, grinning with a crooked smile. The moon lit its gruesome face as it licked the oozing saliva from its lips. Its teeth were jagged and crooked, stained with a crimson shade. It had just one furry eyebrow resting atop its crooked eyes, which revealed no mercy.
Arvid glared up at it, realizing it was the troll’s spit that had dropped on his head. He gripped his knife so tight his dirty knuckles turned white. He was so shaken with fear he had to hold his blade with two hands now, ready to draw the only blood that could save his beloved wife.
“Tomas, stand aside, and be ready!” Arvid yelled as he began to approach where his noble horses once stood.
The troll suddenly tried reaching in the narrow passage to swat at the small man, but its limbs were too large to enter. It roared in failure, sending fallen snow in the dwarves’ direction from the wind emitted from its voice.
“COME TO ME, LITTLE ONES!” it bellowed.
Arvid was surprised it spoke, but he concentrated on somehow using the troll’s anger at not having them for a late night snack and at the current stalemate.
“You are fools! Both of you!” the troll exclaimed.
Neither dwarf had a response. They just stared in amazement. Arvid finally spoke out, “Fools you say? I’d say we are quite safe from you, oaf!”
Tomas picked up as big a rock as he could wield and tossed it at the monster, who slapped it away like a mosquito.
“Try that again, and I’ll smash these two rocks together and claim your lives!” the troll responded.
The troll’s threat worried Arvid and Tomas; they felt their temporary safe-house would soon be their undoing.
Tomas cautiously made his way over to Arvid. “Papa, what should we do?” he asked.
“What we came here to do!” he replied. Arvid looked down at his son as the troll gripped two boulders. They watched as its muscles clenched and strained as it tried to unearth the stones to smash the dwarves. Patches of snow from the top of the boulders landed on the wee folk, making them cringe from the icy feeling of snow falling down the back of their necks.
The two dwarves knelt down as the giant creature started to rip at the rocks. Saliva was spewing out from its mouth, and it had a look of fire in its eyes as it lifted its enormous weapons. Arvid had a look of panic on his face as he saw the boulders were now completely off the ground.
The troll grinned when it lifted the rocks over its shoulders, ready to release them, one for each dwarf. “Run!” Arvid yelled. As he and Tomas sprinted forward toward the legs of their adversary, the huge stones were released. Tomas was slightly ahead of his father, caught in the shadow of one of the falling boulders, looking up, fixated on his own destruction. Arvid turned and stuck his stubby arm out, grabbing his boy by the shirt and pulling him out of the way.
Quickly they dove between the troll’s legs to evade the crashing boulders, Arvid sliced clean through its right ankle with his blade causing a lesion deep enough to spray blood ten feet outward. “Tomas, the flask!” Arvid yelled as the troll writhed in pain. The noise it made was unbearable to their sensitive ears, and Tomas dropped the vessel in the snow to cover himself from the noise.
“No!” yelled Arvid, but it was too late; the troll reached down to grab his wound and found the elder dwarf instead.
Arvid felt the immense strength of his enemy’s hand wrap around his entire body, while he dropped his dagger to the ground. He tried to shake free, but the grip was like a vise and he couldn’t so much as move.
The troll raised Arvid up to its face looking into the little one’s eyes. The squeeze became so tight Arvid didn’t have a breath to shout down to his boy.
“Papa! No!” Tomas shrieked with tears rolling down his face, freezing before they even reached his icy, blue lips.
Tomas gazed up as the troll opened his mouth, slowly bringing Arvid to meet its morbid teeth.
The boy could not bear to see this happen, not at that moment. The little dwarf ran to where the gash was on the savage’s leg, and picking up his father’s fallen blade lunged it into the already opened wound. The troll screamed in pain, crouching down and covering up the wound, shielding it from any further damage. Arvid was almost blue in the face from the pressure he was receiving.
Tomas lifted the blade over his head, careful not to be stepped on, and took another hack at the troll, this time meeting its hand. He cut deeper, using all the leverage he could, severing a finger twice his size.
The troll roared in pain and released Arvid, who was tossed through the air and out of sight, landing to a sickening thud. Immediately, the troll stomped around to crush the little dwarf who proved to be quicker than he looked.
But what it couldn’t see was little Tomas gathering blood in the flask. He had it. They finally had what they needed. Tomas felt almost victorious when the stomping halted, only to hear a quick crackling snap.
Clutching the trunk of a freshly broken tree, the beastly troll sized up the lad. The shock on the wee dwarf’s face almost caused him to drop his flask again.
As the colossus cocked back its arm, intending to paint the snow red, a streak of lightning ripped through the flake-filled sky igniting the towering stump. A roar of anguish and pain plagued the troll, causing him to stagger back several steps.
“Papa!?” Tomas yelled, “Papa!? Where are you!?” he called again, but there was no response.
Arvid lay motionless, sunk into the snow bank far away from where the troll and little Tomas stood.
Thunder rolled overhead as tears fell from Tomas’ round eyes. The child gazed into the dark sky, shielding his vision from snowflakes as he watched the lightning violently illuminate the vast forest. His father was now gone, and he remained alone with his flask and the gargantuan troll.
How was he to get back? Tomas looked around. Examining the horses’ bodies and the crushed wagon, he figured all he could do was run. And he did.
The tiny dwarf sprinted with the flask tightly in his grasp, following the wagon tracks, hoping the troll hadn’t noticed he was gone. The thing about dwarves is, they might be small, but they have the stamina of the gods they serve. It was very rare for one to become fatigued from exertion.
Occasionally he stopped for a look around to see if he was being followed, but he saw nothing nor did he hear any screams from the troll. Once in a while he’d hear a few rocks tumble or melting snow fall off a branch, but it was probably just the wind or animals. A troll would be much louder.
Tomas constantly wondered about his father’s fate, igniting a little fire inside of him to be able to help at least one of his parents. He had to hurry. It was still dark, and he had no idea how much time had passed since their skirmish.
While he ran, he didn’t know what he was going to tell his mama about what had happened, but at the same time he hoped she would still be alive by the time he reached her.
Copyright © 2009 by Patrick Iversen