Its skin was that of stone. As it approached the small village, its heart became stone as well. Roughly three heads taller and perhaps four times the weight of the average man, it was an imposing sight. Sniffing at the cool spring wind, it halted at the unmistakable scent of Man. It wrinkled its nose and placed one huge foot in front of the other. Its hunt was near complete. Soon, the sounds of morning business reached its ears and it grew more cautious, slowing to a walk. For three weeks it had traveled, the supplies on its back now exhausted. Just ahead, it thought. A few more steps and I can rest. For a moment. Raising one tattooed arm to its eyes, it checked the location of the sun. Nearly noon. There should be plentiful food about. Two days with little nourishment produced a deep growl from its stomach.
The villagers in the main square stopped open - mouthed where they stood, their eyes moving quickly to the huge lumbering figure as it lowered its foot onto the red cobblestone sending several cracks running away through the square. There were many townsfolk milling about and all came to a halt where they stood, in sudden silence. Several shop windows slammed shut and someone inside let out a scream.
Turning its hairless stone head from side to side, it surveyed the small town, its deep - set eyes in a squint. One hand went to its massive chin as it pondered its next action. After several tense moments, its eyes fell to the closest villager.
Haniman Grinter nearly dropped from fright. After all, it’s not often that the town tailor is approached by a creature straight out of legend. In an impossibly deep and gravelly voice the creature addressed him.
“Hmmm …. I seek.” He hesitated, obviously unsure of the language. His strange lips formed silent words for a moment. He hadn’t spoken the human tongue in quite some time. “Hagan … Must speak Hagan Marindel.”
With this, he looked from face to face in the hope that he was understood. Long minutes passed.
“What seems to be the - " a young man strolled casually into their midst and immediately froze. His blue eyes became like saucers as he took in the Stone Troll standing to his right. He brushed his shaggy brown hair from his eyes, unsure of what they were seeing. “What … Who is that thing?” he stammered.
Haniman leaned close to the boy’s ear and whispered, “He’s looking for Hagan.” He paused and placed one hand to his chest. “D’Pharin, what do we do?”
Just then, the Troll reached into his pack and removed a torn sheet of parchment. He eyed it quickly, his thick fingers tracing the writing there, closed his eyes and spoke again.
“Hmmm. I mean no hurt …. Message.”
An aged man smelling of cheap wine joined Haniman and the boy. Wrinkling his balding forehead in a frown he said, “Well, s’obviously a Stone Troll from up north. Far’s I know, ain’t never been no evil Stone Trolls, heh …” This started a coughing fit that had everyone backing away. “’Course there were that time in Pandaria. I held off – what - musta been seventy or eighty giants’n then when my sword ….” He paused mid - sentence and gathered his tattered brown cloak about him. From somewhere within the folds of his clothing he produced a small glass bottle. He slowly raised it to his cracked lips and drank. Suddenly he turned on his heel, rounded the local inn and was gone. Everyone was familiar with Trune’s fondness for drink and elaborate stories, none of which were true. The man had never left Lauden.
“You think we can trust him, then?” the boy asked, glancing quickly at the Troll.
All of the villagers had since gathered around the two and were staring at them for answers.
Haniman nodded. “Let’s take him to the Village Hall and have a little chat with Chenal. Oh, I’m sure he’ll love this.”
He then raised his voice in the Troll’s direction. “Uh, Sir …. If you’ll kindly join us.” He waved the towering beast over as the villagers parted allowing the Troll ample room to pass. With skin of rock and piercing black eyes, he was a sight to behold especially for an out – of – the - way village this side of nothing. The few children standing there simply gasped and ran to tell their friends. It seemed that the adults were by far more afraid than the young ones were. Gorin produced the closest thing to a smile his chiseled features would allow.
“That was easier than expected,” he thought as he followed the tiny men deeper into their town.
“Gorin Grimandin, Great St - stone Troll from the wondrous city of Rathnok. All l - looks to be in order here.”
Chenal shook with fear in his somewhat fancy chair behind his stately mahogany desk. Not quite fancy enough for his station, he often thought. The mayor should have better furnishings, what with all of the important decisions he had to make! He barely managed to stutter his sentence loud enough for anyone in the room to hear. His teeth were chattering far too much. He puffed a final time on his long ivory pipe sending small clouds of smoke into the air.
“N - now, what is this all important message th - that you must deliver to our dear Hagan?”
Some within the hall chuckled softly under their breath at the slight emphasis on the word dear, getting a glare from D’Pharin. To think they would be so disrespectful of his brother with him standing right there! Most thought of his brother as a drunkard who was wasting his life in hiding. Hagan Marindel had been one of the most celebrated war heroes a dozen years ago, but when he had returned, he had changed. He only spoke of it briefly with D’Pharin before he moved up into the mountains some time ago. He had simply stated that he had seen and done things that he was not proud of and wanted to be left alone. He had only seen his brother a handful of times since his return.
“Hagan must hear …. Hmmm …” came the low answer. The Troll looked at each of the people present; hoping his point was taken. I do not have time for this.
Chenal leaned back, one hand scratching his salt – and - pepper beard. He brushed at his puffy white shirtsleeves, a habit he had acquired with the office.
“I see … The message, it seems, is for our Hagan’s ears only, eh?” he tried to stifle a sneer. “Might we know from whence it came?”, he asked.
The grey giant shifted his feet nervously. To D’Pharin, he seemed to be growing agitated, as if he were in an extreme hurry. D’Pharin instinctively backed toward the door.
The Troll cleared its throat and the hardwood flooring below reverberated with the sound. The atmosphere suddenly became tense.
“Hmmm. You may …. Not.” the great creature uttered. He slowly stepped within arms reach of the mayor and placed his two giant hands on the edge of the desk. His breath ruffled the hair of Chenal’s brows and blew smoke back into his pudgy face.
“Fine, fine … ” the mayor smiled until every tooth was visible. He quickly backed his chair away with a scrape and stood. He suddenly forgot his arrogance. Wanting nothing more than to be out of the Troll’s presence, he summoned his assistants. As the two men rushed in, he gave them the order to lead him to Hagan.
D’Pharin jumped in. “Um, excuse me, Sir? Sir Gorin?” He paused as the Troll leveled its eyes to his. “You don’t mean any… harm to my brother do you? Hagan, I mean?”
Gorin drew back his head in shock.
“Certainly…. Not!” he grunted and strode from the building. D’Pharin ran quickly after him, afraid he had somehow insulted him.
“Sir ... ? Uh, Gorin?” he called. “I meant no harm. It’s just … well, most of us have never even seen a Stone Troll and we don’t know what to expect.”
Gorin slowed and turned to face him. His features had a puzzled look as he took in the young man before him. Tussled brown hair, somewhat sharp features with a long nose. He could see in his eyes that he was not harmful.
“I understand. Hagan … he is your brother?” he asked, not noticing the townsfolk slowly gathering round him. He was already becoming accustomed to the language once more. Years ago he spoke it fluently and it would not take more than a few hours to sound normal, he knew.
“Yes Sir, he is.”
“It seems you have his honor and … what is the word in your tongue ... ? Respect … if you are kin to him, then I am certain you are a good man.” The Troll grinned, sending some of the smaller children running. To them, this must have looked like an intense scowl, after all stone doesn’t move as easily as flesh.
D’Pharin smiled back. He was beginning to like this creature from the north. As they walked off through the middle of the village, a crowd followed them perhaps twenty paces behind. He was in awe as each of Gorin’s steps sent a shudder through the ground beneath their feet. If a Troll such as this was ever angered, he pitied the poor soul on the receiving end of one of those enormous fists. He glanced back at the villagers and felt a sense of pride. He had a Troll for a friend. Imagine that? What’ll father say?
“I’ll take you to Hagan. It’s not far. Just up into the mountains a bit.” he said as they pulled away from the crowd. The mayor’s assistants turned to one another and cleared their throat in unison.
“The Mayor Chenal has given us specific instructions - “ they began.
“Hmmm. This lad will … suffice. This is Hagan’s brother is it not? He can most likely lead me as well as the two of you, hmmm?” The grey giant cut them off. He stared for a moment and with a quick nod, they agreed. Soon, they were out of sight.
“I’ve read stories of Trolls from my father’s library. Are all of your people so … big? With an army of Trolls as big as you ... Who could beat you?” D’Pharin asked with a fire in his eyes.
“Hmmm. Most male Trolls in my country are … are much larger than I. I am … hmmm, well … considered small.”
“I have brothers and they stand an arm’s length taller than do I. It is an embarrassment.” Gorin explained, his eyes downcast for a moment. D’Pharin had evidently touched on a sore point.
The Troll slowed for a moment causing D’Pharin to turn on his heel.
Gorin hesitated, obviously stalling.
“My friend … Hmmm … is there a place for food nearby ... ? My task requires haste, but I am afraid I may fall from hunger if I do not eat soon. Wind, forgive me.” As Gorin muttered this, an accompanying growl issued from his abdomen. “My apologies … It has been two days.”
There was a brief pause and suddenly they both began laughing, which caused more of the deep rumbling. They were both thankful for the change in topic.
“Of course,” said D’Pharin leading him off down a side road. “Where are my manners? You could probably eat a muckhog. Heh, heh.” Muckhogs were disgusting pig - like creatures not known for their cleanliness. Usually, they made their dens in refuse and smelled like it. It wasn’t hard to track a muckhog on a clear day.
There wasn’t much conversation between them at The Rose and Thorn inn, with Gorin literally shoveling roast and potatoes into his gaping mouth. D’Pharin had never seen anyone or anything consume that much food at one sitting. After four or five helpings Gorin pushed himself back from the old wooden table and patted his belly. The other patrons at the inn had all moved over to a far corner and were mumbling amongst themselves under the dim yellow lamplight. Even old Mastriel, the innkeeper’s wife, was keeping her distance. D’Pharin couldn’t blame them though; Gorin was a sight to behold, especially when engulfing every bit of food in sight. The Troll wiped his lower lip with an old rag he had pulled from his belt and let out a low moan.
“I have wasted enough time here, hmmm … We must … go”.
He stood, accidentally shoving the table into D’Pharin’s midsection. D’Pharin had a short conversation with Mastriel about who was paying for the food and asked her to speak to his father when he came to town later. His father would be angry that he hadn’t immediately returned to the ranch, but D’Pharin considered this much more important. He grinned and walked back out into the street.
Gorin was leaning against the side of the building evidently unaware of the people gawking at him from the alleyway across the street. His head was back and his eyes were closed. He seemed to be napping.
“Gorin?” D’Pharin said reaching out and touching him lightly on the forearm. The skin was not as solid as he would have imagined. It gave beneath his fingers. Not quite like his own flesh but not unlike it either. The surprising thing to him was the heat that came from the Troll’s skin. Much hotter than a man’s and it almost seemed to vibrate as he touched it.
The Troll slowly looked down at him, dark grey eyes barely visible beneath his brows.
“I am sorry, my friend … I know there is no … hmmm … excuse.” he began in his impossibly deep voice. D’Pharin did not understand.
“I have been traveling for two weeks and one day. It seems that ex … exhaustion has caught up with me.” He pulled his back away from the wall and stood up straight, blocking out the midday sun and putting D’Pharin in a sudden deep shadow.
D’Pharin chuckled to himself. “Well, you slept, didn’t you?” he asked.
“I most certainly did not! He huffed and stuck out his chest. ”You may not know the customs of the Stone Trolls, my friend … I will take no offense, but it was put upon me to deliver an important message and until that message is delivered, Hmmm, I will not rest!” he had become visibly agitated and it seemed as though he was somewhat ashamed of himself. If a grey - skinned creature could blush, then Gorin did.
“Sorry, sorry.” D’Pharin started. “ I … oh never mind. You’re right. I don’t know your customs. I didn’t know … ” he let his voice trail off and they remained silent as they exited the town and headed into the near foothills.
They walked steadily for an hour without a word. The air grew more uncomfortable about them as they both tried to shrug off their own embarrassment. D’Pharin let his mind wander and he found his thoughts on his older brother, Hagan. So much of Hagan’s past was unknown to him. He had fought in The Battle of the Black Sun almost a dozen years ago and had returned a war hero. That much he knew, but then everyone knew that. D’Pharin had only been a very young boy when Hagan had left and they had never been able to develop a close relationship. Relationships like those among other siblings in Lauden. Hell, I don’t even know him, he thought with a shake of his head.
Since the war, Hagan had retreated into the mountains with the money given to him for his service. He had built a small cottage and secreted himself inside, rarely coming into town and never speaking to anyone when he did. They had only seen each other a handful of times in the years after his return and D’Pharin regretted that. To not know one’s brother. Sad indeed. Nowadays, what he knew of his brother was gathered from hushed rumors he overheard among the other townspeople. His brother’s drinking and strange moods. Some had told him that occasionally they could hear Hagan screaming and breaking things in a drunken rage up on the mountain.
It seemed he had spent most of his childhood in fistfights over his brother’s reputation. D’Pharin was as good as anyone in town with his fists. He wondered if Hagan was even aware of that.
The way became more difficult as they trudged into the foothills and began their uphill climb. Gorin seemed to have no trouble at all despite his lack of sleep. To the northwest, they could begin to make out the lay of the land. D’Pharin imagined he could see the shimmer of the Illdredge River from here, but that was impossible. It lay many leagues away. He also knew that even farther to the north sat the Elfwhere forest, home to the mysterious Wood Elves. He had never traveled there of course, only read stories and overheard conversations. His brother had known Elves, he was sure of it.
They followed a well-worn path commonly used by the villagers. Other small towns sat in the heights of these hills and there was often trade between them. The green brush and trees were thick here, resplendent with their new spring growth. Flowers sprung up everywhere in a rainbow of colors and small animals scattered as they approached. It smells like spring, D’Pharin thought out loud and Gorin turned to look at him.
“I did not think you, hmmm…Humans, noticed such things.” he said raising one hairless brow.
D’Pharin stopped where he stood.
“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t we?”
The Troll moved his mouth to speak but couldn’t find the words. With a deep breath he sighed, “Once again, it seems our races are somewhat, hmmm-ignorant-of one another. We must agree on this-we will no longer assume anything about one another. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” he answered with a smile. “You know, Gorin, every human is different. There are some of us who probably don’t notice the small things. The smell of flowers and the colors of a sunset, but my family has always taken time out to do these things. My mother…well, she’s gone now, but when she was alive she taught us to cherish these things and to never forget them. Her faith in the Wind was as strong as any in all of Kirkaldin.”
Gorin grinned at the lad and lightly clipped him on the shoulder.
“She sounds like a great woman. You should be proud to be her descendant.” He paused, considering his next words. “In the Stone Troll, hmmm … communities, honor is the most important thing one can own. One can be as poor as a beggar, but with honor one is still rich beyond his wildest dreams. Loyalty, respect, integrity-you know these words? These are the things we strive for in Rathnok, my home.”
“In Rathnok, each of us is treated the same. Until we are given a reason to doubt, all are equal. Even the women of our home have equal station, unlike … I am sorry, these are your ways and I should not question.”
D’Pharin shook his head. “No, that’s fine. Some of our ways seem strange to me as well.” They both laughed.
“D’Pharin, in other lands- you would not believe- the women fight alongside the men and are just as skilled! The Elves of the forests, their women are some of the best warriors I have ever seen. In the Battle of Tree Towers, I … ”
“The Battle of Tree Towers? You fought at Tree Towers? So long ago? But, then Trolls live much longer than we do.” D’Pharin could not contain himself. War stories always excited his sense of adventure. Never having left this small town, he longed for a challenge. Anything besides this boring life of helping his father at the stables. He loved horses, but Lauden couldn’t be more mundane. “I can’t believe it, tell me about it. Did you see S’Darin? How exactly did he die? Is it true that Mournenhile himself destroyed him?”
Gorin burst out in deep laughter, shaking leaves form the nearby trees. After his chuckling had subsided, he sighed.
“Ah, son … you are young, are you not? Stories of battle always excite the mind. Fighting in such a battle is another tale indeed. As the Stone Trolls say, there is no glory in blood.” He placed his huge right hand on the young man’s back and helped him over a small stump in the trail. “Perhaps you will leave this town one day and have your own adventures. I pray luck for you. Wind watch over you, my friend.”
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” D’pharin asked anxiously.
“Hmmm. Later, friend.” Gorin answered with a crooked smile. He rubbed his palm over the top of his head, producing a rough, scraping sound that almost put D’Pharin’s teeth on edge. Troll skin was a mystery to him for certain.
Roughly an hour passed with much casual conversation between them. It had not taken much time for them to grow comfortable with each other. D’Pharin found himself dreading the Troll’s departure. There were so many more questions he wanted to ask.
“D’Pharin, is that your brother’s home, there?” He would have to put his questions on hold for now.
One massive finger pointed through the trees to their left. A small cottage stood just off of the trail somewhat hidden by the upward slope of the hillside. It was obviously very run-down and not taken care of. Several smashed rain barrels littered the front yard and many fence posts had fallen to the ground. The roof was in disrepair and the dark green door was partially open and loose on its hinges. Two large dogs raised their heads at their approach and sensing no danger, dropped them back to the ground.
“Yep, that’s the place.” he answered with a little disgust. He couldn’t believe the uncaring attitude his brother had slipped into. He wasn’t like that when he left, he thought. Gorin’s eyes went to him.
“Do not judge your brother, D’Pharin. No one can know what he feels. What has changed inside. War is not easy on one’s body or one’s mind.”
Gorin had seemed to guess his thoughts, somewhat unnerving him for a moment.
“Well, let’s go see if he’s home.” D’Pharin said as he walked onto the knee-high grass of Hagan's yard. Who am I kidding, he thought. Isn’t he always home?
He lightly rapped on the door with his knuckles and it swung a little farther open allowing a better view inside. The place was a mess. Junk was piled everywhere that he could see. He knocked louder, already impatient.
“Hagan, are you here?” he called out as he stepped from foot to foot.
He pushed the door open, which was a feat in itself. Something blocked it from the other side. Probably some sort of trash thrown about. After getting the door open and recoiling from the pungent smell of old ale, he motioned for Gorin to follow. This would not improve Gorin’s opinion of his race, he was sure. The entire ceiling was covered with cobwebs, some occupied and some not. A layer of dust covered every visible surface. They noticed several pieces of strange artwork hanging on the walls. Disturbing paintings of carnage and great horned beasts. Stacked to one side, was a large crate full of buckets of what seemed to be paint. Various brushes and art utensils lay about. Was Hagan responsible for all of these drawings?
Three steps took them through the entryway and into the home proper. In the main living room, adjacent to the stone fireplace, a man’s feet hung off the end of the embroidered sofa that sat there. The rest of his body was completely covered by several blankets. A low rumbling came from underneath and the covering above his face rose and fell a little with each snore.
D’Pharin could not help but be flustered. Maybe the people were right. It seemed his brother was a drunkard after all. Look at him there, passed out in a drunken sleep. He glanced up at Gorin and smirked as if to say, “sorry about this”. Gorin simply smiled back and grabbed his shoulder.
Suddenly, another foot came out from beneath the blankets. A rather smooth and feminine foot.
Both of them gasped in surprise. A little too loudly in fact.
A most disheveled woman, wearing nothing but an elaborate necklace, sat up straight, her raven-colored hair all about her face. Her near-black eyes fixed on the Stone Troll and after a brief silence, widened like saucers. She let out a scream and bolted from the room, out into the front yard. In seconds, realizing she had forgotten her clothing, they heard her sneak in the back door. After finding suitable attire, she exited again with just as much haste.
Gorin turned to D’Pharin with huge, round eyes. He seemed to be almost blushing.
“It’s alright, Gorin.” he said. “Think nothing of it.”
“But … ” Gorin began.
D’Pharin cut him off with a shrug and wave of his hand. He couldn’t help but grin. It’s not every day that a woman races by as naked as a newborn. He set his mind on his brother.
“Hagan.” he said, leaning in close to the bundled man.
He reached out and put his hand on an exposed calf. Instantly, there was a quick rustling of bedclothes and a blade at his throat. Hagan’s haggard face was inches from his own, his red-rimmed eyes wide and intense. The younger brother recoiled for a moment from his foul breath. For a moment, D’Pharin did not recognize him, but Hagan was quicker to react. His eyes became softer and he tossed his dagger at the mantle in disgust. With one hand he gripped D’Pharin at the upper arm and hugged him with the other.
“Brother. I’m so sorry… I …. ”
“It’s alright, Hagan. I surprised you, that’s all. I know you didn’t mean to.” D’Pharin tried to calm him as he slowly pried his brother’s fingers from his arm.
Hagan took a deep breath and slowly reclined on the sofa. He pushed his unwashed hair away from his dark eyes and ran a hand over his stubbled chin. Then, he went rigid again as he caught sight of the great Stone Troll standing to his left. His eyes once again met his brother’s.
“Who is that? What is he doing here?” he said, now obviously angry.
“Sir Hagan. I am Gorin Grimandin from Rathnok. I mean no … offense. Please, listen … ” Gorin spoke slowly as he moved closer to D’Pharin’s side.
“He’s a friend, Hagan.” D’Pharin added. “You can trust him.”
“D’Pharin, please. I think I have a little more experience in this type of situation. Why don’t you let me decide who to trust, eh?”
Hagan threw the blankets to the side and stood, pulling on his patched brown trousers. His brows came together as he looked down at the sofa. He suddenly looked sharply at Gorin.
“Where is she? If you harmed her in any way …. ” he scowled.
“Hagan! I told you he was a friend. Your … woman … ran outside at the sight of him.” The youngest brother explained, pointing out the front door.
They all glanced at the wooden floor, where some of the woman’s clothing still lay strewn about. Hagan produced a small smile and looked into D’Pharin’s face.
D’Pharin nodded and after a moment the two burst out in laughter while Gorin stared on with a puzzled expression. As they calmed down, the woman burst through the open door and scooped up her belongings.
“I’m glad you can laugh at this situation!” the frazzled woman screamed. “And by the way, I don’t like your artwork!”
She turned and slapped Hagan hard against the right cheek, then stormed out.
“Amitee … ” he called out an apology.
Then the laughter started again. Excepting the Troll, of course.
Once his older brother had cleaned up a bit, D’Pharin sat Hagan down at the small table in the kitchen. He noticed that Hagan had changed a lot for the worse. His once flat stomach now held a large paunch and he slouched when he stood. He no longer held the air of confidence that D’Pharin remembered. When Hagan had left for the War, everyone looked up to him.
Gorin felt uncomfortable and stood leaning against one wall, his eyes on the floor. Hagan had become a little more coherent and attempted to straighten the room up a bit, but soon gave up.
“Can I offer you gentlemen some … uh … what do I have?” he started, fumbling around in the cupboards. “Never mind. There’s nothing here. Haven’t been to market in some time. Uh … ”
“Lord Hagan.” Gorin interrupted, motioning for Hagan to be seated across from him. Hagan hesitated, but knew there was no avoiding this. He had been sent a message. He knew as well as any that Stone Trolls were among the most good and honorable creatures in all of Kirkaldin. He knew the message would be of great importance. He did not want to hear it. I’m through with that.
Gorin slowly dropped to one knee and bowed his head, hand to chest.
“Lord Defender. Vanquisher of the Darkness. Hero of the Black Sun. Sir Hagan Marindel …”
“Enough! Look, Gorin, those are no longer my titles to bear. I … I don’t want them. In fact, I never wanted them. I’m no hero. So, please … continue but, without the formality.” Hagan had begun to stand, but once again seated himself with a thud.
Gorin was obviously taken aback. His people lived by formality. It was what made them the respectable race that they were. His forehead wrinkled as he thought out his next words.
“As you wish. Lord Hagan … ” he began in his low gravelly voice. The word ‘lord’ produced a grimace from Hagan, but the Troll continued. “When the stillness came upon the world and once again Mournenhile crawled onto the land, you fought beside the best of our realm’s warriors. As the Black Sun shown down upon Harquinn, your blade left naught but death in its wake. The fires of Hell were upon our earth and you stood your ground, defending the great city and all of Kirkaldin. Your battle with Malhain is now a tale of legend, sung by minstrels near and far. On that dread day, the side of good defeated the armies of Mournenhile, driving them back across the Edge to lick their wounds, those that did not lie upon the ground in their own blood.”
“Yes, I know the stories. They never found Malhain’s body. He may not have died. Get on with it, Gorin. Please.” Hagan was growing very impatient although his younger brother was in awe.
“Are you- I mean were you really called all of those things?” D’Pharin asked, smiling in Hagan’s direction. He took notice of a large painted canvas leaning against the north wall. A battle scene. Mostly shades of red.
Hagan only grunted in response. He then turned to Gorin, his hands slowly becoming fists upon the tabletop.
“Can we please get to the point?” he whispered through clenched teeth.
Gorin breathed a heavy sigh and began again.
“You have been summoned by Councilcrane. They request your presence immediately, Lord Hagan.”
Hagan paused for a moment, his eyes fixed to the grain of the table.
All were silent for a moment, not knowing what to say.
D’Pharin was the first to clear his throat and speak. However as soon as he opened his mouth, his older brother silenced him.
“No, brother. I am not a legend. I am not a hero. Those are not things I want anymore.” He hesitated and looked to the ceiling. “I just want to be left alone … ”
Gorin fidgeted where he stood, unsure of his next course of action. He knew that at any cost, Hagan must be convinced to accompany him on his return.
“Hagan,” he began. “I mean no dis … disrespect, my friend. Before the battle, you swore an oath to Kinrahd-“
“To Hell with the oath. I had no idea what I was getting into. None of us did! You don’t have any idea what was asked of us, do you? No idea. The things I had to do … I can never forgive myself. If I had known what was to come, I never would have given my word. Not to Kinrahd. Not to anyone. It wasn't worth it. Too many died. Far too many… ”
His eyes held a faraway look as he remembered those days and his lip began to tremble.
“Hmmm. How can you say it wasn’t worth it?” Gorin moved close to him, his hulking form casting the table in shadow. “Had you not fought, the land you stand on now would be under Mournenhile’s rule. All would be as twisted here as in the east. Have you seen the lands across the Edge? Black and deformed.”
“You may have suffered along with the rest, but never say it wasn’t worth it. Would you want your family-your brother-to die under Mournenhile? I don’t think so. Remember those that fell under that Black Sun.”
“Look, I am finished. I have no more to give. They cannot ask more of me. I gave everything I had.” Hagan was in obvious pain. D’Pharin reached out a hand, but he slapped it aside.
“I don’t want sympathy. I … I don’t know what I want. It wasn’t supposed to turn out that way. Friends and companions dead by my side. I do not want that again, do you understand?”
For the first time since they had met, the Stone Troll held an expression of near anger. He huffed, causing the cobwebs above him to swing and dance around.
“Do not say that you would consider breaking your oath. Do not say that.” Gorin said with a hard squint. “I will no longer hold respect for one who does not keep his word. And a war hero no less!”
“Do you think I want your respect? Why would that matter to me? I want to be left alone or didn’t you hear? This is my place now. Here.” He jammed his finger into the tabletop to make his point.
Gorin looked away and out the window in thought. D’Pharin thought he could actually hear his teeth clenching from where he sat.
“It is your decision, of course.” The Troll said quietly in Hagan’s direction.
“And I have decided I will stay here.” said Hagan roughly.
“No, Hagan. That is not what I meant.” Gorin turned toward him and bent at the waist until they were face to face. “It is your decision whether you ride to Harquinn or I carry you there. A Troll always completes his mission. Always. I will have you in Harquinn within two week’s time regardless of your mode of travel. I do not mean to be … what is your word ...? Violent. However if the situation calls for it … ”
Hagan stared into his dark grey eyes for a moment, then turned his aside. He looked to D’Pharin but found no solace there. The last thing I want is another blasted adventure!
Who am I responsible for this time?
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