On the eve of their exodus from the Eastern Continent in Elf Killers, a party of young Elves is ambushed…
Aedan glanced up the tall trunks as a breeze chased through the treetops and died away amongst the echoes of the bellbirds. “Make sure that each one of the kids has a nice wet ball of sphagnum on the seedlings, if you would, Oísín,” he said as he sank into the ferns to sit on his heels. He watched as each young Elf dutifully opened his vasculum in turn for Oísín’s inspection.
“All that’s left of the sunlight is ‘way up in the treetops,” said Oísín with a nod. “You reckon it’s still safe to try for the blue maidenhair at the summit?”
“I was hoping for all four kinds,” said Aedan, as he ran his hands through his hair. “Looks like I let the time slip away. Listen! Hear that purple-rib, yonder?”
“Well, he thinks it’s a-getting dark…” he said, suddenly looking about for a muffled snap in the leaves.
“Oouyuyf!” bellowed a troll covered with black and red ochre hand prints, as he took a sudden tramp out of the pawpaw leaves to run a spear under Aedan’s collarbone and out his back.
“Run!” cried Oísín as he loosed an arrow into the troll, sending it staggering about to stumble and fall as the wide-eyed young Elves scrambled to their feet and vanished into the woods. Trolls were starting to appear everywhere. As quick as he could manage, he loosed four or five more arrows, striking one of them and scattering the others. He dropped to his knees where Aedan lay on his side in the ferns.
“Go!” grunted Aedan, blowing blood off his lips.
“Here…” said Oísín, starting to scoop him up.
“No!” coughed Aedan. “They’ll get you if you even try. I’m gone. Go! Save the kids! Damn it! Do it!”
Oísín jerked up at a waft of wind by his ear in time to see a huge rock land and roll through the leaves beyond him. He was on his feet at once, wheeling ’round with his drawn bow to find two trolls about to run him through with a spear. He loosed his arrow
at once, killing the one with the spear as the other one fled out of sight. “I can still carry
you, Aedan!” he cried.
“Get out of here! Please!”
Oísín was immediately underway, batting aside branches. “We’ll never forget you!” he hollered as he hurtled out of the brush to take huge bounding strides down the side of a steep hogback.
The troll tramped to a halt beside Aedan and pummeled his chest with his fists. “Ooot-ooot, ooot-ooot, ooot-ooot,” he cried with a look of crazed triumph, slinging spittle from the black and red ochre paint on his face. “Gnydy!”
“Ay-ooo,” sang out Gnydy, planting his spear with a fierce nod of his cap of mud caked hair as he appeared on the far side of Aedan. He jabbed the point of his spear into Aedan’s thigh, drawing blood. “Should-we hair-drag the grabup-squeaker, Dyr?” he said as he licked the blood off his spearpoint.
“You-want to haul-meat both-ways?” said Dyr with a beetle-browed glare, as a purple-rib took up calling nearby. “We’ll-quarter him on the way-back.
“Should-we stamp-him to heads-mash?”
“Nobe mudful hollowhead. Let-him gurgle-bleed to cold-meat. There-go all-the Dyrny-brutes. Let’sgo.”
Aedan listened to the trolls tramp away through the leaves. “Damn this!” he thought as he squeezed shut his eyes. “I loved my life…” Suddenly he opened his eyes at the sound of light four footed walking in the leaves, making straight for him. “Niall!”
The deer like unicorn slowed to hesitant steps and lowered his head for a careful sniff.
“I may be out of time, but I have this minute,” he said, wincing with pain at his attempt to pat Niall’s muzzle. “If I can get up onto your back, we’re going back to camp to show them what the Marfora Siofra did to me and to have them try to find Oísín and the children. And even if I don’t make it, you’ll get me there.”
Though Niall understood not one word of this, he would soon know what to do, for he was a terraing pictiúr, a picture catcher unicorn. Difficult as it was with all his pain, Aedan managed to clear his mind enough to picture Niall lying down in order for him to
mount. At once, Niall lay down before him, patiently waiting for him to get on. Crying
out from the horrible pain, Aedan heaved himself onto his knees, where he steadied
himself long enough to cough blood down his front before throwing his leg across him.
He had a long struggle to keep from passing out before he could manage to picture Niall
rising to his feet. Niall got up at once, but it was an eternity of fighting down the pain
from the jostling before Aedan could manage to picture the camp. At last they were
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