“Hello, monsieur. My name is Clemence.”
Reginald whipped his head around and spotted a young girl beside him. She was a frail and filthy thing. Her blonde hair was uncombed, half of which hung to one side by a single pigtail. She gave Reginald an impish smile, more than aware of how badly she had startled the knight.
“How did – What are you doing here?” Reginald growled.
“Ssshh,” the girl cautioned, “Keep making so much noise and the guards will hear you. I was just wondering what you were doing. That’s all.”
The knight scowled at the girl a moment longer before replying, “I’m here to stop whoever’s been stealing children out of this village. You should be home where it is safe.”
“No need for such anger milord. I’ll be on my way…” Clemence trailed.
“Wait,” Reginald ordered, “How did you get out here in the first place?”
The girl’s smudge covered face formed an ear-to-ear grin and she motioned for Reginald to follow. The knight was flustered, but did so. It was humiliating when a little girl managed to sneak up on you from behind. The knight was also worried about this Clemence getting caught between him and whatever he came to find. The knight didn’t need anymore-innocent blood on his hands.
Reginald followed Clemence as they sneaked along the wall. The girl’s ragged slippers somehow found sure footing in the darkness. At one point Reginald heard the booted feet of guards walking the wall just above them. For a tense moment the pair didn’t twitch until they were sure the guards had moved on. They resumed walking until they reached a large drainage spout. A deep stone chute that funneled water and feces out of the city. The smell was obvious evidence of the latter. Sir Reginald twisted his face in disgust – having to scuttle through the shit of the peasantry mocked his noble ancestry.
The iron grate that prevented entry into the city was not held in place by mortar any longer. The stone had worn away and the grate was merely propped up. Reginald pushed the grate aside. Once the knight was through the chute, he quickly took in his surroundings.
Directly in front of him was a large garden surrounded by several homes. Reginald could see bright light from behind closed shutters and doors. Reginald kept low. He listened for any sounds indicating he’d been detected. There was nothing. He realized the lights would stay aflame throughout the night, for the people of this village had reason to fear the dark.
Clemence resumed the lead and rushed behind a water trough on the other side of the garden, facing the drainage spout they entered from. Reginald followed the girl and knelt beside her in the darkness. It was past time he dismissed her and patrolled the village. She could only get in his way now.
“Clemence, I thank you. Now go home. I need to make my rounds,” Reginald ordered.
The girl gave him a pained look, “What you’re looking for will pass through here. Believe me.”
“How would you know such a thing,” Reginald pressed irritably. The knight wanted to be on his way and didn’t have time for a little girl telling stories.
But Clemence would say nothing more. She only gazed to her right, down one of the paths leading into the village. Reginald didn’t know what she was looking for. His teeth grinded with impatience and he was very tempted in leaving Clemence to her own devices. Then an odd light floated towards them.
The light bobbed and swayed down the path Clemence was so preoccupied with. Reginald strained his eyes, but could not see the source of the light. Tense moments passed. He remained still as the strange light approached. As it entered the garden, Reginald could see a young boy followed it. The child’s entranced steps were made in pursuit of the odd glowing orb and Reginald knew where they were headed. Both the light and the boy moved towards the drainage chute leading out of the city.
Reginald stepped out of the shadows and drew his broadsword. The boy was oblivious of his presence, but the glowing orb stopped. Reginald peered into its center and saw a dark outline. Without hesitation the knight smacked the source emitting the light with the flat of his sword. A high-pitched squeak was emitted and the light faded substantially as it corkscrewed to the ground. Reginald stood over the oddity in wonder.
A tiny figure lay sprawled in the grass. It was naked, had flesh as pale as starlight, and the wings of a large dragonfly. Reginald knew what this was. A will-o-wisp. The miniature being struggled, but could not regain flight. Its wings were mangled by Reginald’s attack. When the wisp realized this, it snarled viciously, revealing rows of tiny, pointed teeth. Reginald grimaced. A moment later the knight’s foot descended upon the tiny figure as it screamed. It’s bones grinded beneath the soles of Reginald’s boot.
The death of the wisp broke the trance. The boy cried out once he became conscious of where he was. A natural reaction given the fact he just woke up beside a strange man holding a broadsword. Then there was a scrambling sound on the other side of the wall. Reginald heard something scaling the stone barrier. A dark form hauled itself atop the wall. The night made identifying the being impossible. But Reginald knew whatever it was – it was starring down at him. Cold certainty of imminent conflict filled the knight and he turned to the boy at his side.
“Run you fool!” Reginald shouted.
The lad broke into a terrified sprint, screaming the entire way. Reginald looked to see if Clemence followed, but whatever had perched itself on the wall had leapt into the air.
It landed just in front of the knight. The creature’s height increased as it straightened. Reginald kept his guard up as he back peddled slowly. He struggled to see what he was up against. Long hair partially masked the beast’s face. Reginald saw other will-o-wisps circulating around the dark being; they briefly illuminated blotches of scaly green skin and hide armor. Reginald’s military training immediately noted the weapon it held. A large animal femur it used as a club.
Whatever it was – it roared. A deafening blast of sound rattled the marrow in Reginald’s bones. The club swept in like an avalanche and the knight brought his broadsword across to block. The force of the impact numbed his hands and drove him back. His attacker raised the massive weapon high into the air and Reginald didn’t bother to block. The knight dived clear. The bone club smashed into the ground sending clots of earth into the air.
Reginald came out of the roll onto his feet and squared himself with his enemy – he circled to the left to stay clear of the overpowering weapon. The knight could not match the force being used against him. Reginald clenched his teeth in frustration – wished he could see what he fought.
And divine intervention came…in the form of Andre Laurent and a half dozen torch bearing town guards. A humorous chorus of “sacrebleu” was shouted and Reginald at last saw his opponent. A green skinned titan clad in a tribal armor of leather and animal hide. Skulls from various beasts were used as elbow and knee guards. The will-o-wisps buzzed around its massive body in a frenzy. What patches of flesh that were left visible by the armor were green and scaly. As Reginald’s eyes traveled upward – he noticed a long, pronounced nose. Its ears were large and fanned. Reginald suspected what this monster was, but could it possible be…
“Troll!” Someone yelled.
The troll roared again, a booming war cry that affirmed its identity and froze its enemies in fear. It lumbered forward. The giant bone club reared back in preparation to strike. The guards brought up their steel shields defensively, thinking they were enough to protect them from the impact. The troll’s club thrust forward into their midst like a battering ram. Men scattered aside, but one caught the attack squarely on the shield. Its metal crumpled under the blow and the guard was lifted clear off his feet.
Reginald used the distraction to attack. He rushed behind the troll as it engaged the sheriff’s men – Reginald got within range as it turned its head and spotted him. A low, sweeping swing threatened to take Reginald’s legs out from under him. But the knight hopped over the off balanced attack and charged.
Within such close range the troll could not bring its mighty weapon to bear and Reginald took advantage. His broadsword drove up into the exposed flesh of the creature’s armpit. The knight could feel the blow was blunted by the troll’s hardened skin. Reginald pulled the sword free and tried to drive it in further. But the troll’s free hand whipped around in a vicious backhand strike that clipped Reginald’s shoulder painfully.
Reginald gritted his teeth and struck back. The edge of his broadsword only struck the hardened leather armor on its thigh. Reginald growled in frustration and pursued. But in a stunning display of power – the troll leapt over and behind the guards. The men turned and pivoted to face the monster, but it lashed out again. The power its reach and weapon gave it was overwhelming. Once more the guards were sent sprawling. The audible crack of bone as it slammed into steal reverberated loudly. Reginald charged the green titan with his broadsword high overhead. He brought the weapon down with all of his might…it was blocked by the troll and then Reginald was flying.
The knight hadn’t counted on the monster being limber enough to follow up the block with a kick. An enormous two-toed foot slammed into his chest and Reginald was sent airborne. The knight landed several feet away. His eyes were clouded and he couldn’t breathe. He tried to stand. His legs wouldn’t hold him up. Where was his sword? Where was the troll?
Reginald’s head cleared enough for him to see the men still battled the troll. He heard the approach of more guards and knew he needed to retreat as more torchlight flooded the garden. Reginald found his sword as another deafening roar signaled the troll’s retreat. Its massive body scaled over the stonewall again as Reginald crawled back down the drainage chute. None of the guards noticed his escape into the night.