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Episode 4: Troll Bridge

Posted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 2:11 pm
by Wraithwriter
Her ire with Victoria’s impractical sentiments regarding the man from Gilbrath at first provided a fortuitous distraction. Over the years the bard’s heart, and penchant for strong drink, had gotten them into countless situations which Valerie had to extract them from, but this one was worse than usual. The man she’d fallen for was not only dangerous but a Stia cultist, a group of individuals not known for letting things drop quietly.

Thankfully she'd trusted her instincts and greased the right palms to ensure housekeeping did not enter the suite till evening. Hopefully her precautions allowed them to put enough distance between them and the hunter to discourage pursuit. The carriage ended up being an unexpected, if welcomed development, but not enough to displace her irritation.

After hearing Victoria’s explanation, her ire with her friend lessened; the bard’s actions were so typical of who she was that it was hard for Valerie to maintain her anger. It was then that the novelty of riding in a carriage guided only by magic captured her interest. Over the course of an hour she found all the runes and magical writings that were present inside the cabin and fully intended to find the ones on the outside once they stopped. All in all, the start of the journey had plenty to recommend it, that is until her excitement wore off.

Valerie hated carriages. As the daughter of the Triggadorn Federation’s Lady of the Lake, she’d ridden in plenty of carriages, admittedly that was only on city streets. Still, the constant clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the rumble of the wheels grated on her nerves, but it was the stuffiness combined with its swaying and jolting that really got to her. She wanted to give the command to halt or throw herself from the moving vehicle for a chance of fresh air.

Why didn’t I put an end to this travesty after a day’s travel? Valerie thought, her guts turning wildly. Her eyes were closed as she attempted to control her stomach. In her hands she clutched a small pouch of fresh mint leaves, the only thing that had thus far saved her from embarrassing herself.

“You really shouldn’t close your eyes. It only makes it worse.” She heard Victoria’s voice comment. The sound of shuffling cards told her that the bard was doing something with the deck of tarot cards she kept on hand.

“No one asked you!” Valerie managed through gritted teeth.

“Fine,” the bard chimed again. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”

As much as she hated to admit it the other woman was right, since closing her eyes the spinning had only gotten worse. With a sigh, Valerie took a deep breath and released it slowly before opening her eyes. The carriage cushions were still the same dark purple and the window curtains still swayed, but the spinning slowed.

“Eat another mint leaf, it will help,” Victoria suggested without looking away from her cards.

Valerie followed the bard’s suggestion and the turning of her stomach calmed. The effervescence of the leaf also worked to clear her head and stop the spinning. Sighing with relief she relaxed back into her cushioned seat. A loud snore broke into her relief and turning her head Valerie saw Vivian was fast asleep.

“How can she sleep?” Valerie inquired bitterly.

“It is a mystery,” Victoria returned and lowered her cards. “You feel better?”

“Yes,” she answered shortly and nodded at the cards in the bard’s hands. “What are you seeing in the cards?”

Victoria laughed at her attempt to change the subject, but she still took the hint. “It is very strange. The event cards keep contradicting themselves, so I’m not sure if it is tragedy or fortune.”

"Maybe it's both," Valerie responded jokingly, but a chill ran down her spine as she said it.

"Tragic Fortune or Advantageous Tragedy…" The bard mused. "Sounds ominous and straight out of a war song sung before the Founding." Excitement lit the bard's eyes at the end.

Seeing her excitement Valerie felt like kicking herself, now the woman was going to make a song of it. Victoria was an excellent song composer; the process however, was not something she enjoyed. Unless she found a way to distract the woman then Vivian and she would have to listen as the bard strove for perfection. As if fate read her thoughts the horses screamed and the carriage picked up speed.

Valerie had to brace herself to keep her seat and she watched as Victoria did the same, Vivian was not as lucky. The sleeping blonde was thrown to the floor of the carriage eliciting a startled cry, but before she could get up the carriage came to a violent halt. This time all three of them cried out as they were thrown about. Outside a splintering crack resounded and the sound of the horses’ hooves faded.

Seconds passed and Valerie opened the eyes she did not recall closing to take stock of their situation. First of all she was live, but the curses being spewed by Victoria made her wish she’d been deafened. Secondly, she was on the floor lying on something soft and gasping, the gasping she didn't give further thought toward since she did the same. After a while she caught her breath, as did whom ever she lay upon, and just lay there glad to be alive.

"Uhmmm Valerie," came Vivian's voice, "not that I'm not enjoying this, but I thought you didn't swing that way."

Her eyes widening Valerie jerked her head up to see it had been resting on the sorceress' bust. Hurriedly she got to her feet blushing from mortification, and bracing herself against the tilted cabin, offered a hand to the blonde. With a mischievous smile Vivian accepted her hand but was not able to straighten due to her height.

"Is everyone alright?" Valerie asked to which she received an amused nod from Vivian, the bard was more vocal.

"If you call nearly being killed doing alright, then yes." Victoria gripped. "And my favorite deck of cards! They are every where, half are likely bent. Now they'll never lay flat."

"So your alright, good," Valerie commented earning a dirty look from the redhead. "Who wants to go first?"

"What?!" The bard asked in confusion.

"To get out of the carriage Vicky," Vivian clarified using the bard's pet name. "I may be able to get a slight view of what is out there." The the sorceress moved here left hand and spoke strange syllables under her breath.

As her lips stilled the sorceress' eyes briefly shone with a yellow light before she closed them. When her eyes opened they were vacant and the light was gone. After another blink the light returned and the woman took a deep breath.

"There doesn't seem to be anything bearing down on the carriage," Vivian announced. "Clairvoyance spells are not my bread and butter, so I was not able to see much more."

"Better than nothing," Valerie returned while maneuvering to the door. "We'll just have to open the door fast and exit fast."

"Easy for you to say," Victoria gripped sarcastically.

Flashing the bard a smile Valerie threw the door open and dove out of the carriage. With a twist of her body she flipped so she landed on her feet and down into a crouch. In her right hand she held a dagger drawn from one of many hidden sheathes.

Scanning the area she noted that the carriage's front wheels were stuck in a trench and the tongue was gone. That explained the crack, but what had spooked the horses? Giving the air a sniff she was treated to the stench of festering rot. Commotion from the carriage distracted her from her survey.

Victoria and Vivian were climbing out of the carriage. To Valerie's discerning eye, they were clumsy in their task, but still better than most. Upon reaching the ground both women turned and identical looks of disgust crossed their faces.

"What is that horrid stench!" Victoria gagged. Loud arguing broke out up the road drawing the attention of all three women.

Up ahead spanning a dry creek bed was an ornate stone bridge. At the bridge's foot were embedded two long pikes ornamented with rather macabre decorations. It was from these decoration the argument came.

"You and your stomach!" Shouted a guttural female voice from the impaled head on the right. "You just had to have a snack!"

"Hey!" Growled the one on the left in a deep male voice. "The plan was taking too long and I was hungry!"

"When are you not hungry!"

"Bridge Trolls," Victoria commented placing a hand over her nose as the three walked toward the talking heads. "No wonder it smells."

"We heard that!" Both heads growled in unison.

"Oh?" The bard returned, "So sorry. With all the moss that's said to clog your ears I'm surprised you could hear anything."

"Moss eared!" The male head shouted, "come say that to my face! If that blasted goat hadn't butchered me I'd show you morsels how quick witted we Bridge Troll can be!"

"He wouldn't have if you'd listened and kept to the plan!" Kvetched the female head.

"What's this about a goat?" Vivian demanded, panic creeping into her voice. "There's not a saytar around, please tell me there isn't." The sorceress now tried to hide behind Valerie as she looked around frantically. It may have been comical if the troll heads had not burst out in gurgling laughter.

"I wish!" The female cackled before licking her dry bloody lips lewdly.

"No, saytars are too smart," the male answered with a chuckle. "Besides, my grotesque mate would scare them off with a wink of an eye."

"Eat creek mud!" growled the female.

"Done it, too gritty," countered the male. "The 'goat' I speak of is a viscous shapeshifter who calls himself The Druid. He lays claim to these lands here about, and the misbegotten snake tricked me."

"You should have known it was a trick you buffoon!" Nagged the female. "What three goats travel as a banded, and will talk with Bridge trolls? Think with you head not your stomach."

"I am," commented the male while giving Victoria a lecherous, ichor crusted smile. "Why don't you come give daddy a kiss?"

As the disgusting head finished the bard screamed. A bloody hand had grabbed her ankle and was starting to crawl up her leg. "Get it off!"

Valerie rushed forward to help her friend but something tripped her. As she attempted to keep from falling something seized her own ankle and pulled her planted foot from under her. Crying out she fell face first into the dirt.

"Oh look!" The male exclaimed excitedly, "a two for one buffet! My lucky day!"

"You're such a pig!" Screech the female.

"LET THEM GO!" Commanded Vivian. The blonde sorceress no longer coward but stood tall and straight. Her six foot one inch and flowing blonde hair would have made her an exotic addition to any place of ill repute, but the red glow of her eyes and ghost fire in her hands would have quelled many a costumer.

"What are you going to do honey hair?" Growled the male. "Slap me? I think I can endure that for a rare treat." As the head spoke long slimy entrails snaked out of the underbrush and slithered toward the rouge and screaming bard.

Fire bloomed wherever entrails snaked and the stench of burning flesh filled the air. The head yowled in agony feeling every lick of the fiery tongues as though he were still intact. "You wench! That's going to take weeks to heal!"

"HANDS OFF! NOW!" The sorceress' eyes now blazed.

For answer the hand that crawled up Victoria's leg, despite the woman's every effort to dislodge it, gave her backside a pinch. The bard cried out with indignant rage and smacked the offending hand from her. Simultaneously, the male head burst into flames, its eyes bursting instantly and its howl of pain turned into a gurgle.

"You hell spawn!" The female head cursed. "You are going to pay for that!" The underbrush off to the left rustled but ceased instantly when the other head sprouted flames.

"Are you two alright?" asked Vivian as Valerie stood up spitting out dirt.

Glancing over at the sorceress, Valerie saw that her eyes were back to normal and ghostly flames no longer dances in her hands. Out of the corner of her eye she watched as Victoria rubbed her backside. "Physically yes, but my pride no," she returned.

"I'm fine," sulked Victoria while still rubbing where the hand had pinched her. "Glad you cooked the whore's son. I hate Bridge Trolls!"

"I think we ought to get going," Valerie suggested. "Without the carriage or horses we have a long walk ahead of us." Following the rouges advice the three grassed their packs and set off down the road.

"Just like old times," Victoria commented bitterly, then she recovered. "Did I ever tell you the tale of the Maiden and the Randy Troll?"

"Vicky!" Both the others exclaimed but it did not phase the bard as she launched into her tale. Behind them they left two charred and moaning troll heads on a stick.