Nightfall in Brelindia

41 - Trollflesh

One of the Beast’s lieutenants is down, and the hunt quickly shifts to the other.

They find Agriax’s “workshop” in the tumbled ruins of the elven village below. It’s full of bones, skins, teeth and hides. Among the various interesting objects are a few personal effects that seem to belong to an elven woman, a bearskin cloak sized for a slender form, and a large tooth covered in runes. The tooth seems to be draconic, and is placed in a cloth as if meant to be a gift. Honora theorizes that it’s the sort that will call up a spartoi if planted.

Bralta pores over the various rune-inscribed skins that pass for Agriax’s ritual notes. After some study, she announced that it seems likely that the curse that’s locked Carvaron’s wife into deer form must be dispelled by another ritual. The curse is held in place with two key items: her bearskin cloak and a locket she wore. Each one would strengthen the attempt to break the curse. Honora recommends they wait until they’ve beaten the Beast and taken the locket he no doubt carries before trying to break the curse, for greatest chance of success without harming the elf-witch. If they die facing the Beast, then Carvaron can still attempt to find help elsewhere using the bearskin cloak.

Bralta also notes that she believe she’s discovered the name of the tooth. The dragon “parent” was named Kheirtalhassa in Draconic — apparently a forest dragon that attempted to occupy Grinthorn, but drew Syrakul’s attention and paid dearly for it. The tooth itself has the name of “Hassa,” which would be used in transforming it into a spartoi.

Given the options open to them, they decide to try catching the Troll-Eater first before they deal with the Beast. Nobody wants to wander into the conquered village with a lieutenant still on the loose. They leave the area and find a secure spot to rest, hiding so well even Carvaron has difficulty finding them. Once they rendezvous with the werewolf, he agrees to act as a distraction. They set up an ambush in the stone ruins beneath the star-oak, with Carvaron prowling the perimeter to take down any fleeing enemies.

The bulk of the hunting party arrives first — a pair of nastily scarred bugbears with hatchets, and a sizable squad of human and goblin huntsmen spreading through the area. Then the Troll-Eater comes into view, holding the leash of the savaged and half-feral troll Baden saw earlier. He’s a massive bugbear with black teeth and oddly trollish skin on the outside of his arms. When the battle breaks out, he releases the troll. It charges the right flank seemingly at random, barreling down on Abbron and Bralta while its master charges Honora and Baden. The beast is so crazed that its first attack is to seize a huntsman that got too close and take a massive bite out of the luckless marauder before returning its attention to Abbron.

The split flank strategy proves problematic for both sides. The Troll-Eater is a powerful, enduring foe, and the assistance of his huntsmen locks down Baden and Honora more than either would like. Both are wounded in short order. On the other flank, Abbron continues to avoid the troll’s attacks by a narrow margin, using thunder and lightning to strike down the huntsmen but having little luck in slowing the troll. He and Bralta finally make a break for the other two. Bralta’s healing chant fortifies the two axe-wielders before they’re beaten down, but the troll charges Abbron in response and hits him hard.

Abbron spreads around the lightning even as he tries to recover his strength. The Troll-Eater, refusing to fall despite the many axe blows he’s suffered, nearly cuts Honora and Baden down before his strength ebbs and Earth Dragon takes off his head. But the troll, drawn by the smell of Honora’s blood, strikes her down. It doesn’t get the chance to finish her, though — Baden’s axe, blazing with light and fire, severs the troll’s spine.

Bralta quickly moves to heal Honora’s wounds and resuscitate the paladin. The last surviving huntsman flees in terror as the troll topples, but the sound of a snarl and an abbreviated scream attest that Carvaron was indeed keeping the perimeter as promised.

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