This is the 10th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.
"Must I explain everything?" said Kreptus, throwing his hands up. His gaze was met with two blank eyes. He sighed and said, "On your way here, did you see a big castle at East?"
Kratan moaned loudly, interrupting Kutril. Kratan grabbed his head with both hands, eyes firmly shut, and started rocking.
"Are you ok?" asked Kutril.
"Head hurts," said Kratan, who started banging his head on his own knees.
"I thought that after eating you'd feel better," said Kutril.
Kratan limited himself to glaring at his friend. Kreptus's gaze seemed directed at them, but he was lost in though. Kratan's moans increased once again, waking the old troll from his reverie.
"We should get some sleep," said Kreptus, raising abruptly. "The sun must be high in the sky already, and we have much to do."
"Sleep?" asked both Kutril and Kratan, who winced when raising his head.
Kreptus grabbed Kutril's ear, leading him deeper into the cave, where a bed made of straw was prepared.
"You imbecile, you've been sleeping in the sun, haven't you?"
"I don't know what you mean uncle, please let go, it hurts!" pleaded Kutril.
"How many times do I have to tell you? No one can know that you can turn back from stone. No one!"
"But no human could find us where we lived."
"Yet the very knight I warned you about found you, didn't he?"
Kutril lowered his head.
"Have you any idea of what would happen if other trolls knew what you can do?"
"N-no, no, we avoid other trolls, uncle, just like you said."
Kreptus snorted. "I don't know what to do with you. You're not kids anymore." He paused, pressing his thin lips together. Shaking his head he added, "I'm tired of babysitting you Kutril, you have three nights to find a safe place to live. After that you're on your own."
A scream prevented Kutril from protesting. They looked back and rushed to Kratan, who was thrashing on the ground, tearing his hair off. He rolled over the fire and off of it, not noticing the flames licking his clothes. Kutril and Kreptus rushed to help him, extinguishing the fire and holding Kratan in place.
Grunting, Kreptus took his club and hit Kratan on the head.
"What did you do that for?" asked Kutril in a semi-hysterical voice. He stood up and started pacing, pulling his ears down.
"He wouldn't be quiet," said Kreptus. "Now make yourself useful and go get some bandages. You'll find them near the bed."
Kutril hushed to obey his uncle, mumbling incoherently, "So nice... uncle... crazy... Kratan... -derstand... shouldn't... head..."
Kreptus made another bed for Kratan near the renewed fire and sat by it.
"You," he said to Kutril, "will get some sleep." He raised his finger. "No buts."
Kutril opened his mouth and closed it, turning back with slumped shoulders.
Kreptus stared for a long time at the distant light coming in through the waterfall, with his back to the fire and Kratan, and Kutril fell asleep while puzzling over the need to do so.
By nightfall, Kreptus turned to watch Kratan, touching his club to certify that it was close by. He noticed the slight difference of his skin color against the fire, and the longer and sharper fingernails. All he needed was to see the eyes to confirm his suspicions. He looked to where Kutril was laying asleep. Kutril should wake up only the next night, after being so long away from the dream land.
A rasped voice whispered in his left ear startled him.
"What are you looking at, old fool? You're not hiding some human girl from me, are you? I'm hungry enough to forget to kill before I start eating." Kratan clicked his nails near Kreptus's cheek.
Kreptus turned slowly, looking straight into Kratan's wicked grin. Scanning his face up, he met his eyes. Fool indeed! he thought. It was not meant to happen so soon. Too damn soon!
Kreptus swallowed before saying, "I have no girls for you, but I was about to go out and hunt some goats. Care to join me?"
Kratan crouched beside Kreptus and spit on his feet. "Goats? Are you senile? I want humans. No, children." He smacked his lips. "It feels like ages since sank my teeth into their soft flash."
"We're too far from human civilization for you to get a human before sunrise," said Kreptus, with a set jaw.
Kratan didn't reply. Instead, he swung his club at his uncle's head, taking him by surprise.
"Well, it seems I'll have to content myself with what you're trying to protect back there," said Kratan.
"No," slurred Kreptus, before losing consciousness.
Kratan gave the old troll a good kick in the stomach before strolling his way to Kutril, not bothering to check if Kreptus was dead or alive.
"Psst, girlie, girlie, girlie," he whispered, chuckling at the thought of his meal pleading for her life. "If you behave well I promise to be good too."
Almost dancing with anticipation, he halted before Kutril's large form and frowned. He scratched his head and winced, surprised at the blood streaming down his head and from under his nails. Kratan licked his fingers and poked Kutril, who snored and turned in his sleep.
At the sight of his long last friend's peaceful countenance, Kratan dug his longed nails in his skull again, trying to shake off the excruciating pain coming from the inside. He fell on one knee, breathing hard, and shot another look at Kutril. He flinched as another wave of pain washed away his last warm feelings. He vomited, digging his bloody fingers on the ground. Avoiding looking at the sleeping figure, he fled, running in the direction of the dry entry.