This is the 17th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.
Monsieur Velin didn’t like his assignment. Although he was sure that the stone trolls could not get deader than they were, he didn’t know what to think of the third troll. He did trust De Faumont though; he didn’t believe such modest prince would be bragging about something he hadn’t done. He was mulling about the discussion he'd had with the others at the barn, his gaze lost on the rising moon, when Kreptus grunted.
“Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, I’m too old for this!”
Velin turned, gaping at the white beared troll and at Kutril, who scratched his head and yawned. Velin stepped back, breath held, and babbled, “Ho-how?”
Kreptus scanned the petrified man from head to toe and waved him off, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to hurt you. What’s your name again?”
“Name! You do have a name, don’t you?”
“Ah, I do…” Velin’s gaze raised to Kutril, who had stood up and whose head was above Kreptus’s, right behind him.
“Then sa–” Before Kreptus could extract that simple information, Velin was grabbed from behind by Kratan, whose eyes shone despite the darkness. The more Velin struggled, the more Kratan pressed his hand on the man’s face. Velin’s eyes were rolling on his head as his limbs were getting heavier and heavier by the second.
“Let him go!” shouted Kutril. “You’re killing him!” Kreptus stepped aside, so the two of them could face their foe. The thought that Kutril was now an enemy weighted like a ton on Kreptus’s heart.
Kratan grinned at his once closest friend, “So? It seems you’ve provided me a good meal for the night.” He cracked the man’s neck and threw his body on the side of the road, looking defiantly into Kreptus’s eyes.
The old troll looked tired and weak. His pride and strength seemed to have been drained by the evil counterpart of his protégé.
“What are you doing, Kratan?” he asked, shoulders slumped. “Don’t you see that you have become everything you most feared?”
“Why, uncle,” his voice was filled with sarcasm, “I’m grabbing a good piece of meat, just as you taught me.” Kratan put his hands on his hips and cocked his head to the side.
“I did not –” Kreptus started to reply.
“Kratan!” interrupted Kutril and stepped forward, arms stretched and teary eyes. Kreptus raised his arms, blocking Kutril’s way, and shook his head, eyes set on Kratan’s.
“But, uncle, Katran needs our help!”
“I need your help? You’ve gotta be kidding me!” said Kratan, and roared with laughter.
Not having his club with him, Kreptus lurched with his fists, not wanting to give Kratan space to put in motion whichever plan he had. Kutril stood there, his chin falling limb like Velin’s body, his eyes alternating between his uncle’s incredible fighting ability, which he never imagined him having, and Kratan’s strength and speed, which he'd never had before.
Even before attacking Kratan, Kreptus knew there was no hope of defeating him on his own. He prayed Kutril would be scared away by the fighting, but he seemed paralyzed. He cursed himself mentally for underestimating Kutril’s surprise and braced himself for death. Kratan felt the defeat inside his uncle and increased his blows, while Kreptus got slower and weaker. Kreptus's eyes were swallowed, his ribs hurt and he was getting too tired to dodge Kratan's punches. Hit by hit, Kreptus pondered why Kratan wasn’t using his club to finish him off more quickly. Was he having fun, or was it the sign that there was still hope?
Kreptus fell on his knee and searched in vain for Kutril. He wanted to apologize for not having told him the truth, for leaving him and Kratan to their faith, for not being a good… Kratan’s last punch knocked him to the floor. As he gradually lost conscience he heard the sound of hoofs approaching. Why did they sound familiar?
De Faumont arrived in full armor, his sword ready and his eyes set. He crowed a thank you to the bird above and made a slicing movement to decapitate Kratan while his horse jumped over Kreptus. Kutril yelped and jumped to the side, making room for the horse and knight to pass. While De Faumont assessed Kutril readjusting his horse's position, Kratan picked up his club and copied one of his uncle’s fighting stances. De Faumont dismissed Kutril and lurched forward, sword pointing at Kratan’s neck from above his shield. Kratan dodged his attack and hit De Faumont’s horse with such force that the beast flew two meters, passing over Kreptus without touching him. Kratan looked about himself in surprise while De Faumont released his feet, jumped on the spinning horse and landed safely on the ground. He then looked up and smiled at the horse’s whining and De Faumont’s fear. He smelled delicious. Kratan wondered how he could retain a man’s body freshness without cooking it. Or maybe he could share part of De Faumont with Aimee.
They sparred for a long time, sword against club, club against shield, fist against shield. They were incredibly fast, thought the amazed Kutril, who could do nothing but watch and hope that his uncle was still alive. Only when the moon had raised a third of its way the fighters’ attacks started to slow down. Kreptus grunted for the second time that night while waking. He joined the fight, punching Kratan from different and unexpected angles, but the troll was too fast. Kratan managed to keep both opponents at bay, even though they seemed to know what the other was going to do before it was done.
De Faumont laughed aloud at the sound of new hoofs arriving, but in his glee he got distracted for the split of second necessary for Kratan to hit him. De Faumont fell to the ground unconscious, Kreptus paused in surprise and Kratan took the opportunity to flee, taking Velin’s body with him and a hidden woman, who screamed in pain and horror.