Phantasus (prime)

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By: Lord Phantasus

The mud troll cocked his head listening closely to the wind. Its ears swiveled in all directions trying to pick up any sound of his pursuer. A drop of sweat trickled down his cheek falling silently to the leafy ground. Surprisingly, his pursuer was closing in faster than anticipated. The troll glanced down to the crystal amulet in his hand. Oh, how beautiful the amulet looked hanging from his victim’s neck. So shiny, so bright. It was almost too valuable for him not to take. Selling it to one wandering merchant would give him enough silver to buy a meal from the next.

He glanced down at his war hardened hands. Each scar had a story to tell. He ran his hand up his muscular blue-green arm, to his broad, strong shoulders, up to his thickened neck, and then to a long, jagged scar on his face. The scar. He remembered the crazed, beserking look of the dark elf that had given it to him. It was a warrior look he knew all to well. Those widening eyes and that mouth gaped ajar. He too had experienced that same look many times in his life, during many, many battles.

A devilish grin formed on the troll's face as he also remembered the shocked expression on the elf, as its surprised head was ripped from its shoulders. What a strangely pleasing sight that was. He must have killed almost the same amount of people with his bare hands as he did with his blade.

What had he been reduced to? He was once a proud warrior leading his people into battle against the continuing spread of the Elven empire. Now after being ostracized from those same people for making a critical error during a major battle, he had been reduced to what was essentially a petty thief.

The troll sniffed intently. His razor sharp, keen sense of smell easily identified his pursuer from the other smells of the forest, despite the intensity of the coming storm. This was no ordinary pursuer. He was certain he had lost it along the waters of Smoke Creek. Somehow, he had not lost its scent in its murky waters. He was also certain he had lost the pursuer in Krag's Swamp, an exotic from the outside, but extremely dangerous on the inside flora "hell hole". No other race, other than trolls and orcs, had survived the treacheries that lived there. In fact, many species of trolls and orcs called Krag's Swamp home, including the mud troll. For some reason the plants that lived there had not developed a taste for those two races. The plants loved the other races though. He remembered playing with his brothers and sisters there as a youth and watching silly humans get trapped by some of the "less" deadlier plants. What a terrible way to die, he thought, to be slowly digested from the inside out. He remembered running around his village shuddering facetiously with his brothers and sisters, giggling happily that it never could happen to them.

But for some strange reason, his pursuer survived Krag's Swamp and was still chasing. It seemed that the troll's warrior luck was beginning to run out.

The troll glanced around the forest. This was certainly a part he had never been in. He had journeyed into what most commoners called The Unknown, an area the size of a large city that no one had yet explored. Well, explored AND survived. There was an old myth that a demented sorcerer summoned a demon from the very depths of hell and banished it to this part of the forest after he could not control it. At any rate, during, the past few years, as a rogue, he had never had someone pursue him this far.

As he caught his breath, he glanced down at the blade in his dark green brocade sheath. It had been a long time since he had to use it. His legs had been his primary "weapon" these past few years......blood was rarely involved for thieves......unless they were caught. As he rubbed the blades hilt, carefully fingering the crudely carved inscription, he was taken to a time long ago. His beautiful mate, for whom the inscription was carved, his young brave child who died proudly in combat and the brothers and sisters who had died next to him on the battle field. It truly was a glorious time.

Perhaps he could relive that today, he thought, removing the deadly, serrated, edged blade from the sheath. When he was a youth, he had sworn to never die a cowards death.....that would not change today. He would lead the pursuer into a trap and then destroy it. He sniffed one more time in the air, getting a mental fixation of his pursuer, and then started running away from that fixation. He was amazed at the new life his legs had. Age had not yet crept into his joints. He was now in tune with his battle senses. He could feel everything around him.

The wind was beginning to pick up, sending fallen leaves from the huge oak trees, flying in all directions. Small animals scurried out of his way. He even though he saw a small gold coin lying amongst the leaves. But there was no time to stop.

As the troll pushed on through the forest, he began to notice the trees getting closer and the brush becoming thicker. The thorny bushes and low hanging branches grabbed at his tunic, slowing his flight. Soon it would be too difficult to move.

He came to a small, rarely used path that ran east to west. This was obviously one of the old paths that merchants had once used to use to travel from town to the outer reaches. When the rumors of demons and subsequent disappearances of adventurers occurred, these small paths quickly lost their importance.

After looking down the westward path, the troll began to run east toward the darker, thicker forest. As he ran, he occasionally glanced back over his shoulder. Although he still could not see his pursuer, his senses did not lie to him. It was still back there somewhere. It was still coming. Suddenly a strange thought entered into his head. No it couldn't be...but had to be! He was being toyed with. Even with the renewed strength in his legs, the pursuer would have been a lot closer than it was now. "No, no, no!" he thought Maybe he had lost it.....or not. Fear slowly crept into his senses. His pace became more determined. Was that a touch of panic he felt?

The path winded in and out of the trees, like some hellish serpent squeezing the life out of its prey. Time seemed to slow down, clogging his head....making him feel as though he were running in a room full of liquid. Strange that the pace of his heart did not slow. The path finally came to what was essentially a fork in the road. The more used path continued to the north. While to the south, the thick brush was matted down, as if some large creature had recently gone through there. This southern "path" continued about 100 feet, then made a strong, abrupt turn to the east, out of sight.

As dangerous as the southern path looked he decided to take it. His fear of what was closing in behind him, far out weighed his fear of what lie ahead. After making a series of turns and twists, the "path" abruptly came to a dead end clearing.

Lying in the center of the clearing was the massive, horned, skeletal remains of some demon beast that had, for some reason, chose the thick brush as it's final resting place. The troll noticed the large amount of insects still crawling around the skeleton, which led him to believe that it had recently died here. So much for myths......

The clearing was an area about the size of a small wagon. The skeleton just about filled the space. The only way out was the way he had come, back up the path. Instinctively, the troll spun around and began to head back towards the fork. Almost immediately, he stopped dead in his tracks. His ears once again swiveled trying to pinpoint their target. There it was, the sound, louder than it had ever been before. The sound of footsteps, approaching very rapidly from the west, echoed in his ears. Judging by its volume, they couldn't have been more than 100 yards away.

The troll glanced up and around the clearing for any possible escape, but it was futile. The trees and brush were far too thick for even the foolhardiest to try to climb. The troll was trapped. There was only one thing left to do.

"It is time to stop running...", the trolled mumbled to himself, clenching the grip on his blade. "....there will be another carcass laid to rest here today".

The footsteps were now 90 yards away. The mud troll began muttering a harsh phrase of magic. Its eyes glowed green with some unknown force.

The footsteps were now 70 yards away. His pursuer had reached the fork in the road. It would be just a matter of time before it would arrive.

The mud troll waved its hand in the air and magically blended into the background. He had become transparent, one of the most basic spells a young mud troll learns.

The footsteps were now 50 yards away. His pursuer was now coming down the "path" that the beast made.

Although nothing or no one could see him, a devilish grin began to form on the trolls mouth. He crouched down on the outer edges of the clearing and focused intently on the matted down path. "Finally.....", he thought. ".....finally he would fight instead of running like some cowardly halfling".

The footsteps were now 20 yards away. Soon his pursuer would come around the bend. In that brief stunned moment as the pursuer became distracted by the skeletal carcass, the mud troll would spring from the shadows and neatly remove the pursuers head from its shoulders. "Just like the days of glory", he thought.

The adrenaline was racing through the trolls veins.

15 yards.... The mud troll leaned forward. Sweat was pouring down its face.

10 yards.... He could feel every beat of his heart, like some war drum pounding in the distance.

5 yards.... "I have you now", the troll thought. 4 yards....

3 yards.... The mud troll’s eyes widened. With his mouth agape, a glob of drool hung, suspended in time, from his jaw.

2 yards....

1 yard......


The mud troll crouched down, frozen in pure shock. The glob of drool let go of its hold on the jaw, and plummeted to the leafy ground.

The troll could not believe his own eyes. His pursuer should have come around the bend. Or if not the pursuer, at least SOMETHING!! But to his astonishment, there was nothing, only the sounds of the forest. The trees rustled and creaked in the wind as if cackling at the poor troll’s dismay. There was no pursuer to decapitate, no pursuer to destroy.

For what seemed like an eternity, the troll remained in his position, focusing on the entrance to the clearing. In all of the battles he had experienced, he had never been in this situation; a truly indecisive situation.

Perhaps his pursuer had given up. This amulet could not have been that valuable to him. "It was just fluff", he thought, reassuring his doubt. Or maybe his pursuer decided that he had gone down the northern path and continued its chase there. The troll sniffed intently. No smell. No sound. Nothing.

The fear that the troll was experiencing was now overwhelming. He could not stay hidden any longer. He had to find out what was around the bend. He had to find out if his pursuer had left. With a wave of his hand, the mud troll faded into view.

Suddenly, almost instantaneously, the aromatic scent of gardenias filled the air. It floated above and around the troll’s nose tickling his rather long nose hairs. He suddenly had the strangest feeling of being in a magnificently, beautiful field somewhere, his mate by his side. Compassion and love filled his inner soul. He almost didn't feel the breath on his neck and hear the whisper in his ear.

"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to steal, friend?", the voice whispered. Instinctively, the troll shook off the daze, gripped his blade and spun around bringing it high above his head. It was a combat maneuver he had used many times in the past. The end result, as always, would be a figure slumped over on the ground, dead, with perhaps some limb or other extremity removed neatly from the body. To the troll, this maneuver was just a thinking involved

But instead of seeing his victim lying dead or maimed on the ground, he saw the rather strange sight of his own severed arm, still gripping the blade, flying off into the brush. That wasn't supposed to happen he thought. Reality suddenly struck the troll. He glanced down to where his right arm should have been. All that was left was a fleshy, bleeding stump. Unknowingly, he dropped the crystal amulet from his left hand and began running towards the path.

The excruciating pain in his leg followed by the uncanny taste of dirt in his mouth helped the troll realize his untimely fate. This thing, this pursuer, had him now. There was no escape from this hell. He would "lie" by these skeletal remains for eternity.

The troll glanced down to his leg. Blood was pouring from it onto the dirt floor. Ouch. Probably shouldn't have looked at that. The wound in his leg looked worse than it felt. After much effort, he managed to roll over onto his back and look at the clearing where his attacker should have been. There was nothing. Only the skeleton and the amulet. The troll blinked several times and shook his head. Nothing still. No Wait! Did the amulet just move or was his mind playing games with him? At first, he wasn't sure. It was strange, he thought to himself, that suddenly the movement of an amulet, considering his predicament, had now captured his attention. But to his utter amazement, the amulet now began to rise slowly off the ground and then hang about 7 feet in the air. He then heard the whisper. It wasn't a whisper rather, but someone else muttering a phrase of magic. It was the same voice that he had heard in his ear.

As he sat dumbfounded, staring at this rather strange scene, a figure began to materialize and fill the area around the amulet. It was a large figure with extremely large features. It could only be the features of a High man. The same High man that he had found lying asleep against the tree earlier today. The same High man who had more than enough amulets hanging from around his neck to not share. The same High man who had survived the perils of Krag's Swamp by using some sort of invisibility spell and who now towered over his dying body.

The High man was dressed rather extravagant, well, rather extravagant for the primitive High man race. On his head he wore a well-oiled, grey adventures hat, trimmed with a lustrous, raven feather. He had on a long, black, raven feathered, overcoat and underneath, the troll could make out a pure white dress shirt, with the initials "PD" embroidered above the left breast pocket. He was wearing what looked to be some raven black silk pants and had on, what appeared to be some raven-black, laen toed, crocodile skin, boots. In his right hand he held a bloodied, broadsword of magnificent qualities. Not only was this High man a warrior, but he appeared to be of nobility of some sort. Strangely, the mud troll could not see the High man's face.

The troll's fate had been sealed, and he accepted it. At least he would die a warrior’s death. Staring directly into the High man's eyes he murmured the Common word "Finish". The High man understanding what the troll wanted, bowed respectfully, and then slide his broadsword through the troll’s heart. It was a moment all warriors understand. It was a moment of honor. After searching through the trolls clothing for any valuables the troll might have stolen previously, the High man began walking towards the path. It had been a long day and he was looking forward to getting back to town.

Although the trees blocked almost all of the sunlight from seeing the ground, the faint glimmer of light reflecting off metal in the bush, caught the High man's eye. It was the weapon that the troll had been carrying. After prying the serrated, edged, blade loose from the death grip the troll arm had, the High man carefully examined it. It was crafted of metal and quality like he had never seen before. Only dwarves could forge a weapon as beautiful as this. Perhaps the troll had stolen it from one of them. No, the High man thought. This troll was a warrior of some sort, at some time, at least. He probably picked it up during a battle. Mud trolls were known to take weapons from their victims.

The High man turned the blade over and looked at the crudely carved inscription on the hilt. Although he did not speak troll very well, he was able to make out what the inscription said. It was one word, written in the mud troll dialect. It said, "Forever" _____________________________________________________________________________ The High man lived a long and prosperous life, enjoying all that it had to offer. His old age had now been limited to royal boar hunting expeditions with fellow nobility. All of the wars had been fought. All of the lands had been explored and conquered. Making offspring and hunting was all that was left.

He never found out what the word "Forever" meant on the blade. He never found out until the day he died.

It was on one of those same boar hunting expeditions that he had gone off by himself, tracking a rather bloated mother boar. As he snuck up on the boar, who had stopped to nibble on some acantha leaf, he felt the sharp edge of steel pressing against his back.

He froze dead in his tracks and calmly asked, "What can I do for you friend? Some gold or silver, perhaps, to help you on your way?"

What the High man heard next, sent deathly chills up his spine. Although heavily accented, the High man recognized the voice all too well. It was the voice of a female mud troll, and she muttered only one word, "Revenge".

What a strange feeling it must be to see your headless body lying on the ground next to you......