"Oooooooff...vooov...vooob!" boomed Lladdwr, flashing the red patches in his wings and tail, lowering his head and popping his beak as he pranced alongside another troll before flattening him with a brutal sideways kick. Lukus ran through a third one, and was yanking out his claymore when Soraya put an arrow into the mouth of a fourth, who had just stepped up with his club, all ready to brain him. Ceidwad and Lladdwr had each just taken down another brute apiece when yet another troll grabbed away Soraya's bow and started dragging her off into the timber.
"Soraya!" cried out Lukus as he dashed after them. "Stinking troll cachu!"
"Wooob...doooff...voooob!" boomed Arwr as he overtook Lukus with a half dozen springy strides to knock the troll flat and pin him fast to the ground with a scaly foot on each arm. He gave his feathers a thorough shake, pinched off the skin from the tip of the brute's nose for good measure and turned his head to face Lukus with both eyes. "So what do you want me to do with this thing, Prince Lukus? Very well, I can wait. You need a moment," he said as Soraya and Lukus grabbed each other into a frantic embrace.
"Here are these again, dear," said Ceidwad, bringing forth a beak full of bow and arrows.
"Well he's certainly earned his own death," said Lukus, turning back with closed eyes to treasure Soraya with another quick squeeze.
"By all means," said Arwr. "Well, I'd certainly do him in for you, but it would be understandable if either you or Soraya wanted to...or you might want to save him and
question him, first..."
question him, first..."
"And then kill him," said Lukus. "That might be just the thing..."
"And we may be killed, merely a-standing here," said Lladdwr as his neck went fluffy, swinging his head up to his full height to peer over the thicket at the pandemonium of trolls and Elves all about the burning castle.
"Make for the Magic River," said Ceidwad as she squatted onto her keel. "Please get on, Princess Soraya. You must be exhausted. And Lukus, you ride on Lladdwr." At once they were underway, with Lladdwr and Arwr steering the whimpering troll by popping their ponderous ebony beaks at his ears and pinching him mercilessly when he dared to hesitate or to step wide of where they wanted him to go.
"I understood why we might not want to go straight there when we turned this way," said Soraya, as Ceidwad lifted open a cellar door ringed by thick evergreen shrubbery at the far end of the arboretum, "but why are we hiding? It's urgent that we get down to the caverns."
"We are," said Ceidwad, ducking to step inside as her voice took on echoes. "This is the secret way..."
"I'll say!" said Soraya. "I've spent the last two hundred and forty years growing up here, and I knew nothing about this."
"How did you know about it, Ceidwad?" said Lukus, reaching out to feel of the clammy stone ceiling. "I never knew you ever went inside until you came into the castle to warn us."
"It's not that we can't, we just avoid it unless it's a matter of life and death. I've been in and out of here five times, helping to see the enchanted creatures down to the river. It's a long way too, maybe four league."
Arwr closed the door behind them. When he discovered that the troll had defiantly planted his feet, he clamped onto a buttock and twisted his beak.
"Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf!" yelled the brute as he lurched forward. "Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnadyr-difarr ja! Fnaphn-nty ntu!"
"Fnafo-dyrnyr-truf. Fnadyr-diffarr ja. Fnadyr-difarr ja. Fnaphn-nty ntu," said Arwr.
"You understand Trollish?" said Lukus.
"Not a single word of it," said Arwr.
Ch. 18, The Burgeoning
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps