The blow came from somewhere over my left shoulder. I was dodging it and raising my own sword even before my mind was aware of it.
The sound of pierced bone and flesh is something I will never get used to. No time to think about it now, more shapes move in the fog.
An arrow hits the cave wall, barely missing my head. I throw a quick dagger towards the other end of its path, roughly at eye level. That wet sound again, god, how I hate it.
The end of the tunnel is not far, I can see the light beyond the bend… I can also see the shadows of those waiting for me.
I try to count their number, maybe three? I don’t like the odds, but then again I never do. I pick up a second sword from a dead hand, the odds suck just a tiny bit less.
I get as close to the bend as silent as possible, they already know I have to pass by them, my only advantage is not letting them know when.
I hold my breath and get as close to the dark wall as I can, getting ready to play the waiting game. It doesn’t take long. You can always count on their courage beating their brains.
They enter the cave single file, swords ready. One, two, three… four? Damn, my odds suck again. Time to play hardball. I quietly lower the sword and take my battle-axe, not much space to use it as freely as I’d like in here, but at least I feel a little better feeling its weight in my hand.
They go right past me, their eyes still not used to the darkness. I try to stay as quiet as the stones, if they go further in I may have a chance to slip out of the cave and be gone before they realize they’ve missed me.
They stop suddenly, one of them must have heard something. I can see them pretending not to notice me, their whole bodies tensing before the charge.
They turn and run towards me, yelling at the top of their lungs. I feel a knot tightening in my stomach as I go into a fighting stance. I let them come to me, and let my axe fly. Again I hear that hated wet sound as armor, flesh and bones are sliced open. Two against one now.
They separate, trying a double front attack. I block one blow with my axe and fend off the other one with my sword. An arrow grazes my shoulder, I feel the blood running down my arm. This time I throw my axe towards the darkness where it came from. I hear soft and squishy things hit the cave floor, the axe has finished the dagger’s job, there’ll be no more arrows this time.
Seeing me loose one of my weapons emboldens my hunters. They charge as one. No more holding back, I’m getting tired of this. I let out a loud roar and thrust my sword with my full strength, describing a wide arch that cleanly cuts thru the air, and their bodies. Their swords clatter loudly as they fall from their surprised and dead hands. Why can’t it ever be easy?
Nauseous from the smell of blood and entrails, I finally walk out of the stupid cave. I sit down among the horses waiting for their now dead masters. As I’m tending to my wounds, I hear the voice of the forest spirit.
“– Forty-one minutes and twenty-seven seconds, almost fifteen less than the last time. You’re learning fast, for a troll.”
As every time I hear him speaking, I wish he had a body so I could smack him right in the face. But he’s the guardian of the forest, and that makes him kinda my landlord, so I simply breathe deeply before answering.
“– Why are you so surprised? To these knights it’s only a quest, a silly way to somehow prove to god fucking knows who just how incredibly brave and heroic they are. For me, they are just a bunch of immature idiots with too much time on their hands and too little brains to care for their own lives.”
The spirit stays silent for a while, then stars laughing. I wonder what he finds so funny in a bunch of young people loosing their lives in such a meaningless way.
“– I’m sorry…” He says, I forgot the bastard can read minds. “– …it just seems funny to me how a pacifist like you can be such a deadly warrior.”
I look down at the blood on my axe and sword.
“– I told you to them killing me is just some sort of morbid game… killing them to me is the only option they’ve left me to survive.”
I wash my weapons in the nearby river and start digging graves for another batch of very young dead fools, tears running down my cheeks. The voice of the spirit stays silent this time.