Lightning flashed, a crack of thunder boomed across the land. A lone traveller made his way through a village towards two points of light, the local inn.

The lone traveller opened the door of the inn to drunken looks and stares from the local youth. He shouldered his rucksack and drew back the hood of his cloak. A fat, balding man stood behind the bar absently cutting meat with a small dagger.

"You'll be wanting a room then?" The barman asked, without looking up. "One for the night will do" the traveller replied.

"5 Silver coins" stated the barman. The traveller paid the barman and deposited his belongings in his room.

The traveller went back to the centre of the inn, which had filled up considerably since he arrived. He found a seat at a table in a dark corner of the inn, just out of the firelight.

He looked across to the other resident of the table, an old dwarf and introduced himself. "Greetings, I am Zane" "I be Otho" replied the old dwarf.

"Well Zane, it looks like we are going to be here for a while. This here village, Bladrun is known for having storms which last for a score of days at a time. You won't be able to leave this inn."

Otho looked towards the window where all that could be seen was a curtain of rain, pummeling the earth.It was then that the barman came with the meal for the night. Zane ordered two beers and turned back to his meal.

"Have we met before?" Asked Zane, between mouthfuls.

"'tis unlikely. Although you remind me of a man I once knew, a man by the name of Blade" Otho turned back to his meal.

"My great grandfather was called Blade. I have been told he was a great warrior." Zane said, finishing his meal.

"Aye that he was. He was the greatest warrior of his time, and my best friend." Otho finished his meal and the beers arrived.

Otho fixed Zane with a look, a look telling of ages passed.

"Since we are to be here a while I will tell you the story of this great man." Zane settled into his seat, clutching his beer as the old dwarf launched into story...

"Once upon a time on a dark and stormy night, and this is a true story-"

"You've got to be kidding." Zane interrupted, almost spilling his mug.

"Bwah, I caught Blade with that line too, ya really are his bloodline." Otho retorted. "Actually the skies were dismal that day, a wednesday if I recall correctly..."

From the bushes, the dwarf lept upon the boy's back, grabbing his cheeks as his prey made a sound close to "yeeewarfffuh!" The giant child stumbled around with the ravenous kobold upon his back until he slipped upon a mudpatch, flipping upwards and solidly on the body of his assailant. Scrambling up, the boy yanked his sword from his belt and rained blows upon the dwarf, who was still quite in shock from being squashed. "Arg, get that wooden toy away from me ye stupid manchild!" he yelled as he held up a thick hand to shield himself and the other to rise from the ground.

The young man circled around the now standing dwarf while keeping his sword pointed at his target. "You shall be the first opponent I defeat on my quest to greatness!"

"Not with tha' stick of a weapon ya wieldin." Otho caught a laugh. "You be tresspassin on me lands boy, didn ya read the sign?" The stub man pointed to the sign a mere walk from their location.

"How can I trust you, vile vexing venomous vermin!" Shot back the child, still circling.

"Cuz ya can't read dispite ya vocabulary, and I'm not a vermin, thank ya very much." The boy stopped circling and relaxed his guard, but only slightly. "What's ya doin all th' way out 'ere anyway?"

The boy raised his elaborate stick to the sky. "I am on the quest to greatness!"

Otho stared stalely. "Ya parents know this?"

The child dropped his sword arm to his side taking up a halfboyish stance. "'ve been lost for a few days, but I'm going to prove to them that I can achieve greatness!" He raised his psuedosword to the sky once more.

Otho ignored the last comment altogether, thinking about the possiblity of a reward for the missing child. "Well lad, then come wi' me, Otho the OrgeFlail, and I'll find you greatness and your parents-what's your name?"

Striking another heroic pose the boy answered "Blade, the BeastSlayer!"

Groaning, Otho started walking. "Come along then Boy the BranchSwinger..."

"It's Blade! I swear!" Blade started to follow indignantly

Otho let out another small laugh at Blade's antics. And truly the child was a sight to behold. His plain white shirt ruffled with the steady winds of that day, and though the skies would've presented a dismal attitude, there was a light in his eye like a fire that refused to be put out. On his legs, he wore a pair of dark pants, stained, most likely from running around in the mud that littered the ground from recently fallen rain. Short, disheveled, crimson hair sat atop his head, crimson like a newborn flame. Truly, his entire form seemed to hint at an aura of audaciousness too great for human eyes. Otho looked upon him fondly, if only because of the slight chance that he would get some much needed Silver coins upon Blade's safe return home.

Leaves rustled in the trees around them, as Otho lead the boy to the nearest town. Most likely Blade had run away from there as there was not another town for miles. Moments later, the duo found themselves out of the wild and on to the road to Truigal, a peaceful village spared the trouble of being located on a major trade route.

"Where are you taking me?" asked the boy impatiently.

"Ya'll see," replied Otho, his hard face betraying no hint of his intention. Satisfied with this answer, Blade drew his "weapon" once more and swung it around in the air, yelling out occasionally as imaginary foes were vanquished one by one. Unable to resist, Otho chuckled.

"What's so funny?" retorted the boy, noticing the sudden disturbance in his pretend battle.

"Ya remind me of someone."

"Who? Was he a great warrior?"

"Ya could say that," replied the dwarf, beaming a little.

Finally, after an hour of marching, fighting, and victories, the unlikely companions found themselves at the edge of the village Truigal. Above them, the dismal clouds had begun showering the already waterlogged land with even more drizzle.

"You mean I could've just followed that road to get home?" said Blade, somewhat disheartened.

"Firs' the sign, and now this. I dun see how ya survived that many days out there in the wild. Anyway, so which way's ya home?"

Otho smiled a little, the glint of silver in his eye, as Blade began to lead him around town

Trudging through the mud and rain alike, the lad led the dwarf through the hamlet's roads.

"So, this great hero I remind you of," the boy questioned smugly while holding himself up high, "can you tell me about him."

"Hold it right there, Otho," interrupted Zane. "Is this going to turn into a story with in a story?"

"Nay, human one, I would be too full of mead to keep that mess sorted," replied the dwarf before downing another pitcher. Wiping the foam from his lips and beard, he went on with his tale.

"I cannot tell ya much, man child," confessed the OgreFlail, "as I was only a wee thing myself when I met him, and for a dwarf, that's sayin' somethin'. His name was lost to his own livin' legend, bein' called only then by the title, 'The Mighty'. 'Tisn't typical, but I only remember that human as well as I do since he saved my life when I stumbled into the gold laden den of a drake. I remember everything about him and always shall." Awestruck by the hero's majesty, the human child continued on in silent, deep thought. Otho was contemplating as well but on a different matter. Peering about the city ways and houses, he saw no sign of life at all. Even in the downpour, there should have been some hint of activity. "Ey, kid, is your town normally this quiet? ... Kid?" He awaited a response, but one never came. Blade was intently focused on studying his surrounds with a demeanor the kobold had not seen about him before. "What is it, boy?" No verbal answer was given. The lad squat low to the ground and, before advancing, pointed off in some direction. Confused, the finger's path was traced to the front of a house whose door was smashed open with large claw marks rending the doorway. "Ey, kid, why dun ya get somewhere safe, huh? This doesn't bode well at all." The child had already advanced some way and now remained crouched in the mud with his hand on his makeshift weapon's handle, awaiting something. Before the squat legs of the dwarf could carry him to the boy's position, a terrible thing lurched from one of the alleyways ahead: a large, lumbering beast that walked upon all fours whose speckled hide was covered in sparse bristles and warts. Thick, powerful claws adorned each of its three-toed feet while a mauled carcass hung from its massive jaws. It's long ears perked at hearing the slightest sound of breathing through the heavy rain, and its six eyes went quick to find the source. The top, left one was first to locate the two humanoids, and the rest joined in the honing as its huge body turned to face them.

"I believe we know why the town is so quiet now," coldly stated Blade, who was pulled back by the dwarf.

"Aye, we would," he agreed while removing a thick mace from his back. "Now stay at a distance, boy, this could get ugly.

"But-" A loud click sounded with a turn of the weapon's handle as the large head plummeted to the muddy earth attached by a released chain. Building up speed with his flail in the air, Otho charged the evil beast. The heavy head struck hard and true against the monstrosity's skull, resonating a dull thud through the empty streets. Slowly, its head lowered back to its original position as its many eyes blinked out of conjunction. It was slightly phased by what should have been a fatal blow, but that was all. Its putrid skin was not even scratched. With a sweep of its stout neck, it crashed its head against the kobold, rocketing him up onto, and eventually through, the roof a nearby house.

"Ack, that would be a firs'," the OgreFlail huffed as he worked to gather his wits about him, but then he remembered the child, and knew he had no time to spare. Forcing himself to travel on wobbly legs, he only managed to stagger to the doorway before collapsing against it. Barely able to raise his head, he saw the small boy now boldly standing before the monster while retrieving a pouch from his belt. Opening it, he tossed its contents before the behemoth.

"Are these what you seek, mother," he questioned, "your children?" The pouched contained what seemed to be severed ears, similar to those possessed by the beast who roared fiercely at the presentation. "I did not mean to cause you suffering, but they threatened my life. I did what had to be done. My village should not have been blighted for my actions. Your ordeal is with me, and it will end by me." Drawing up his crooked, wooden sword, he called out, "SplintEdge, Vile Bane, aid me now as you have before." The dwarf smacked the side of his head with a broad palm as he was not sure just how hard he had been hit. In spite his uncertainty, the battle began as the monster lunged at the slayer of her young. Spryly bounding out of the way, he drove his stick down into the back of the beast's head as it passed, striking like steel. Gingerly landing upon the unsteady ground, he faced his enemy who crashed into it harshly. Springing herself backwards with its front legs, her back pair lashed out, catching the boy by surprise, but she was still not quick enough as he was able to lean out of the way enough to avoid any physical harm. The ruffles in his shirt, however, were caught on the talons and were torn from his body.

"Now I know I ain't seein' right," the dwarf swore as he rubbed his eyes thoroughly. Looking up again, the image was still there. The shirtless lad assailed the monster with a consistent rhythm of blows, striking vulnerable locations such as joints and the eyes while weaving around any attacks against himself. Such was not what Otho had trouble accepting. On the boy's chest, and back as well as more, was a large, intricate marking. The black lines bent around his form but a shape arose nonetheless. It was a mark that he had seen when he was but a youth when mountains that were no more had stood. It was The Mark that he had seen emblazoned upon the shield of The Mighty, the great hero of legend

Blade performed a complicated flipping maneuver onto the beast's neck where he plunged SplintEdge into the gap between plates. The beast reared up and Blade fell back. He scrambled to his feet and ran over to where Otho was.

"Are ye all right laddie?" Otho asked as he lurched towards Blade for support. "I'm fine, but are you?" Otho's face turned white as the beast came crashing back down and lumbered towards them. Then, with a colossal scream the beast's legs gave way and it fell to the ground in a shuddering halt.

"Look Blade, I'm sorry about your family..." Otho turned towards Blade "Oh it's ok, I am an orphan you see."

"Yes I do.." Otho realised that all hopes of a reward for the boys return was out of the question.

"All I was told was that I was left at the local monastery till I was 12 and I have been at the Orphanage for a year. The town was no loss for me, everyone was nasty to me except for the monks" Otho drew out his pipe and lit it up before replying,

"Yes. How did you come about to have those marks upon you Blade?"

"I've had them since I was born. The monks didn't know where they came from either." Otho drew deep on his pipe, "Blade, how would you like to come to my home village to see the grand elder. He will tell us the origin of the markings" Blade looked around, deep in thought." Yes, I will come with you Otho" Otho emptied his pipe "Good. but first we will go back to my home and get you a real weapon."

Blade and Otho trudged wearily out of the smoking ruins..

The first rays of the sun pierced the morning fog. Blade awoke to the usual feeling of numbness that comes from spending a night on the hard, cold ground. Smoke circles drifted lazily above him in the morning light.

"Do you know where we are boy?" Otho sweeped his gaze towards the boy's piercing blue eyes "We be on the edge of Arkor Forest by the river Rhun."

"Right you are laddie, I see the monks taught you of the world around you." Blade inspected SplintEdge before thrusting it through his belt.

"We will have to stop in the town of Fang before we traverse the deep forest. We will also go to see my friend Zorgyn of the Glacial Peak who will equip us both with new weapons."

Without a further word Otho and Blade walked towards a faint black shape on the horizon..

Wiping sweat from his face, Otho and Blade trudged toward the town named Fang. There would be supplies they could barter for, or just continue with essentials.

Handing the stick known as SplintEdge to Blade, Otho questioned Blade as to where he came across such a magical weapon, Blade replied with a smile, "I'll tell you another time".

Sighting the town, Blade picked up the pace. "Slow down, I cant go any faster!". Struggling to keep up Otho tumbled into a hole in the ground which seemed awefully big for any rodent

Blade had just about broken into a full-fledged run towards the town, when it dawned on him that the shorter dwarf may not be able to keep up. He turned around, but the elder traveller was nowhere to be seen. The youth was slightly confused and his first thought was that the dwarf had changed his mind and decided that Blade was not worth his time after all. This, of course was rediculous and the young one took no time convincing himself that this was not the case and set off back the other way, calling the dwarf's name.

Otho, meanwhile, was starting to wonder exactly why he was doing all this and wishing he had reconsidered. The pit, which was at least five feet deep, well too high for the dwarf to climb out of, was, thankfully, empty, but the sharp rock he had landed on left him far from comfortable. He could faintly hear Blade calling his name somewhere above, but for some reason he didn't feel like responding just yet. Dragging himself to his feet he looked around his little prison. It was about three feet long and wide and it was completely devoid of anything but dirt and some small bones, probably rats.

Rubbing the new hole in his back, Otho decided to try to dig some notches in the wall to climb out, but quickly discovered that they were too hard and smooth. It was almost as though whatever created this pit deliberatly packed the walls to make it impossible for those who fell in to escape. Shuddering slightly at this thought, the dwarf started circling around the circumference of the pit, trying to find a weak point in the wall.

Blade would have missed the pit completely if it weren't for the torn up clumps of grass and dirt that had been created by Otho as he fell. "Otho?" he called out questioningly as he peered into the pit. It took a moment for him to make out the figure of the dwarf circling the pit, for although the pit was not that deep, it was somewhat hidden from its surroundings and enshadowed under a cluster of trees.

The dwarf looked up at the boy. "Aye, laddie, 'tis me, but unless you have some form of rope, I dun see how yer gonna get me outta here."

"I'll think of something," the lad replied, but before he could, a small shout of triumph from below drew his gaze back to the pit. "What is it?"

The dwarf, busy pursuing his find, didn't answer immediately, but continued pounding away at the portion of wall directly below Blade. Sure enough, the outer inch or so gave way, revealing a hollow portion behind. Otho couldn't see the end. "It looks like a tunnel," he called back to his human companion, "but it's too dark to tell how far it goes."

"Hold on, I'm coming down!" Blade shouted, all too enthusiastically. With a mightly leap, he landed in the pit narrowly missing the dwarf.

"What did ya do a stupid thing like that for?" berated Otho. "Now both of us are stuck in here."

"I can get out," retorted Blade, who then attempted to prove his point by reaching up and trying to pull himself back out. But he underestimated the difficulty of pulling oneself up onto a steep ledge that comes to the top of one's torso, and without enough room to get a running leap, he was not going to get out any time soon. Rolling his eyes, Otho grabbed Blade's pantsleg and ripped off a portion of the oil-treated garment.

"Hey, what was that for!?" the youth protested, but the dwarf didn't answer. Instead he simply picked up what appeared to be a broken hilt of a sword from just inside the tunnel. Stuffing the piece of fabric into the hollowed top of the handle and proceeded to light it with the flint he always carried with him. "Ohhh," the self-proclaimed Beast-Slayer muttered.

"It looks like this path is the only option we've got left," the dwarf told him. So let's go." And with that, the dwarf set off determinedly down the unknown tunnel carrying his makeshift torch with Blade uncertainly following behind

The strange, round walls of the tunnel reflected back the flickering light of the makeshift torch "What do you think made this tunnel Otho?" Blade questioned. "I know not, but by the look of those bones, it bodes ill for us"

The tunnel ended abruptly, opening out into a vast cavern. "Stick behind me laddie, this could get dangerous." Blade obediently fell in place behind otho as they traversed into the middle of the cavern, where the acrid stench of flesh permeated the stale air

As the pair dwelled deeper into the darkness, the youth studied the walls.

"If there were some type of markings left on these walls," spoke the boy in an attempt to uplift the eerie presence cast by their surroundings, "I might be able to tell what sort of beast crafted this as their abode. That would be assuming that something made these walls, of course. A beast would only make it as wide as it was needed to be, and its struggling sides would leave trace markings of its hide. No, this is definitely outside of my specialty."

"How old are ya again?" mocked the dwarf with a false smile. "I dun think ya're allowed to have a 'specialty'." Trekking deeper still, two shadows loomed in the distance, not within the cavern but at its mouth.

"So, do you think it is him?" the short man in a gold trimmed, green cloak questioned.

"I am not quite certain, Vajimis," the larger, wider man doubted, stroking his blonde goatee. "He does fit the description, however, he does seem to be lacking the sharp mind of a true warrior like the chosen one should possess. For example, falling into a hole so obvious and wandering into the home of some man-eating beasts is not what the true one should do."

"But, he does bear the Mark," mentioned Vajimis. A smile grew below his bulb-shaped nose as his companion grudgingly accepted the truth. "Oh, our master will be quite glad that the chosen one has been found. He will be so pleased."

"But he is currently entering the jaws of horrors most foul," the taller man garbed in gilded vestments expounded. "That is not what we want."

"That is true, Hohort," agreed the squat man, rubbing his chinless face. "It is not likely that they will be able to kill the chosen one. Well, we best take care of it ourselves." Pulling out their extravagant arments, Hohort's crossbow that appeared more like a small ballista with bolts tipped with jagged heads and Vajimis' spiked ball and chain of rustless steel links and golden head, they rose them to the sky and called the name of their abysmal overlord.

"Jalyur sema kitar, Nibrou lazive wir!" which translated to something like, "Your wrath will be heard, Lord of Blood, Nibrou!

"So what ever happened to going to your house to get a new weapon?" asked Blade, who was leading the way when he suddenly recalled what Otho had been saying the night before, "And why did we suddenly decide to go visit Zorgyn this morning instead?" Silence reigned for the next couple moments, causing Blade to turn around.

"Well?" asked Blade, trying to get an answer. The dwarf still didn't respond.

"You saw how awesome I was with SplintEdge here," gloated Blade proudly, fingering the hilt of his "sword", "So why?"

"Hang on!" shouted the OgreFlail suddenly, "If ya keep shoutin', I'm gonna have some trouble thinkin'."

"You can't remember?" asked Blade, thinking about how dumb his companion sounded right now.

"No," responded said companion honestly, "I can't remember. It's almost like someone was talkin' to me in my head, tellin' me we should go this way." At this response, Blade decided he wasn't going to get a straight answer, turned around, and kept walking forward.

"Maybe it's fate..." mumbled Otho under his breath.

"Hey, hurry up or you're going to fall into another hole!" shouted the boy as he realized his companion was no longer following.

"Hold up! I'm coming!" yelled Otho in response as he started jogging to catch up.

The two travelers journeyed further and further into the darkness of the cavern, the makeshift torch and their instincts their only guide. Their intuition (and the age old bones engraved into the floor) told them they should return, but their adventurous spirit (and their realization that they couldn't climb back out the way they came) told them to push forward. Five minutes would past before the duo would make a truly remarkable discovery.

"It really was fate..." gasped Otho in awe as he stared up at the great double doors. Let me rephrase that: the great double doors that were inscribed with the very same mark implanted on Blade's chest.

"Look at this!" exclaimed Blade cheerfully, looking at some runic characters inscribed under the mark, "Jalyur sema kitar, Nibrou lazive wir! Your wrath will be heard, Lord of Blood, Nibrou!" Curious, Otho walked over to Blade and inspected the letters himself.

"Impossible! This is ancient Arkorian! Even I can't read stuff like this an' I'm a dwarf!" gasped Otho.

At this point in time, the double doors began to open, the previously bearable scent of decaying flesh was multiplied in strength by at least a hundred times, and a roar could be heard from inside. Of course, that wasn't the only of the duo's troubles. One hundred feet behind them, hidden in the shadows of the dark cave, Hohort drew his crossbow and expertly aimed at the back of Blade's neck..

As the doors began to open, Otho offered a further insight into the runes "Lad these are no ancient runes, they look to have been burned into the ancient metal of the door and are crafted by no such tool the dwarves ever used...they almost look to be made by a finger."

The dwarf stepped back as the doors finally opened against the wall "Blade be on your guard, we are not alone."

The pair trudged through the ancient portal, towards what appeared to be the burnt-out remnants of a once mighty stronghold. Just as Blade was looking around, he felt a searing pain course through the mark on his back. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground as the bolt passed overhead, so close he could feel it cut the air as it passed over him.

"Run boy!" Otho yelled, throwing his torch back through the gates, plunging the area into a semi-darkness cut by a shaft of natural light from the surface. Blade, showing some common sense did as the dwarf commanded and sprinted towards the ruins of the stronghold, closely followed by Otho.

"Dark take them!" exclaimed Hohort, "this will not be easy" he stood up. "Do not be hasty" Hohort's previously silent companion stated, as he held up a finger and uttered a word of power. The runes glowed blood red and the massive doors grinded shut

Blade ran headlong through the dark, his breath coming in ragged gasps as he tired. Otho was beginning to catch up with the lad as he suddenly fell face-first onto the ground. Having been born under the ground, Otho had no problem stopping to help the boy up "Are yeh alright laddie?" he questioned.

Blade sat up, the metallic taste of blood on his lips. "I split my lip, but I'm ok" stuttered the youth, climbing to his feet. "Where will we go now?" he asked the bearded dwarf. "Why we will go straight up of course,now stay still and let me tie this rope to yeh so as not to be seperated in this dungeon".

Firmly secured, the two set off, Otho in the lead further into the abyss..

One hour later, Otho was getting worried. His keen, dwarfish sense of the underground had not failed him, in fact it was the source of his concern. Rather than heading upwards, toward the surface, as he had initially hoped, the path he was following was winding its way downward. "Can't be long now!" he lied to his young companion, adopting a tone far more cheerful than he felt. Initially, Blade had been somewhat frustrated by the rope connecting the duo and repeatedly tried to adopt a quicker pace, only to be pushed back by his dwarf guide. But he was unaccustomed to underground travel, and the stale air, rough terrain, and pitch blackness soon forced him to adopt a pace much more to his shorter companion's liking. Now the boy was lagging behind slightly, and, Otho imagined, probably beginning to feel a bit discouraged. It was obvious, at any rate, that young Blade was getting tired, as he had ceased the steady conversation he had been maintaining some time ago. The silence didn't bother the dwarf much, however, as it gave him time to think.

Someone was trying to kill them, this much was obvious. Otho had felt a nagging sense of danger ever since falling into that hole, but it wasn't until now that this apprehension grew into a certainty- if he and Blade weren't careful, they would die. Unfortunately, the path he was following didn't seem to be leading anywhere and was getting narrower by the minute. In fact, the OgreFlail realized, nothing had gone right for the duo since he had fallen into that hole. That hole was really starting to bother Otho, now that he thought about it. How was it that neither of them had seen it? It wasn't exactly small. For that matter, how had Blade missed it completely, despite having passed the exact same spot mere moments before? And the hole itself, what was it? The walls were far too smooth and uniform to have been made by any sort of beast. But then, who made it? And why? It was almost as if...

A cold shudder interrupted Otho's thoughts as a cool cross breeze hit his face. He had been waiting for this, air movement meant an opening, and an opening could be their way out. And indeed, it did seem as though the path ahead were lighter, but rather than rush for the opening as he had been relishing doing for the past hour, the dwarf stopped short. The chill he felt was not from the damp air, but rather a foreboding, a confidence that he definitively did not want to move on ahead.

"What's going on?" inquired a small voice behind him.

"I think we've found an openin'," responded the dwarf slowly.

"Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's go." Something about the tone of his voice implied that Blade was not nearly as eager to move on as his words made it seem. Apparently the sense of danger Otho had been feeling was not lost on the boy.

"Somethin' tells me that movin' ahead may not be in our best interest," the dwarf muttered.

"Well, we don't have much choice, do we?" Blade countered, sounding a bit more confident now. "The way we entered is sealed, and anyway it took us an hour just to make it here. We don't stand much chance turning back, so we might as well move forward." The boy still seemed a bit uneasy, but he was also determined. And more, he had a point.

"Okay," the dwarf agreed, "we move on." At least they wouldn't be forging ahead unprepared. Otho readied his mace, Blade drew out SplintEdge, and they headed for the light.

They rounded a corner and the narrow path suddenly became an open cavern. A dim light was streaming in from above, most likely from a crack in the ceiling. As he blinked his eyes, adjusting to the sudden presence of light, Otho thought he saw movement, but when his vision returned to normal, there was nothing but rocky walls adorned with random markings. Blade walked up behind him, ducking the dwarf's instinctive swing of his flail. "Sorry lad," he apologized, "you'd better keep close. There's no tellin' what awaits us here."

From a fully concealed enclave, several feet above, a pair of eyes tracked the duo as a calculating mind prepared to strike

It wasn't but a short hour that the travellers arrived at a stout stone bridge, that while it at one time arched over a deep river, the times of any great rains were long gone, leaving only ample underbrush and a fickle trickling stream. "Walk cautiously but with purpose here man-child, scheming's afoot."

"Fear not, man-of-little-measure," Blade scoffed "while this overgrowth may reach your shoulders, gaze down upon it with ease."

A hint of orange caught Otho's eye. Without warning a small fox dashed out to the path ahead of them, turned, hissed, and scampered off towards the bridge. "Scheming, Otho? The fox's dastardedly plan seems to be of little-" A arm as thick as an oak tree shot out and snatched the wild canine. From the bridge's shadow there was a quick yelp and the sound of crushing bones. Otho extended his arm to his side to halt Blade from making a rash move and to the dwarf's relief, intial shock won out to adolescent wonder.

After an eerie silent moment, a pale granite tinted foot exhumed itself from the darkness, followed by the rest of the collossal bridge hermit. "Oi, looks like I have passers by my property, I says," spoke the troll as he flossed his teeth with the tail of his latest snack.

"How'd he fit under that bridge?" Blade asked the dwarf beside him."

"We trolls be rather limber folk, ya know," answered the troll still a good ways away, "and pretty good listeners at that." The grey giant lifted a rather large log and used it as a makeshift cane to lean forward on. "Now, let's talk about my payment, shall we?" He proposed as he smacked his lips and nodded his head

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