“It will take a day to get to Lake Pentip,” Corin said. “I remember going
there once before, when I was young, with my father. We caught the biggest
farnut you have ever seen.” He held out his hands to show how big. He
looked up when he heard the others laughing at him. “What? What’s the
“There’s nothing better than an ‘it was this big’
story,’ Braden said.
“Farnuts don’t get that big, even if you count their
fins and tails. I read the biggest farnut was only thirty-two inches
long.” Cafania slapped Corin on the back. “I’m sure it seemed that big to
you when you were a little boy.”
“Well, it did.” Corin, embarrassed, moved ahead of the
After about five miles
they stopped to rest. They sat among an orchard of peach trees, catching
their breaths. “How long did you say that fish was?” Cafania chuckled.
“Oh, forget it. The lake’s
about six more hours. If we want to make it before dark, we’d better get
moving. Fingal, climb this tree and knock down a couple of dozen peaches.
I doubt if the farmer will miss them.” Corin’s mouth watered thinking
about biting into a juicy peach.
“Me? Why me? Why do I have
to do everything? I don’t want to climb the tree. Why can’t you just grab
that branch and shake it.?” Fingal whined.
“Because the peaches will
splatter on the ground and then we won’t be able to eat them. That’s why!
Now climb the tree!” Corin grabbed Fingal’s arms and lifted him onto a
branch. “Toss them gently.”
Fingal picked one and when
Corin wasn’t looking, he dropped it on the man’s head. Peach pulp
splattered in Corin’s hair. “Why you….”
“I didn’t do it on
purpose. It slipped. Sorry.” Fingal turned his head and giggled.
“I heard that!” Corin
Fingal gently dropped
peaches into Corin’s hands. He passed them out and they each ate one and
packed the rest away. For the next hour Corin had to swat flies and bees
away from his sticky hair.
None of them noticed Kolin,
about 200 feet away from them. As they arose, he ran off.
“Do any of you know
anything about Pinea? What kind of name is that anyway? Pinea? It sounds
like a disease or something.” Gorbal took his Book of Spells out of his
pack. In the back there was a section of maps. He searched for Pinea. “Ah,
here it is.”
“I don’t know a thing
about it. I’ve never heard of it,” Cafania said.
“Me neither,” added
“What about you, Corin?”
Gorbal gazed at the man.
“I told you, I’ve been
there. When I was a boy, my father and I traveled this area. We just
passed through it. There isn’t much to see, only a small village and a lot
of ruined buildings.”
They walked along the path
at the bottom of the ridge of the Ambron mountains, as directed by the
Lord of the Seas. It was a smooth trail. There were no rocks, no drops, no
dragons, trolls, or snow monsters. As the sun set, they arrived at Lake
Pentip. They made their way around the lake, through the marshy bog, until
they reached the other path. “We’ll stop here for the night.” Corin
dropped his pack on a patch of dry ground. “It’s not quite like I
remembered though. It’s a bit boggy and smelly.”
Braden looked around.
There was nothing but soggy ground and mosquitoes. They could hear toads
croaking. “What do you say, Corin, if we catch another fish, ‘this big’.”
He held up his hands and burst into hysterical laughter. “Just fooling
around, Corin. Don’t be angry. I’ll stop.”
Corin mumbled a few swear
words under his breath and went down to the lake shore. “If I’d brought my
pole,” he shouted back to the others, “we’d probably catch one.”
“I can find a stick. I’ve
got some string in my pack. If I find one can we fish, Corin? Can we? Can
we? I’ve never caught a fish before. I don’t care how big it is.” Fingal
“Find us a few sticks.
They’ll need to be strong and long,” Corin said.
Cafania and Gorbal moved
up higher, where the ground was dryer and put their packs down. Cafania
swatted mosquitoes. “Annoying pests.” She smashed one on her leg.
Braden started a fire. It
caught quickly and soon flickers of flame danced across the kindling.
There was a lot of moisture in the air. He figured within an hour they
would be surrounded by fog. The fire burned brighter as he tossed more
sticks and branches on. Fingal came back with three long sticks.
Corin tested them out.
“What’ll we use for bait? How about Fingal?”
Fingal didn’t find any
humor in the comment. “No! We can use worms, or mosquitoes, can’t we? I’ll
go and dig for worms.” Fingal ran off and poked holes in the ground,
searching for wiggly creatures. Corin and Braden tied wires to the sticks
and made hooks. Fingal came back a few minutes later with six long, slimy
worms. Corin put one on the end of the hook. “That’s disgusting,” Fingal
said. Corin put the other two on the hooks and put the remaining three in
his pocket. They walked down to the lake, tossed their line into the
water, and then sat on a rock, waiting for a fish to bite.
Cafania spread out her
blanket. She watched the fishermen at work. Gorbal read his Book of
Spells. After a few minutes, he said, “Cafania, did you know I have a
spell for sea monsters, spiders, winter storms and tornadoes, but I don’t
have one for whales? Isn’t that weird?”
She thought about it for a
few minutes. “I guess there isn’t room in the book for everything.” A star
shot across the sky. The moons glowed bright and the heavens danced with
billions of stars. “I wonder if there is life on any other planet. Seems
silly to think we’re the only ones, doesn’t it?”
Gorbal looked up. “I’m
sure there is. I’ve often wondered about that myself. Maybe when I get
home, I’ll take up astronomy.”
Cafania mumbled as she
watched Fingal and Corin. She saw Braden standing off by himself. An air
of bravity, confidence and dependability radiated from him. She really
cared for him. He wasn’t crude and rude like Corin. “Oh well,” she said
and shut her eyes.
“Why did you say that?”
Gorbal wondered, turning to look at her.
“No reason. I wonder if
they’ll catch any fish.”
* * *
Kolin passed the lake. He
knew if he kept running he’d be in Pinea in a few hours. He passed through
a forest. A family sat in a cabin eating supper. Out in the pasture stood
a cow, a horse, and a few pigs. Kolin went for one of the pigs. It
squealed helplessly as Kolin ripped out its insides, tearing the flesh off
in just a few minutes. The man in the cabin came running out. The others
followed. “A wolf! Get my gun!” The father shouted. His son ran in and
brought it out. “Dag blasted wolf. He’s killed Pearlie.” The man shot into
the air. Kolin ran off into the trees, pieces of flesh still hanging from
Furious about being
disturbed, he decided to forget about the farm animals and get revenge on
the five who killed him and he knew how he was going to do it. Instead of
heading for Pinea, he ran towards Carmia, which was Braden’s hometown.
There was someone there that he could use. He knew exactly how to plot his
revenge. As he ran, his red eyes beamed. Blood dripped down his face onto
the ground below. Revenge! As a last thought, he ran back to the cabin;
the family sat around a table. The wolf roared. The father ran outside and
aimed the gun. Kolin attacked from the side. While the family watched in
horror, the wolf mutilated and devoured the father. His screams of agony
echoed through the still night. The others barred the door. Kolin sneered.
Tempted to go through the window and destroy them, he changed his mind and
headed for Carmia.
* * *
Just as Braden predicted, a thick fog rolled in,
settling over and around Lake Pentip. Corin and Fingal brought two fish
they’d caught and dropped them into a black pan sitting atop two rocks
next to the fire. “I caught that fish,” Fingal boasted. “I caught it,
didn’t I, Corin? You didn’t catch it. I did. You caught the small one,
didn’t you, Corin? Tell them, Corin, tell them.”
“Would you shut up!” Corin barked at him. “Yes, you
caught the biggest fish. I didn’t. Does that make you happy?”
Fingal’s head drooped. “I was just proud, Corin. I
hardly ever catch a fish.”
Seeing that he’d hurt the dwarf’s feelings, Corin
apologized. “I’m tired tonight, Fingal.”
Fingal managed a smile and sniffed the sizzling fish.
Gorbal smelled the food frying over glowing embers.
“That does smell tasty. Is there enough for us all?” He nudged Cafania.
She looked at the thickening fog. “Let’s move closer
to the fire. The air has a chill to it.”
Gorbal turned a page in his book. “I’ll be over
shortly. I’ve got two more pages to read. Go on. I’ll be fine. Save me a
bite of the fish.”
Cafania walked over to the fire. She rubbed her
fingers together and took a peek at the fish. “This looks like it’s done.
I think there’s enough for us all to have a hefty portion, thanks to
Fingal’s catch. Gorbal, come and get something to eat.” When she turned to
wave him over, she couldn’t see him. “Where’s Gorbal? He was just reading
his book. Now he’s gone.”
“He probably went to the lake to relieve himself,”
Corin said. “I’ll go and find him. You have some of that fish. Mine tastes
better by the way.”
Corin headed for the lake. He disappeared into the
mist, which only grew thicker, the closer he moved to the water. “Gorbal!
Gorbal!” Corin tripped on something. “What was that?” Hardly able to see,
he reached down and felt a body. “Gorbal, is that you? This is no time to
be taking a nap. Gorbal?” Corin shook the gnome. “Cafania! Braden!” He
stood and shouted to the others. “Down by the lake. I found him. I think
Cafania dropped her bite of fish and rushed towards
Corin’s voice. Braden beat her there.
“Someone hit him on the head,” Corin said. “He’s
alive. Let’s take him back to the camp.”
“If someone hit him on the head, then that means we’re
not alone out here.” Braden grabbed Gorbal’s legs while Corin held his
Cafania walked along
beside them, her arm on Braden’s. “Wait, where’s his Book of Spells? Does
he have it with him? Is it in his pocket? He was reading it when I last
Braden searched the
gnome’s pockets. “Not in here. It might have fallen from his hands when he
fell. I’ll go back and search for it. You and Corin drag him back to the
fire. I’ll be right back.”
“Wait, Braden.” Cafania
called after him, but he’d already vanished.
Corin and Cafania lay
Gorbal near the fire. She rubbed his arms and legs, trying to wake him.
“Found it!” Braden’s voice
seeped through the fog to the camp. He came running back with the book in
his hands. “He must have dropped it.”
“Thank goodness,” Cafania
said. “What about the Healing Stone?” She grabbed Gorbal’s pack and
searched through it. “Ah, here it is, down at the bottom.”
“We’d better stay near the
fire tonight.” Corin looked down at the unconscious gnome. “Wake up,
Gorbal.” He shook him back and forth. “Fingal, get me some water.”
“I’m not going to the
lake. It’s foggy and something’s out there.”
“You stupid dwarf. Get me
some water from my water bag.” Corin sighed with frustration. Fingal ran
off to get it.
Gorbal opened his eyes.
“What happened? Why does my head hurt?” He reached up and felt the lump.
“Someone knocked you out
from behind. I thought they were looking for the Healing Stone or for your
Book of Spells, but they didn’t take either of them.” Corin glanced at
Cafania. “Here are both things.” Each handed the gnome his possessions.
“We should take shifts.
I’ll go first,” Braden said. “I’ll keep watch for two hours and then I’ll
wake up Cafania. Fingal and Gorbal, if you’re feeling all right, can take
shifts when it’s your turn.”
All others agreed and lay
on their bedrolls. Braden’s watch passed uneventfully, aside from the
usual fog noises and night creatures.
* * *
The wolf crept into the
village of Carmia. Darkness hovered; clouds moved across the two moons,
creeping like gray snails. Kolin thought back to Braden’s conversation,
describing Bramber. The wolf crept from hut to hut, peeking inside each
for the woman. He found her; her long golden hair flowed over the side of
the bed. He entered the hut and stood watching her in silence from a dark
Bramber sensed something
evil and opened her eyes. She saw the wolf’s long teeth inches from her
face. She was about to scream when Kolin clamped his jaws around her
throat. Terrified, she stopped moving, wondering why the wolf wasn’t
ripping her throat out. After several minutes he released her. She bounced
out of bed and ran to the corner of her hut, cowering in fear. The wolf
inched his way towards her. He motioned for her to climb on his back. His
raspy voice croaked, “On my back, woman.” Bramber understood, knowing the
wolf could kill her any time he wanted. Rather than die, she saddled the
wolf, her bare legs rubbing against his filthy fur. The fact that the wolf
spoke didn’t surprise her.
Kolin left the hut with
Bramber woman clinging to his back. He darted through the woods for an
* * *
Braden woke Corin up and
then he lay down to sleep. Thoughts entered his mind, keeping him awake.
He sensed that Bramber was somehow in danger.
Corin’s two hour shift
passed with boredom. He struggled to stay awake, being lulled to sleep by
the incessant chirping of crickets. When Cafania took over, Corin fell
asleep within seconds.
She leaned against a
boulder and slid to a sitting position. The fog was dissipating and she
could see down to Lake Pentip. Hills surrounded the water on three sides.
Though she tried not to think about it, her mind kept wandering back to
Gorbal’s mysterious attack. Toads croaked as they sat at the water’s edge,
calling to one another. “There must be millions of them.” The sound was
overwhelming. She covered her ears, but it didn’t help. Off in the
distance a wolf howled. A tap on the shoulder made her jump. She turned
around with a scream and saw Gorbal standing there. “Are you ready to do
this? Is your head all right?”
“Yeah, sure. I’m all
right. You go and get some sleep. The sun will be up in a while. By the
way, will you hold onto my Book of Spells and the Healing Stone during my
shift, just in case?”
“Just in case of what?”
Cafania stood and brushed off her pants.
“You know, just in case
whoever or whatever it is tries something again. Don’t worry,” he said
seeing the look of fear cross her face. “Go to sleep.”
Cafania pulled her bedroll
closer to the fire and lay on top of it, curling in a ball for warmth. Her
eyes stayed open, keeping watch on Gorbal. After a while she gave up and
Gorbal gazed at the fire.
Sparks popped and floated into the dark sky. A sharp object jabbed into
“Come with me, gnome. Keep
quiet, or you die.”
Without arguing or
speaking, Gorbal let the man guide him over the hill and away from the
camp. He realized soon enough that it was a knife poking at his back.
“Stop. Now hand over that
“What book?” Gorbal
The knife dug in deeper.
“Don’t try it with me, gnome. You know very well what book; the Book of
Spells. Hand it over.”
“Can I turn around and see
who I’m dealing with?”
“No funny stuff. This
knife is razor sharp, mind you.” The man snarled.
Gorbal turned to look. His
gaze moved upwards. “How tall are you anyway, seven feet?” The man nodded.
“Do you have a name?”
“I suppose it won’t hurt
to tell you since I’m going to kill you soon as I get that blasted book.
My name’s Bofot Grink.”
“Bofot Grink? That’s an
unusual name.” Gorbal noticed the man had scraggly gray hair and a beard
down to his waist, filled with crawling bugs and dried bits of food. His
teeth were rotting in his mouth and his breath reeked of putridness. “I
don’t have the book.”
“What do you mean, you
don’t have it? I saw you with it not long ago. I’m near ready to slit your
throat from ear to ear. Now tell me where it is.” Grink snapped and
whopped Gorbal across the face.
“I told you I don’t have
it with me. Feel my pockets if you don’t believe me.” Gorbal pulled his
arms away from his sides and rubbed his cheek.
Grink ran his rough, dirty
hands up and down Gorbal’s body.
Gorbal flinched at the
man’s touch. “Who are you anyway and what do you want with my Book of
“You don’t have the book.
You stupid gnome! Where is it? Did you bury it somewhere? Does one of your
friends back there have it? That’s it. You gave it to one of them,
probably the woman. I’ll take great pleasure in slitting her throat.”
“Don’t be too hasty. I put
it somewhere safe. If you want me to show you the book, then you need to
answer some questions for me.” Gorbal reached inside himself to find
courage to go on.
The giant of a man sighed.
“What do you want to know?”
“Where are you from?”
Gorbal began the questions.
“I’m from the swamp lands
of Orgill. I heard about your book from a stranger that came through our
village doing trade. I’ve been tracking you since you left with that
woman, keeping my distance. Did you know there’s a wolf following you?”
Grink sat on a rock and scratched his beard.
“What do you want the book
for then? Do you even know what it does? It is a book of spells, but I am
the only one who can do them. They’re gnome spells, not for humans.”
“Then I want you to use
your spell book and get me some money.” Grink yawned.
Gorbal kept Grink
distracted as Corin snuck up behind him. He smashed a large rock down on
Grink’s skull. Gorbal heard the crack as the rock broke in half. The giant
fell backwards, unconscious.
Corin grabbed Gorbal by
the hand and dragged him back to camp. “Everyone up. Our mysterious guest
has surfaced. We’ve got about ten minutes before he wakes up and he’s not
going to be happy.”
They gathered their
belongings, put out the fire and ran down the trail towards Pinea. After
two hours the sun burst over the horizon. “Let’s take a break,” Cafania
said, huffing and puffing. She dropped her back and fell to the ground.
“You guys can go on if you want, but I’m resting.”
They collapsed beside her.
“Tell us about our mystery person.” Braden took a deep breath.
“It’s a giant of a man,
but old. Smells smoothing awful, but he’s strong,” Corin said.
“What does he want with
Gorbal?” Braden rolled onto his back.
“He wants my book. He
actually wants me to make money for him using my book,” Gorbal said. “He’s
a big oaf from the swamps. How long until Pinea?”
Fingal whined. “Let’s stay
here for a while. I can hardly breathe.”
“Good, then shut up. I’ll
find us something to eat.” Corin searched among the stones and boulders.
He caught several lizards and found a handful of grubs under some granite
rocks. “Breakfast is served.” He dropped the wriggling creatures in the
center of the group.
Cafania looked at the
lizards with broken necks and bulging eyeballs. “No thanks. I’ll pass.”
She watched in disgust as Corin and Braden popped some grubs in their
mouths and chewed.
Gorbal opened his hands
for some. He bit off a lizard’s head and chomped away on it.
“What about you, Fingal?
Will it be lizard or grubs?” Corin tossed a lizard at the dwarf.
“I want grubs.” Fingal
switched, leaving the dead lizard near Cafania. “This is for you,” he
“No, thank you.” She
turned her head so she didn’t have to watch them eat. “Someone’s coming.
We’ve got company.”
Gorbal gulped and choked
on a grub. “It’s Bofot Grink, the giant. He’s coming to get me.” The gnome
stood and ran up the trail.
“He’s probably after me,
or will be once he figures out I hit him on the head.” Corin slipped his
pack on and ran after Gorbal.
“Wait for us,” Braden
shouted. He took Fingal’s and Cafania’s hands. “Come on you two.”
“Wait till I get my hands
on you, you stupid gnome. When I find out who bashed me on the head, I’ll
rip his arms and legs off. You’re all gonna die.” Grink grunted as he
darted after them.
Corin stopped running.
“Wait a minute. There are five of us and only one of him. What are we
afraid of?” The others stopped.
“Um, he’s twice the size
of us and he’s moving right towards us,” Cafania said.
“We’ll be okay. Stick with
me on this.” Corin dropped his sack and pulled out his knife.
It took only a few moments
for the ugly giant to catch up with them. He panted, trying to catch his
breath. “Which one of you hit me?” He eyeballed the group. “I know it
wasn’t you, gnome.” He pulled a sharp dagger from his belt. “Well, I guess
if you won’t tell me, I’ll have to kill all of you.”
Braden and Corin backed
away and the others ran to hide behind a rock.
“So it was one of you
two,” Grink said.
“Has anyone told you that
you’re one ugly man? Your breath stinks too,” Corin said, plugging his
nose with his fingers.
“Many people have told me
that.” Grink grinned, exposing his brown teeth. “But none of them have
lived to tell anyone else about it.” He moved closer to Corin and Braden.
Braden removed his knife
from its sheath. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Grink was within striking
distance. He sliced the air with his knife, coming inches from Corin’s
face. A gray-furred wolf lunged at the giant, pulling him down.
Corin and Braden stood in
shock as the wolf ripped the man’s back off. Pieces of flesh and skin
dripped from the wolf’s mouth. The man screamed in intense pain as the
wolf tore into his thighs.
“Come on,” Corin said.
The five travelers grabbed
their things and ran. When they’d reached a safe distance, Fingal stopped
and looked back. There was nothing much left of the giant now. All Fingal
saw were the wolf’s red eyes, glowing. “It’s him. It’s that wolf again.”
They didn’t rest again
until they’d reached Pinea.
* * *
After Kolin had devoured
the man, he gained more strength and roared. His voice echoed off the
surrounding mountains. He’d dropped Bramber in a patch of grass before his
attack and ran back to where she lay.
She knew she couldn’t
outrun him and he’d have picked up her scent had she tried. Bile rose in
her throat when the wolf returned with blood caked on his paws and legs
and bits of skin dangling from his teeth.
Kolin motioned for her to
climb on his back again. “Hurry up!” He ran toward Pinea, now certain of
his destination. Before he reached the village he searched for and found a
cave. He dropped Bramber off, staring at her. “Don’t leave.” She
understood; if she left the cave, she would die. The wolf ran toward Pinea
and watched as Braden and the others arrived and were greeted by the