Wary pushed through the crowd.
“Signey! Get out of there!”
Ignoring his instructions, she gave her own.
“Help me get her down! I’m not leaving her!”
The Giant, amused by all the excitement, whipped Gavriila side to side and watched as the people looked on in horror.
“No!” Signey bellowed in a primal tone.
The Giant flung Gavriila one last time, a snap was heard coming from somewhere in her neck. Her body was tossed in the dirt with a thud; her limbs collapsing in awkward directions, plainly showing that there was no life left inside.
Wary grabbed Signey just before her knees buckled and stood her back up.
“The twins, Signey! Where are the girls?”
She broke out of her longing to see Gavriila climb to her feet unscathed, and pointed back at the mass of onlookers.
“I left them with the other care-maidens.”
Wary searched the faces, finally spotting the group in their usual blue and grey outfits, Una and Inga poking their heads out from behind the women. He guided Signey back; all of the woman embraced one another upon her return to mourn the loss of their own.
“We have to keep moving.” Wary adjured.
Signey and the girls took one last look at Gavriila. The Giants stood over her, daring anyone to try and retrieve her broken body. It was an image that Una and Inga would never forget.
The sea of people plodded along the trail, most of them with their heads hung in defeat. The village was far behind, but salvation was nowhere to be found ahead, and the sun was beginning to set. Talk of resting for the night circulated throughout the group and some families fell back to set up camps. When the care-maidens took up the debate, Signey waded through the crowd to find Wary for advice.
“I know you’ve traveled this path many times.”
“Then take it from me, Signey, we need to keep moving. There could be creatures out here.” He gestured to the shadows overtaking the mountainside.
“What kind of creatures?”
“I was attacked by a Dimmu Troll right about where we’re walking now. I’m not so sure it didn’t have something to do with whatever King Rikard is up to back there.”
Wary marched forward; there was anger in his steps that Signey identified right away.
“If it’s alright with you, I think we’ll follow your lead.”
His short reply pushed her to inquire.
“Are you mad at me, Wary?”
He immediately halted as if he was hoping she would ask.
“You shouldn’t have left the girls like that! What if the Giants had scooped you up as well?”
“I was trying to save my friend!”
“They need you, you can’t just run into danger without thinking about them.”
“They were safe!”
“That’s Signey the adventurer; never one to weigh the risks.” He mocked with bravado.
“Hey!” She stepped in front of Wary and jabbed her finger in his chest. “I didn’t see anyone else raising their hand for the job. I think I’ve done pretty well, all things considered.”
“Sure, right up until a crisis comes around and you forget all about them.”
“Oh, I get it, this isn’t even about the girls. It’s about us!”
“I think you’re digging a little too deep there.”
“I’m not. This has something to do with us not being as close anymore.”
“That’s nonsense. I went to a different village, there was nothing to be done about it.”
“Exactly! You were mad, just like I was, but I’m not blaming you for it!”
Wary’s mother intervened.
“Stop it, you two! We need to stick together.”
The tension subsided, and their little blow up suddenly made Wary feel like he was finally seeing his old friend again for the first time. It allowed him to come up with a plan.
“Grab the twins and the care-maidens and bring them up front. If enough of us keep going, maybe more will follow.”
“Ok,” Signey said with a smile. She gave him another jab. “It’s good to have the old Wary back.”
“Which Wary is that?”
“The one with testicles!” She shouted back as she ran off.
He thought proudly, “I’ve got testicles.”
They pushed on through the night, not pausing for rest. When heavy fog rolled down the mountain, leaving them with nearly zero visibility, Wary ordered torches be lit and appointed lookouts to guide them safely along the steep ledge. The people took notice and listened to his directions, making it to Wilverth safely due to his leadership.
As they approached the village limits, some of the locals got spooked. The glow of the torches, coupled with sounds of hundreds of footsteps gave a hostile impression. A small force was raised to defend Wilverth, but Wary took charge once again. He told the tale of King Rikard the Last banishing them from their village. He asked for nothing more than a place to rest, everything else could be figured out in the morning. The villagers responded by opening up their homes, barns, even the tavern; anywhere they could make room.
The next day, as everyone awoke, more villagers were spotted coming up the road.
“Must be the ones that stopped for the night.” One man presumed.
“There were plenty more than that.” Another added.
The group appeared to be under duress as they closed in on the village. Some were limping, bleeding, crying.
“What happened? Where are the rest of them?”
Orri was the first to speak up as they made it to the gateway. “We were attacked by Dimmu Trolls.”
“It couldn’t have been.” A man said softly.
Orri heard the skepticism and asserted himself. “I know what I saw.”
“How many were there?” Wary asked.
“I couldn’t tell. The fog was too thick, maybe a bunch of them… maybe not.” Orri shook his head. “They picked off five or six of us. We heard the screams coming from other camps; this lot got up and made a run for it. A couple more dropped off the ledge in the scramble. I doubt they made it.”
Concern spread throughout the villagers.
“If there are Dimmu Trolls out there, then none of us are safe!”
“We’ll all have to leave Wilverth!”
Everyone was coming unhinged; Wary spoke up.
“There are too many of us to make the journey to the next village; it’s a great distance, and many won’t survive on the tall peaks we would have to climb. We will stay here. We can build defenses and keep watch. We will protect each other here in Wilverth.”
“So, we just live in fear?” Someone shouted.
“Of the Trolls? Are they all that different from Skogkatts or horned swine?”
“Yeah, they don’t talk!”
They all laughed, including Wary, but he continued. “We don’t have to be afraid; not of Trolls, or Giants, or Kings! We can all make a life here… together.”
It wasn’t exactly an impassioned speech. The crowd didn’t cheer, they didn’t rally around Wary and name him their Earl, but they agreed with what he was saying. They got to work building homes for the newcomers, after that, they started on fences around the farmland. Finally, they put walls around the village border. They erected a proper gate where the roads converged to enter Wilverth; this time, it closed and could be reinforced. Watchtowers were constructed on each side. They were not heavily fortified by any means; the walls only stood three to four feet high, the gate only ten, but they didn’t let their guard down. There were always lookouts in the towers and defense training for anyone who cared to learn. After what they had all seen or been through, practically the whole village was equipped to keep Wilverth secure.
In the years that followed, Wary stopped acting like a leader and went back to his old habit of procrastination. He would talk of the places he would go, the adventures he would have to anyone who would listen. Many times, there was only one person listening; unlike the others, Signey did not forget the mettle he had shown. Their friendship was rekindled and the two were soon closer than ever.