The rock troll's head bounced off Jorn's shield with a satisfying thud. Two quick strikes with his short sword — the last twisting through it ribs and finding its heart — finished the beast off. The huge, lifeless body collapsed into a pile, joining its six brethren strewn about the mountain pass. The blood rushed hard in Jorn's ears for a moment as the adrenaline faded, then he sat down hard on his rump, armor rattling against his weapons.
Kale glanced at his younger brother, knowing that he was just winded from the fight, and hadn't been critically injured. A gash here and a bruise there would heal. A lost finger or limb was another story.
He wiped the sweat from his brow, cooling quickly following the brief but intense battle. Jorn had grown harder, these past few weeks. They had journeyed for the better part of a season, now, and his sibling was looking a little worse for wear. The travel was difficult for someone raised mainly as a farmer; though they had practiced their swordplay with the local lads regularly, then had skirmished daily in their small town's militia for brief weeks before leaving, they had no formal training and their skills were rough and unrefined.
Until six weeks ago, Jorn had never killed a soul. Since then, dozens had fallen to his blade. Now, as they sat surrounded by the corpses of these godless beasts, Kale was struck by how quickly Jorn had adapted to living life by the sword. As mercenaries in the employ of Lord Rallek, they had expected to live a good life of wine and wenches, and to rarely have to raise weapons except to keep drunks, beggars and various hawkers away from their wealthy master.
That had all changed in the ambush.
Their employer's remains now lined the bottom of a river in the lowlands. Most of his entourage and half of the score mercenaries in their command had perished or been dragged away during the attack. Of the ten that had survived, another four had died or been taken prisoner by their enemies since that time.
Finding themselves in the middle of the mountains, far from home, an incredibly long six weeks later, they were running out of options.
Their only healer had been hit by the trolls right at the outset of this last attack. He'd taken a stone club to the side of the head; his skull caved in nicely, it was probably time to bury him before the scavengers started in on them.
Now they were only five, and they were on the run.