A Rough Start

"Here." Tor held out a hand toward Kierst, saying, "I'll take your pack."

"But, Tor," she argued, "you've already got your own to carry. I don't want to weigh you down. I can carry my own things."

Tor insisted upon taking the bag, but she again refused. "I won't have you waiting on me hand and foot while we're out here," she said. "I can take care of myself." She touched her Shardstone amulet as she spoke. The smooth black stone reflected the light of the evening desert sun, and Tor thought it looked even more beautiful when she wore it. He grinned and nodded.

"Alright," he said. "You always were stubborn." He laughed, and so did she. They continued their trek into the desert, bowing their heads slightly against the blazing heat and harsh wind. Tor pulled up his scarlet hood, and Kierst wrapped her gem-studded dark blue one around her mouth and nose. 

A howl erupted in the distance, followed by several more. Tor couldn't quite tell how many there were, but he knew what it meant - bad news. A pack of Skol were out hunting. The beasts would almost certainly find him and Kierst. He drew his short sword as the two continued to walk, and stayed close to Kierst's side. Soon, three hulking bear-like figures emerged from behind a dune not far ahead. Tor leaped into action, readying his sword arm and preparing to fight.

"Go, run!" he said to Kierst, and she took off into the desert, running for safety. Tor shouted when she had gotten far enough away from him, to get the attention of the Skol. The dog-creatures charged at him, and Tor threw a throwing ax at the one that was ahead of the other two. When the second one drew near, Tor stood his ground steadily and sent his sword up through the animal's soft neck fur and skin, then stabbed it again in the chest. The last one took Tor by surprise, though, and fell upon him suddenly, knocking him to the ground and placing one paw the size of Tor's shield upon his chest. The weight of the thing was nearly unbearable, and its claws dug into his shoulder. Just as Tor thought it was all over - he would die, Kierst would be left alone in the desert without him - the Skol was shoved off of him by the weight of something else. Tor never saw the other being that had saved him, but he saw the Skol tearing something apart in its characteristic manner of violently swinging its head to and fro before turning back to Tor, who had stood back up and was ready to finish the fight. The beast charged again, and Tor ducked around it, picked up his sword from where it had fallen, then stabbed the massive canine once before cutting its throat.

He would have preferred to use his spear to kill the things in a less messy manner, but that hadn't been an option this time. He regarded the three dead giants with a sense of wonder at not having been slain and torn apart immediately. Then he turned away and went searching for Kierst. He found her in a small cave nearby, and the two decided to camp there for the evening as the sun had now nearly set.

The next day, they reached a small village on the edge of the desert, where they stayed most of the day, vowing to continue the following morning. Tor used the amount of money he had to purchase two horses and some food the two could take with them on the rest of their voyage. He also bought a dagger for Kierst, wishing her to have some way to defend herself. She had reluctantly taken it, teasing Tor for being "almost as bad as my father." Tor assured her that, when the blade saved her life, she might just thank him. 

The End

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