Oliana awoke. She did not know how long she had been asleep; she only remembered sobbing and kicking when the rotten-toothed man had pulled her away from her brother. She also held a vague notion that, in order to have gotten her subdued, they must have knocked her out. Whatever the case had been, night had fallen abruptly upon her and the traveling army.
“Wakey-wakey, princess,” she heard the man in front of her on the saddle taunt. She could tell from the foul smell that followed that it was the one with rotten teeth. The army was pacing through an evergreen wood with taller trees than Oliana had ever seen.
She tried to move, only to discover that her arms and hands were tied around the man’s torso with rope. She managed to look behind her and locate Dechar. His mouth was bound in rope, and trolls stood at either side of him, ready to clout him if he made any sudden moves. He made eye contact with Oliana and she could see despair in his eyes. She looked away quickly to avoid crying again. I have to keep strong, she thought. For everyone I’ve lost, I’ve got to keep strong.
“So, young lady, did you have a nice nap?”
Oliana’s voice was hoarse when she spoke. “Please stop talking. Your breath is insufferable.”
“Now that’s not very nice! Here I’ve provided myself as a pillow for you on the journey, and what do you do? You complain, you little whiney brat.” He spat on the ground beneath him. “I bet you’d like to be back in your moor right now, wouldn’t you?”
“Certainly not,” she replied. “I would never go back to that place, even if I could.”
“And why’s that, sweetheart?” he belched.
She paused. “It’s haunted” was her soft reply.
Suddenly, the company came to a halt. Oliana could hear the general yell from up ahead. “We will make camp here tonight and reach the castle tomorrow.”
The camp was made quickly by the soldiers, who were very relieved by the order to halt after such a long day. Oliana could see that their numbers had diminished, so she knew that some men and trolls had been left behind to instate the new government for the clan. Her bonds had been untied when she dismounted and then tied again around her wrists so that her hands were now behind her back. Her feet were also bound. As she sat down, she was surprised to feel that she still had her dagger. There’s a chance, she thought. Just a chance I might be able to reach it.
Dechar’s front legs were bound together, then his back legs in similar fashion. Both he and Oliana were kept away from the warmth of the fire and the comfort of food. Around the pit, some of the trolls were reenacting Roth’s death, and the others responded in raucous laughter. Most of the men were looking down and staying quiet, but some, like Rotten Teeth, were enjoying the mockery. One of the smaller trolls was stationed to watch the captives, but he too was enthralled.
Oliana bunched up one side of her cloak as much as she could with her fingers, successfully exposing the dagger on her belt. She saw Dechar watching her with tension in his eyes.
“Oh, Roth!” one of the trolls tried to imitate Oliana in a high-pitched voice. The crowd roared.
Don’t pay attention to them. Just focus on the dagger. She had unfastened it now and was gripping the handle. She began sawing away at the rope, only to find that it produced a very noticable sound. The nearby troll turned back to look at her and started to waddle over. Dechar began to growl, widening his eyes and looking as menacing as he possibly could with his mouth tied.
The creature immediately stopped in his tracks. “Nice doggy,” he said. His voice shook with fear, as if he did not realize his own large size and strength. “Just calm down, now.”
Oliana sawed for her life as Dechar’s growling began to attract more attention.
At last, she was able to break free. The troll was still trying to coax Dechar, completely oblivious. Oliana sliced through the bonds on her ankles, rose up, and started running.
“The girl!” cried the troll. “The girl got loose!” Some of the quicker men lept up immediately in pursuit of her, but the fledgling girl was easily lost in the dark of night.
Oliana’s feet flew as fast as they could. I’ll have to come back for Dechar, and soon, she thought. She still heard raised voices, but she knew she had gotten out of sight. Still, she fled until, unbeknownst to her, she approached a steep, cliff-like decline. When the ground fell beneath her feet, she let out a scream.
Down she tumbled, hitting branches and tree trunks as she plummeted. By the time she had reached the base of the ravine, scratches and bruises painted her body. She had struck her head and lost consciousness somewhere along the way. There would be no returning for Dechar now.