Chapter Eighteen - Holt's Agreement

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ELDON WAS RIGHT, THE ROAD WAS STRAIGHT AND TRUE.

But it's also very long and very boring, Danielle thought.

They seemed to have been walking forever.

'Are we there yet?' Jessica called out to Eldon who strode ahead of them.

The Giant shook his head and laughed. 'That is, at least the sixth time you have asked me that question,' he called over his shoulder. 'The answer is still the same. Just a little further.'

'I thought you said we would make good time,' Jessica shouted.

Eldon shook his head again. 'We are young lady, I can assure you.'

'But...'

'Leave it, Jess,' chided Danielle interrupting her sister. 'Moaning won't get us there any sooner.'

Jessica was right though - it was taking longer than she had hoped to reach the Elven city. She glanced passed Eldon's broad shoulders, at the road that stretched off into the distance.

Road? Danielle thought. It was little more than a trail of hard-packed earth bordered by verges of grass and colourful flowers. Birds sang among the shrubs and tall trees that grew beyond the verges. Insects buzzed and flitted in the warm sunshine that filtered down from the ribbon of blue sky she could see above the tree tops.

She quickened her pace until she was level with Eldon.

'I thought you said this road was patrolled regularly. We have been on it a while now and seen no one.'

The Giant looked down at her. 'That is true. And it worries me. We should have seen a patrol of some sorts by now. Whatever ails the Kingdom causes the Elves to depart from their normal ways.'

Once again Danielle felt the gloom descending on her.

When would they get a lucky break? Something, no matter how small, that would give her some hope of catching up to her brother.

Suddenly Eldon thrust out an arm and stopped her in her tracks. He pushed her behind him and motioned for Jessica to do the same.

'Quiet!' he warned, hand straying towards the pommel of his broadsword.

'You can come out into the open,' Eldon boomed. 'You are not exactly built for stealth.'

'Do not worry we were not trying to hide from you,' came a gruff voice from within the trees. 'In fact, we have been searching for you.'

Danielle peered around Eldon and watched a large hulking figure step onto the pathway just ahead of them. He was at least as tall as the Giant, his body covered in rock like plates. At first, she thought he was wearing armour, but a closer look revealed they were actually parts of his body.

'A Stone Troll,' whispered Eldon.

Several Elves and a Dwarf stepped from the trees and flanked the Troll. Eldon studied them. Although they were all heavily armed, from their relaxed attitude they did not appear to pose a threat.

'And why exactly would you be searching for us?' Eldon asked.

The Stone Troll moved closer. 'I am Ixil Driz. We have a mutual friend.'

They had never met but Eldon knew the name. Driz was the former leader of a band of Trolls in the pay of the Gnome warlord Shabur Varg. Holt had had dealings with him when they last ventured into Yar-Atgur.

'And what is the name of this mutual friend?' Eldon asked. He saw no need to let on what he already knew.

Ixil Driz eyed the Giant as if trying to ascertain what was going through his mind.

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