Lesson 24

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Benedikt tried to untie Yorick's hands, which were right up against his, but his own bonds were cutting off his circulation

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Benedikt tried to untie Yorick's hands, which were right up against his, but his own bonds were cutting off his circulation. The loss of blood made his fingers slow and clumsy. With a growl, he gave up the struggle and let his head fall onto the damp earth. The sounds of the trolls stoking the fire reached his ears. Panic fluttered in his chest as he could feel the heat of it grow, filling his damp clothes with warmth.

"How about riddles?" he called out to the creatures, remembering legends of trolls he had heard as a child. He remembered a story of three knights who came to a bridge with a troll living beneath. In order to pass, the knights had to answer three riddles.

"Riddles?" their leader spat. "We love riddles but everyone kept getting the answers right and getting away. No more riddles!"

"It was worth a shot," Grielle said.

Benedikt continued to wriggle his harnds when he felt something cold against his wrist. Something sharp in Yorick's hands.

"What is it?" Grielle whispered as Benedikt's face lit up with a smirk.

Benedikt shook his head gave Grielle a conspiratorial wink. "Your brother is amazing."

Grielle returned the smile even though she couldn't see anything Yorick had done.

Benedikt slipped the blade of the knife between his wrists, careful not to cut himself, and began to drag the ropes along the jagged edge of the blade. The process was painfully slow, as Benedikt couldn't make too much movement for fear of alerting the trolls to his plan. With a faint snap, the final strand broke and his hands were free. Even though Yorick couldn't speak, Benedikt knew what to do next.

As the trolls argued whether to boil their dinner or roast it, Benedikt soundlessly released Yorick's hands from their bindings. When the argument turned into more of a brawl, Yorick and Benedikt sat up to untie their ankles and Yorick removed his gag.

"I'll distract them," Benedikt whispered. "Can you put a spell on them or something?"

"Yeah, or something," Yorick replied with a smirk.

"On my count," Benedikt began, but something had stopped the argument over how to properly season and prepare elf.

"WHAT'S GOING ON?" one of the trolls yelled.

Benedikt's stomach jumped into his throat as he expected to see a troll barreling down on him, but he did not.

The trolls and the roaring fire blocked a small commotion from his vision. He took this as his best opportunity and lunged forward. He stumbled at first, his feet numb from the ropes, but quickly gained his footing and scooped up his weapon from the pile next to the fire. Yorick followed a few paces behind.

Benedikt took a big swing at the largest of the four trolls, knocking pebbles of rock from his side.

"Hey!" the troll growled as he rounded on Benedikt.

Benedikt took another powerful swing that landed right on the beast's belly, but he wasn't alone this time. Another sword crashed into the troll at that precise moment, forcing the creature to stumble into the fire. Sparks burst into the air as the troll trampled the burning logs. Benedikt turned to acknowledge his ally and found a familiar face staring at him through the rain and smoke.

"Father!" Benedikt exclaimed, pausing to gape at King Sander.

"Benedikt?" His father's face mirrored Benedikt's shock, his eyebrows pushed up in surprise.

The troll stood up from the fire and gave a deafening roar, his jagged features outlined in the glow of the embers.

"Now would be a good time for a little magic!" Benedikt yelled to Yorick, who mouthed inaudible words.

Benedikt ducked under the troll's wide swing, but King Sander wasn't fast enough and the blow knocked him back towards the edge of the clearing.

The other Stalvart warriors who accompanied the king stepped up to fight beside Benedikt. They all dwarfed him in height and size. These warriors wore thick armor over their large muscles and carried giant shields that Benedikt had never been able to lift even with all his years of training. He again wondered how he could possibly share the same lineage as these men and women.

But the trolls were proving tough even for the Stalvarts. The warriors took hit after hit and slowly began to fall back towards the woods.

"You squishy humans will not destroy us," Obsydian growled, swinging a moss-covered arm at a group of warriors that huddled behind their shields.

"We were created by the Lady of the Mountain. She made us strong," Mycah sneered, his razor-sharp teeth gnashing at the warriors.

"WHENEVER YOU'RE READY, YORICK!" Benedikt roared. Yorick's eyes seemed to have glazed over as words poured from his lips, and then suddenly he was shouting. Hoarse, garbled words tumbled out of his mouth in quick succession, and a cool breeze filled the clearing.

"No!" The trolls turned as they felt the rush of air. "Curse this foul user of magics!" one growled.

They all started towards Yorick, but stopped as the fire darkened and a hazy green smoke erupted from the embers. It drifted up towards them as if it followed its own purpose, and swirled round their rocky heads.

The trolls wobbled on their thick legs and crumpled to the ground, each with as peaceful a look as their ugly faces would allow.

"They're asleep!" an astounded warrior remarked as a troll emitted a rumbling snore.

Yorick swayed where he stood and then collapsed to his hands and knees. Benedikt rushed to his side and helped him back onto his feet.

"You all right?" He braced Yorick against his shoulder.

"Yeah. Peachy." Yorick laughed breathlessly. "That spell there is a doozy."

Benedikt helped him over to where the Liberators lay bound and eased him to the ground. He patted Yorick on the shoulder, then turned to help Grielle out of her bindings. Once she was free, she began to untie the others. With memories of Berne's fatal injury fresh in his mind, he rushed to where his father lay on the ground.

"Father?" He kneeled at his head.

King Sander's eyes flickered open and he let out a pained sigh. "I'm not young as I used to be," he said with a weary smile. "Did you find the sleeping princess?"

Benedikt's heart sank. He nodded his head in reply.

"And?" King Sander urged. A hopeful look crossed his face as his eyes found Talitha stirring with the others.

"She wasn't my true love."

***

What did you guys think of this chapter? Do you think King Sander will understand why Benedikt failed again?

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