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The Mason Accords

The bite from the frosted winds felt colder than John was accustomed to. The winter world stood still, save the gentle snowfall that bounced around him. He had traveled this road many times before although never stopped to enjoy the view. Now was different, as he searched for the most beautiful spot he could find.

Howling made by strong winds whispered dark secrets to John that only he could understand. Everything had changed, and nothing would ever be the same for him. John was a strong man, and one could say he rarely shed a tear, but today he wept for his loved ones. He vowed to do right by them, and that started by going to Anvilmar.

Anvilmar, although mostly dwarf country, was known to be one of the deadliest territories in the Frozen Feilds. John felt confident in his trusty sled dogs to get them there as fast as possible but still feared for their safety. The place they were going to was ruthless to outsiders and where some say ancient beasts still roamed free. This expedition may be John's last, but at this point, he had nothing left to lose.

John couldn't have been more than one day's journey from the southern mountain range of Anvilmar. It was at this point in his journey where he had to decide either to let his dogs stop and rest for the night or push along through until morning. The choice was made difficult by the swirling black cloud mass on the oncoming horizon. Staying now would mean that it would take longer to complete his mission. Resting out in the open at night left them all vulnerable, but nature had made the choice for him.

With a heavy sigh, he commanded his fleet of dogs to stop and rest for the night. When every last pup sat in the snow surrounding the sled, John stepped off to reach for his saddle bag. He had wanted to hunt a fresh kill for his trusted companions, but tough beef jerky and day-old bread would have to do. John didn't pack much for this trip through the tundra, just the load on the sled and the clothes on his back.

He had always carried his trusted hammer at his hip that he used to protect himself. One thing that he never took on this trip before was a long barreled rifle. John had come across it in his days of trading with the dwarven colonies. By the looks of it, John was much stockier than the average man. Years of running through rough terrain and swinging the hammer gave him a considerable strength and iron build.

John breathed heavy as a cloud of white mist appeared and disappeared in front of his face. The dogs had all but finished their meals and where softly whining as they scavenged for crumbs in the snow. Lately, the nights have been getting increasingly worse as time went on and he did not look forward to this night. After lighting a fire, he laid down a thick leather cot at the edge of his sled for him and his dogs and waited for dusk.

Sometime in the night, John awoke to the sounds of his dogs viciously growling the dark. With a quick hand to his rifle, he peered out into the blackness and saw a dozen glowing eyes staring back at him. The returning snarls coming from the creatures confirmed Johns worst nightmare; a pack of wolves had discovered them. Even with his greatest fear before him, John's mind went to Sarah.

He saw her standing in their store, her back turned, and John could make out the royal purple ribbon that held together her auburn locks. John saw her turn and caught the moment she realized that he had come back from his journey. The memory of Sarah's smile and the way her eyes lit up caused John to gasp in agony. Then he heard her voice saying, "take me to the lights, John," which brought everything back into focus.

John was reminded that this could not be the end of him and he had to take Sarah to the Anvilmar Lights. He was going to take her there even if it killed him. This was it, the moment his back was against the wall and a chance to be with his love once again. With a savage roar, John let out several shots into the night and charged forward with his pack following close behind him.
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

Zabajin walked the mountainside a few miles north of Frostmane Hold in search for personal solitude. He did not expect to hear the sound of gunshots so close to his village, and it stopped him in his tracks. The dwarves and the trolls were in constant conflict, but the last thing the troll chieftain would expect is for his enemies to be so brazen.

By the time Zabajin reached the noise, he had caught the end of a vicious bloodbath between man and beast. The troll warrior watched in utter fascination as a human hulk of a man beat down a wolf with his bare hands. Never had he ever witnessed someone fighting more for their life than what he had just seen. The stranger hand single-handedly, with the help of his dogs, beat down an entire pack.

The site of the bloodbath excited the chieftain as the man possessed the warrior spirit within him. When the battle was over the remaining pack had seen the writing on the wall and had disappeared into the frosted night. Many of the man's dogs had abandoned the fight entirely and were left to the wild now— all that remained where a few faithful dogs and their human master, bleeding out in the snow.

Just like that, the night was quiet once again; the balance of nature restored. Zabajain broke the tranquil space with the hiss of his leather strap releasing his six-inch hunting knife. His curiosity was like a devil sitting on his shoulder, and the chief had to get a closer look at the massacre. Zabajin crouched low to the ground and crept silently towards the group until he was standing above a canine laying in a pool of its blood.

The sled dog was miniature in comparison to his wolf mount, Lola-Jang. The troll warrior dropped to his knee and let out a deep sigh. "Sorry this happened to ya," he said as he tenderly stroked the dogs head, "ya fought well for ya master and will die in honor." Without another word, the dog let out a final whimper and became silent forever with the help of Zabajins blade.

By the time the chieftain had gotten to the man, he didn't expect for there to be any evidence of life remaining, he was surprised to find otherwise. The man was bleeding all over, but most severely around his throat. It was a gruesome sight and a miracle that the human was still breathing.  

The man had a beard that was thick with blood and ebony eyes that stared up at Zabajin filled with agony and bewilderment. Not many humans encounter trolls and live to tell the tale, so this could have very well been the human's first time he had ever laid eyes on someone like the chieftain. It was unfortunate that the last thing the human would see would be a troll and not his family. Zabajin put his blade high over the man's head and was prepared to bring the knife down upon him when the troll caught a blue glimmer of light in front of him.

A  figure of a great white stag, the likes of which he never saw before, stood only a few feet away and was slowly approaching. Zabajin stood still in shock that a giant beast was able to come so close undetected. However, there was something even more unnerving about this stag than its surprise arrival, it had a supernatural appeal that captivated Zabajin. When it was only a few inches away, it stopped and lowered its head in front of the chief and stood calmly. The eyes of the white stag had an unnatural blue glow, and the beast looked deep into the troll warriors’ eyes for several seconds.

To Zabajin, those seconds seemed like centuries, as everything was made clear to him. The beast before him was none other than Apa'ro, a powerful and wise Lola, or ancient guardian who took the form of an enormous white stag. According to the seer, Apa'ro was one of the first living beings and long ago, he roamed the land as the protector of nature. Apa'ro's power lay in life itself, and he is responsible for the creation and nurturing of nature in the old world.

Zabajin recognized the stag, although he did not understand why it had revealed itself to him. The troll warrior was further puzzled when Apa'ro turned his attention from him to the man bleeding in the snow. The great stag nuzzled his nose against the man’s skull, gave his human face a lick with his enormous tongue, and then looked back at Zabajin. The chief's eyes widened when he finally interpreted what Apa'ro had wanted from him. "Ya can't be serious?" Zabajin huffed as he sat down hard in the snow, "why me?" he said shaking his head.

With a spoken shaman incantation, Zabajin summoned a Healing Stream Totem next to the human. This particular totem was new to the troll warrior, and he had only learned it for Orihime. The Healing Stream Totem was a wooden post, standing a little over two feet tall. It had a set of horns on top, wings on its side, and painted face with a water seal on its front. A steady stream of mana rippled out from the totem, creating a flow of waves that healed whatever was in its radius.  

Slowly the man's wounds started to stabilize, but he would need more attention than this. Apa'ro only stayed for a short time after, before casting a nod of satisfaction to the troll and disappearing back into the cold. The chief sat in uncertainty as to the authenticity of what had just happened and contemplated what he would do next. Even with the help of his Healing Stream Totem, it was not enough to guarantee the man's life. In any case, even though Zabajin had spared the human, he had no idea what he was to do with him now.

The troll knew one thing for sure, and that was that they wouldn't survive through the night if they stayed out in the open. Zabajin called his dire wolf mount Lola-Jang to him and walked over to the sled the man had arrived in. It was relatively small with only one large bundle loaded onto it. The chief figured he could remove the load on the sled and pull the man with his mount to safety. As Zabajin placed his hands on the load, he was surprised to hear the stranger speak.

Even though John welcomed the darkness that followed his defeat, the sentiment was bittersweet. He had failed in death, just as he had in life. All he ever wanted was to give Sarah everything she needed. John worked tirelessly, trekked through vast, borderless wastelands, and even now, he had beat down ferocious beasts, but it was never enough; Sarah deserved more. John thought that the only justice his wife would receive, was his own long and painful death.

When he felt himself begin to fade away, a face of a troll kept the fire lit a bit longer. John had never seen a troll before, and everything he had heard, pointed to that being a blessing. Yet, there he lay in the snow, face to face with a ferocious looking monster.

The troll was absolutely menacing, with two long tusks, and blood red war paint that covered his face below his pointed nose. John recognized immediately that the troll was not an average, run of the mill troll, and he had never been more afraid. Before the man could see any more, he lost vision and was ready to greet death.

Death was not in John's future this day and his eyes opened again to see a magnificent white stag walk into the forest beyond. John could feel waves of energy envelop him and his strength slowly return. He looked to see the troll hovering over his sled next to a colossal timber wolf.

"Sarah!" John thought to himself in a panic and dug his fist into the snow. While there was still life in his body, John vowed to protect to her and he struggled to cry out, "Wait!” while forcing himself upright.

The troll stopped, but kept his back to him and let out a chuckle. His wolf was not as candid and let out a deep and rumbling growl. John was shocked to see the troll turn around slowly, with his hands in the air, and with a cheshire smile. “Wait?” he asked, “wait until ya dead?” The troll shrugged his shoulders and motioned his wolf to stand down, before continuing, “Ya want to die that badly?”

John was ready to die, but he was not ready yet. He spat out blood and forced air out of his lungs, ”Not until I bury my wife and son,” John’s voice broke and he stopped to take another breath, Then I can die.” It was the first time he had talked about his wife aloud and it was more painful than John imagined it would be.

The troll stroked his chin and hung on every word that John said. He approached John and crouched in the snow, “Go on,” the troll encouraged him. So John told him about his wife’s wish to be buried underneath the Anvimlar Lights. Sarah had written it on a piece paper that she had pressed, dried, and made herself. His wife was incredibly talented and to her husband John, she had a beauty inside her like no other.

Whenever John came home from the Frozen Fields, Sarah would beg him to tell her every detail. She had never seen the snow before and he always promised to take her there, but he never got around to it, not before she died. After John had told the troll all about his vow to take his wife to see the lights, the two unlikely pair sat quietly in the snow together. It was like neither of them knew exactly what to do next and it took the troll’s deep sigh to break the silence. 

The troll took a long look at John, then asked, “What ya name be then human?” He told the troll that his name was John and reached for the troll’s extended hand. He then learned that this troll was called Zabajin, who introduced himself as the leader of the Frostmane Tribe. With the help from the troll, John stood to his feet and grimaced in pain from his wounds. The troll frowned hard at the man and questioned, “Ya won’t make it to sunrise like dis human.”

“I don’t care about seeing tomorrow troll,” John snapped back, “and I will bury my family tonight.”

The troll called Zabajin flashed a devilish grin to John once more and called his wolf to him. Zabajin put a hand on his shoulder and said, “You will bury your family tonight.” Without another word, the troll helped John upon his wolf mount and attached his sled. 
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

Dawn was fast approaching as they rode the mighty Loa-Jang up the snowy mountainside. Zabajin’s wolf was the only mount in Frostmane Hold that could carry both the troll and the traveler. Even so, they had to quicken their pace considerably if they were to reach the most magnificent site in Anvilmar.

There must be a reason for all of dis. The leader of the Frostmane Tribe gritted his teeth and pressed Loa-Jang to go faster against the raging wind.

They were not just racing against the dawn, but also against death that was coming for John. The loa Aparo showed himself, so Zabajin left the human’s fate to the gods now. Destiny had brought their worlds together, and now they trekked towards the mountain ridge that looked out over all of Anvilmar. 

The leader of the Frostmane Tribe kept his ear low to Loa-Jang and focused on John's ragged breath. For all Zabajin knew, he would have to dig three graves today. Long ago when he was a young troll, he had named his mount pup “Loa-Jang,” meaning “The God’s Protect.” Zabajin did this to honor the gods, and the troll put his faith in Loa-Jang that they would get them there in time. 

After many miles through snowy winds, the wolf brought them to the icy ridge just as the sun had begun to set over Anvimlar. The breathtaking sky had a cascade of vibrant orange and red’s hue’s that faded away to the coming darkness. If it were not for their somber reason for being there, it would have been quite a spectacular view. It was the perfect place to lay John’s family to rest, and Zabanjin dismounted to pull out a small shovel from his travel sack. 

"AAAh Bloody Hell!" John grunted in agony before the chieftain recognized John struggle to vault off Lola-Jang. 

"Lalow!" commanded the chief and the wolf laid low to the snowy ground.

“I got this,” John grumbled as he grabbed the shovel from Zabajin, “You’ve helped me enough Troll.” The traveler walked to the edge of the snowy cliff and paused to take in a big icy breath. 

“This place is perfect,” he stopped and gripped the shovel tightly until his knuckles turned white and choked back tears, “Sarah would have loved it.”

Without another word, John walked several feet away from the ledge and started to shovel away a large patch of snow. The ground was hard, and by the time John reached it, he struggled to break through the frozen earth. At this point, tears and blood had blurred Johns vision and dripped down his strong, ebony face, as he furiously struck the dense soil. 

AAAAAAAGHHHGHGARG!” He yelled into the frosted canyon as he traded the shovel for his hammer and started to pummel the earth in a blind rage. With no further progress and after another swing or two, John collapsed to the ground from exhaustion with a heavy thump. 

Zabajin sighed deeply and summoned his “Healing Stream Totem” for John followed by his “Searing Totem.” While the healing totem sent a steady wave of mana to the traveler, the fire totem sent a ripple of lava across the spot John had struggled to unearth. 

There were not many of the Frostmane tolls left that practiced shamanism, and by the looks of it, Zabajin was a warrior, and not someone who would have the ability to summon elemental totems. After a few moments, the ground had started to omit a stream from the heat of the fire totem, and then after a few seconds more the totem disappeared. 

Zabajin turned and looked at Lola-Jang, “Dig there,” he ordered and pointed to the now softened earth. Within no time at all, the wolf had successfully dug an adequate amount of space for both graves. 

John awoke from his concussed state and looked around the snowy scenery in bewilderment. His eyes found the freshly dug holes then looked to his feet, “Thank you, Troll,” he expressed with gratitude. 

Without another word, Jon walked over to the burlap sheet that encased his deceased wife and child. A thin layer of snow covered the bundle, and John’s hand shook as he brushed off the fresh powder to carry them. 

Everything was silent except for the soft crunch of the man’s footfalls as he held his family close to his chest one last time. Jon lowered them into the ground, placed their infant son in his wife’s arms, and tenderly stroked the hair away from Sarah's freckled face before climbing out of their final resting place. 

Zabajin watched as John fell to his knees in front of his family’s grave. The man took off his wide-brimmed, tattered hat, and hung his head. 

“Sarah,” he swallowed a lump before continuing, “I did it, my love. The Anvimilar Lights.” Jon stopped to admire the sun that had almost entirely set. The sky was dark save for the small sliver of light that faded with every passing second and from the glimmer of the awe-inspiring constellations high above them.

John gripped his hat so tightly; it had begun to misshapen in his clenched fists. “I am sorry I was too late,” he said with tears rushing down his face, “Oh Sarah I wish you could see it now. It’s almost as beautiful as you are.” 

 “I am sorry I wasn’t there for you and Henry when you needed me.” At this point, John could barely speak.

I know you blame yourself for Henry, but it’s my fault I wasn’t with you that night. I blame myself for all of it.” 

It was too much to bear, and the traveler couldn’t get another word out as he wept over his dead wife and son.
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

The melodic chime of bones suspended from the ceiling of the dark hut put John in a hypnotic trance. Warm and muculent mud camouflaged his broken body into the cot he laid on, as the atmosphere eased his weathered soul. A bandage smothered with fine smelling herbs obscured his vision making him utterly unaware of his surroundings. 

Wherever he was, John mostly laid still in silence except for the sound of water dripping into a puddle on the floor, and the murmur of harmonious chants in the far off distance. With no way to tell the passing of time, if it had not been for the troll chief's frequent visits, John would have no idea how many a moon had passed. 

During the visits from the chief, he would ask John all kinds of questions about his life and his business in the Frozen Feilds. 

Zabajin sat on the ground next to him and asked, “Where are ya from?”, while pouring cold, fresh water, into a drinking horn for John. 

The wounded traveler slurped the water up feverishly and uttered, “I come from a small village on the outskirts of Camelot,” while enjoying the sensation of water poured on his face. 

He would only ask John a question at a time before disappearing outside of wherever he was. Zabajin would ask one question only and say nothing else which bothered John for unknown reasons. Perhaps it was the fact that it felt like John did not belong here, and he could sense that by the few hushed conversations the chief had with someone else. 

Whenever John had first arrived, he remembered the callused touch of what had to be another troll. This troll made Johns skin crawl and he would sware on a bible that every time that troll appeared, the temperature in the room dropped considerably around him. A foul and rotting odor admitted from the mysterious troll, and mainly when he spoke to John in a language, he could not understand. The monster was the one who tended to his wounds, but other than that, Jon was left alone with his thoughts about Sarah; it was hell for John.

By now the hair on his face was untamed and heavily crusted with muck making John increasingly more uncomfortable. Light filled the bandage obscuring his vision, as someone entered the room with what sounded like something heavy. 

“Who goes there?” Jonh demanded as he struggled to sit up. 

“Who goes there?” the voice of Zabajin mocked him, and tossed something down with a large thump, “It’s ya mother and ya late for school.” 

“Zabajin,” the human paused to grit his teeth, “Why are you here?”

“Do you intend on interrogating me further?”

The chieftain laughed his signature cackle and stood above John. “I have come to get ya out of here,” he toyed before removing John’s blindfold, “Unless ya rather stay here den?”

The calm waters of a crystal pool showed John his reflection for the first time in what felt like ages to him. If he had not been sound in mind, John could say he did not even recognize the man staring back at him. There was a noticeable decrease in meat on his bones, and thick ugly scars covered his body. Sarah would have wept had she seen him now. 

Zabajin had lead John deep into a wooded region close behind Frostmane Hold. After a mile or two on the back of Loa-Jang, the forest parted to a stunning pool. John had never been to a natural hot spring before, and he took a minute to soak up all the splendor. Even though he had little to no clothes on, the heat emitted from the sparkling water, kept him comfortable. If it was not for the sting of his wounds, John might have thought this all to be a dream. 

He slowly stepped into the water and waited for his body to adjust to such an extreme temperature. Then he watched the chieftain stroll casually into the spring, and John forced himself into the pool regardless. 

Zabajain laughed then teased, “Slow down, ya guppy,” pouring water over his tall mohawk before continuing, “Don't’ want to lose a stitch do ya?”

John scoffed, “I told you I do not care much about living,” he turned to Zabajin and opened his arms wide, “Yet here I am.”

The troll said nothing and shrugged his shoulders, “Ya complain like I gave ya mouth to mouth or someteen,” then flashed his one-of-a-kind smile, “Ya tink I care whether ya live or die?”

After a fit of condescending laughter, the chief continued, “No John,” stopping to aim a long pointed the finger at the human, “Ya are here because the gods allowed it to be so.”

“If ya don’t like it, perhaps ya should take it up with them.”

John took a moment to chew over Zabajin’s words, then completely submerged himself. With a few long and painful strokes, he made himself sit on the bottom of the pool. Chin up high, he closed his eyes and expelled all the air out of his lungs. Air bubbles traveled up and decorated the sun rays reflecting through the crystal blue waters. John’s chest became tight, and a slow panic had begun to set in him, yet he remained fixated on the bottom before instinct took over, and he bounded to the surface.
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

The sun had begun to set behind the mountain that was Frostmane Hold. They had both shared the hot spring for many hours and the chieftain's skin had already pruned. It was easy to lose track of time when submerged in the crystal blue and tepid waters of the pool. Zabajin had been known to frequent this spring in particular which kept most of the tribe respectfully away. The last thing the leader of the Frostmane Tribe wanted was to be seen with John; he was not safe here.

Even so, the human was almost ready to be on his way again and Zabajin needed to be sure that he could let John leave here alive. It was already unlike the chief to bring a human back to Frostmane Hold and only one other has ever been somewhat welcomed. If Te’Zali had been here, she would have told him that because his heart ached for the human girl who disappeared, Zabajin had let his heart get soft with John.

The chief knew that was not the case in this scenario, and he knew what he saw in the forest that day when he came upon John’s broken body. John was different in his own way and Zabajin was committed to getting to the bottom of why the god Aparo had him saved.

The troll looked over to John to see him with his eyes closed, and his head resting on the edge of the pool. Zabajin had been itching to ask him one more thing and he swam closer to John and asked, “Why da Frozen Feilds?” 

“Da last time I checked, Camelot is many miles away?”

John gazed into the distance with a faraway expression, “Sarah. My wife wanted to be buried here so that is what I did.”

He then sat up and leaned both arms on his knees to face the chief directly, “Do you have a wife Zabajin?”

The chief mimicked the human and placed his muscley, mulberry tinted arms on his knees and then looked down at his reflection. Zabajin chucked to himself as he thought of his wife and shook his head back and forth. “I have a wife yes, her name is Te’Zali and she is a force to be reckoned with.”

“We have a son, and if it was not for my wife’s sacrifice he would not be here today.” Zabajin could see a curious look on John’s face through the pool’s reflection.

After a pause, John asked, “What happened?”

“When he was born he was weak and frail.” Zabajin picked his head up to look at John directly. 

“My tribe believes, if it is weak it can not live,” the chief focused on the tree line above John, “We have no room for weakness.”

The chief stopped to pour water on his arms and face to keep warm as the sun had almost fully set. John was hung up on Zabajiins every word and waited quietly for him to continue his tale. He had not told anyone what had really happened with his only son for fear that a tribesman might decide to challenge Orunjin.

Pouring more warm water upon his head the chief continued, “Te’Zali begged me to let her try to save him,” he stopped to chose his next words carefully, “What can ya do?”

I had to let her try, it was my son.”

She did a ritual, she called upon Bwonsamdi, da Loa of Death, and demanded her son back from his clutches.” 

Zabajin laughed to himself then, “Te’Zali is probably da only one who could ever be so bold to da God of Death,” the troll could not help the smile spreading across his lips, “She saved my son that day but she paid a great price.” 

The chief could see the emotions build up on Johns' face and said no more. Zabajin was indeed fortunate to have his family and he thanked the gods every day for blessing him. Life without the trolls loved ones would be bleak and savage and Zabajin sympathized with John for his loss.

“We tried so hard to have a child, Sarah and I.” 

We went to Doctors, and priests and distant cousins for help and nothing worked,” John said while slumping his shoulders. 

“But then one day it just happened and it was the best day for Sarah.”

“She wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world,” tears had begun to fall and John stopped to wipe them away, “Sarah was a great mother.” 

“How did she die John?”
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

John was not expecting to have to describe the tragic tale of Sarah Mason to anyone, especially not a troll chieftain. To Sarah, John and her son were the only family she ever had. When he had decided to travel to the Frozen Fields, he expected to die in the Frozen Fields. Here he relaxed in tranquil waters from a hidden hot spring, recounting the last few moments he had with the love of his life. 

After their son, Henry was born, the workload that Sarah had to endure increased substantially. John still had to travel and trade goods for their quaint and fruitful shop they ran in their village. Even though the days were incredibly long for his wife, and the nights even longer, she never complained. His firm, beautiful, and compassionate wife, never let on to her husband that caring for their son and their shop had taken a toll on her. 

Then one day, while John was away again on a trade route, Henry passed away in his sleep. Without warning the one thing that his wife loved most in the world was forever gone.

John gazed upon the starry sky and winced, “Sarah blamed herself for what happened to our son, even though there was nothing that could have been done to save him.” 

Then the mourning man condescendingly chuckled to himself and said, “I guess the universe feels the same as your tribe.” 

“There is no room for weakness.”

Wiping away tears from his face he continued, “The facts are, Sarah was 50 years old, and it was a miracle that we had a child in the first place,” he paused to look down at his clenched fists, “It was not her fault, but she blamed herself.”

“When I came home, I found it full of friends and neighbors. Sarah had taken her own life, leaving a note behind for me.” 

The two said nothing as they sat across the pool from one another until the troll chief placed a heavy hand on John’s shoulder and expressed condolences to him. Then the chieftain stood up abruptly and offered his hand to John. This troll never ceased to amaze the traveler, and without another word, they both left the pool. 

John was surprised when they had not returned to the scummy hut he just spent countless nights in, and instead to a snowy homestead. The door made of solid, dark oak, had ornate patterns of tribal sigils burned into the wood. However, it was not just the door’s spellbinding appeal that compelled John, but it’s enormous size. Further time spent with the troll chief made John more aware of how monstrous the trolls were. 

Inside the hidden homestead was a small stove, a pair of warm cots, and wooden dressers. In the middle of the single large room stood a welcoming table with a wooden bowl of root vegetables sitting in its center. The longer he traveled with the troll, the more he witnessed sites John could have only have imagined in his dreams. If only his beloved Sarah were alive so he could have told her of his journey so far with Zabajin.

The troll chieftain started a fire on the little stove and put a kettle to boil while placing the large bag he had earlier on the tabletop. With Zabajin’s back to John, it as the first time he could get a really good look a the chieftain. He had since removed his fur cloak to reveal a bare and muscular back, riddled with scars. On his left forearm, he had a tribal tattoo that spiraled up his strong arm and onto his back. The chieftain was not a chief without a weapon, and Zabajin had always carried a massive sword on his hip. 

John took a seat at the table and leaned both of his elbows on the smooth surface. With a deep breath, he asked Zabajin where he was. 

The leader of the Frostmane Tribe placed a large mug of a robust smelling ale down in front of John and said, “Before I was chief I was a farmer, this is where I used to live up until that day.” 

He pointed to the bag on the table, “In der, ya will find food, water, and some clothes,” Zabajin stopped to take a swig of his own, “Ya will be safe here until ya ready to be on ya way.”

“No one but ya knows how great ya grief is or how it affects ya life.”

Placing two plates in front of them, the leader of the Frostmane Tribe put large slabs of dried meat on them. 

 “No one but ya can mourn the silence ya now know,” he said as he refilled their mugs with pungent beer, “A silence that was once filled with laughter and song.”

“It is the nature of love and death to touch each of us uniquely. We must all travel our own journey; no one can travel it for us.”

John sat and reflected on the troll’s words while chewing his tough beef jerky in silence. What he said was true, but he could still not imagine his life without his beloved Sarah. 

Then, Zabajin pulled out a small blue vile and slid it across the table to John. 

"If ya still feel like ya want to end it all, here be a toxin that will kill ya painlessly."

The Chief looked away and brushed loose, black hair away from his face, "I know that if my Te'Zali were gone, I would want the chance to be with her again."

He then got up and put on his coat without letting John say anything he said, "Animals die, friends die, and I shall die, one thing never dies, and that is the reputation we leave behind at our death." Without another word, Zabajin opened the door of the cabin and walked out into the snowy night.
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

Rows and rows of battle rams lined the frosted skyline, several miles east of the fortress known as Frostmane Hold. Spiked metal helmets adorned their fluffy heads, as the constant steam from their hot breath, caused a trickle of condensation to fall off their battle gear. To them, they were very accustomed to the cold, and even more importantly, they were primed and ready for action. 

Sitting tall upon the backs of the furry beasts sat a deadly and experienced dwarven warrior; adrenaline ran through their veins. Today was the day for redemption and glory, which caused many of the warriors to break the battle code. Barely containing their excitement, they all spoke in hushed and excited murmurs amongst themselves. At this moment, they had finally come to attack the sacred mountain, with force much stronger than ever exhibited before. 

The commander of the war fleet was none other than Lord Vondik Bloodsunder of the Bronzebeard Clan, who had once fought alongside the Dwarf King himself. He stood towering over his people on a great white ram, adorned in glimmery, golden armor. Brann was the rams name, and he proudly galloped up and down the front ranks. Today the Lord's ember eyes burned with a desire to conquer, and take what he believed was rightfully his.  

After pacing across the warriors on the front line, the Lord of the Bronzebeard Clan looked across the faces of his loyal men. There were over a hundred his best warriors out in the frosted night, and their energy was utterly electrifying. At this point, the commotion had died down considerably, and all the dwarves warriors, with widened pupils, were patiently waiting for their fearless leader to speak. 

Lord Bloodsunder made his way to the center of his war brigade, “Arise now, arise!” he admonished, as he raised his battle ax high in the air, “Brothers of Bronzebeard!” 

The jewels encrusted in the Lord’s legendary hammer shimmered in the light of the sun, and bounced off the armor of his fearless men. All were silent now, as many of the dwarven warriors also lifted their war hammers, and axes to their Lord. This day was different, and the warriors all amongst themselves had already felt the taste of victory, with each one of Lord Bloodsunder’s words. 

“Dire deeds awake and our enemy lies there!” the Lord announced, as he pointed across the horizon, “In the east.”

The Lord's men could hold their tongue no longer, as the great many of the dwarven elite bellowed “Aye!” together. 

Even the mounts, with their animalistic sixth sense, could feel that the war was about to begin, and they started to shuffle in the soft snow anxiously. Drawves and trolls had been enemies for as long as anyone had remembered, and some say since this world began. All the dwarfs knew was that the day would come where they would get the chance to slaughter all the troll savages, and take the fields once and for all. 

Lord Bloodsunder stood steadfastly, and waited for his men to be calm once more before continuing, “Let our rams be bridled, horns be sounded!”

“Go, fourth Brothers!” The dwarven Lord bellowed to his men, causing them all to erupt with cheers once again. 

Gunpowder and liquid nitrate wrapped the air around the men, as the gunsmith dwarves feverishly prepared their weapons for the battle. Even though all of the warriors had a sincere desire to defeat their enemy, many of them were terrified to be going up against the Frostmane Tribe. The trolls of Frostmane Tribe had defeated many dwarves, but no troll frightened them more than the dreaded Zabajin. 

Lord Bloodsunder peered across to his fellow brothers and implored them, “ Arise, arise, Brothers of Bronzebeard!”

“Fell deeds awaken!” the dwarven leader echoed to all his men, “Fire and brimstone!”

Brann abruptly got up on his hind legs and raised their great Lord high in the air. Overlooking his most powerful soldiers, the Lord let out a splintering war cry, and his men returned it in a bloodthirsty rage. 

Lord Bloodsunder’s forehead furrowed, as he towered over his men, “Hammers will be shaken, and shields will be splintered!”

At this point, there was no containing the men’s roars, as they rhythmically hammered on their shields to show respect for their Lord. Even the battle rams, bleated along with their master's cries. This was their moment, and all the dwarves could feel it in the air, rushing through their blood. 

“This be hammer day, a red day, ere the sun rises!” the Lord called out to his men, and brung is hammer up once again and pointed it to the mountain. 

“Ride now, Ride now to Frostmane Hold!”
[Image: 2i8ueyq.jpg]
*  Healer  -  Sheild Maiden  -  Guide To Lost Souls  -  Ginger Waifu  *

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