Trey was nice and warm in his comfortable bed and didn’t have a care in the world. He was content in his dream about a huge roast dinner with potatoes, a juicy chunk of chicken breast, stuffing, and Pastrino puddings.
Trey had just finished eating the roast dinner when, out of nowhere, a magnificent quadruple chocolate gateau appeared before him. Even more to his delight, he was still tucked up in his bed while eating this kingly feast. Just as he was about to take a gigantic bite from the gateau, water suddenly gushed in all around him, drowning him. In a flash he had woken up from his feast dream, now he was back in his normal room yet he was still drowning! The last bit of air escaped his lungs.
Trey awoke again, this time into reality. Foul monsters towered over him. He almost had a heart attack until he realised the two ugly creatures looking down on him were Billy and Zak.
“Hey, you’re awake. Took you long enough. We couldn’t get you up so we did what your mum does,” Zak explained while indicating the cup on the floor and Trey’s sodden clothing.
“I hate you guys. I was having an amazing dream about being in my bed, dreaming about having a huge roast dinner and a quadruple chocolate gateau,” Trey said longingly.
Billy frowned. “Who has a dream about being asleep, having another dream?”
“I once had a dream about having a dream about turnips,” replied Zak casually.
Trey shook his head. “That could only happen to you, Zak.”
Billy sighed, ignoring the banter. He still looked miserable. His eyes seemed glazed. He was clearly still worried about his parents. He turned to Zak. “Do you think that your family are all still alive? Except for your Granddad.” He instantly regretted bringing up the old man but Zak seemed nonplussed.
“I don’t have any family left.” Zak shrugged nonchalantly. “My mother died in childbirth and I never knew any of my grandparents except for old man Garvel. As for my father, he hates our heritage and has disowned anything that hints at our roots. That includes Granddad and me. After Mum died he moved away to be where numbers and contracts rule rather than swords,” He suddenly paused a moment, listening. “Did you guys hear that?”
All was silent. Nothing moved. Even the wind became still. Then Trey saw a glint of metal in the distance and knew it wasn’t good.
Trey quietly instructed them what to do. “The Forukks seem to have followed us. Get ready to run.”
No sooner had the words left his lips when a Forukk charged into the clearing. It was not the same as the other Forukks they had seen before. It wasn’t as bulky and its armour seemed thinner, more flexible. In each hand it held small, jagged, sickle like weapons. The other noticeable differences were its feet looked better adjusted to running and its helmet, unlike the bear like helmets the normal Forukks wore, looked more like a dog. Its horns were pointed backwards instead of the forwards pointing ones of the larger beasts that were meant for impaling.
“There’s only one. We can take it easily,” Billy said as he grabbed his bow.
Trey calmed himself enough to analyse the beast before him. Taking what he knew he made a quick assessment. “It must be a scout or a tracker.”
In one fluent motion the Forukk had crossed the gap between them and slashed at Billy. The boy only just managed to defend himself with a hastily drawn dagger. The next second the Forukk had slashed again and this time disarmed Billy. Trey shoved his sword through the beast’s stomach only to anger it. With one swing of its arm Trey was thrown into a nearby tree.
“Why is it always left to me to get us out of tough situations?” Zak muttered before throwing the biggest rock he could carry at the Forukk’s head. The beast somersaulted into the pond. Zak followed it at breakneck speed, jumped into the air, and slashed at it with both of his swords. After flying another few feet he crashed into the centre of the pond.
The Forukk bellowed a thunderous howl then its body fell to pieces and splashed noisily into the water. The clear liquid began to froth and darken around the beast’s body, slowly expanding out to the pond’s edges.
After a frantic swim to the side Zak just managed to climb onto the shore, narrowly escaping the tainted water’s spread.
“Let’s get out of here,” he shouted. The others didn’t need telling twice.
They jogged for a few minutes through densely packed trees without seeing any sign of being followed so slowed to a steady walk. A quick glance at the surrounding area showed no threat so they relaxed slightly, each person busying themselves with their own things.
Trey was reading: ‘The Arts of Nimula’ and understanding very little of it. The few sections not written in Pretita script were cryptic at best. Zak provided a few translations, surprising Trey and Billy with his knowledge. The fact that he could understand the script of the Old Kingdom at all was unusual but his insights into the past was unbelievable. Even the scholars knew little else than the Old Kingdom of Pretitanous was established in the Second age and was eradicated by the Klades.
Billy was cleaning his short sword while Zak was humming a crude sailor tune to himself when not helping Trey. All kept glancing around themselves nervously, eyes and ears peeled for any sign of danger. Enough light seeped through the green canopy above that the path was clear to see. Despite this, the light cast menacing shadows, turning every branch and bush into a daunting villain.
They were all brought back to reality when Billy asked, “How many more do you think are following us?”
They slowed, paranoid eyes scanning every leaf. “Most scouts work in teams. I’d say there is at least one left,” Trey answered. He’d been thinking it through since their encounter.
Zak pointed behind him without looking, a grin on his face. “You could just ask them.”
Trey and Billy looked behind them to where Zak was pointing and immediately wished that they hadn’t. Stood in the branches were more of the scout Forukks. Trey counted five of the beasts. In unison all three boys turned and ran further into the forest.
“We can’t outrun them,” heaved Billy after a few minutes of full out running. Several bloody lines marked his face where branches had sliced at his skin during their dash. Trey and Zak bore similar scratches.
Trey risked a glance behind him. One of the Forukks was running silently just a few feet away, its speed far surpassing that of the teens. It sprang into the air and raised its weapon, preparing to cut Trey down on its decent.
Time seemed to slow down as Trey watched the beast fly towards him. His mind was blank, scraped bare by sheer terror. The trees were just distant blurs seen through the corner of his eyes.
What happened next took his mind several extra seconds to work out. The Forukk gave a howl of triumph as it slashed down at its prey, but at the exact same moment a different howl came from the trees, closely followed by a flash of grey fur.
Instead of the bite of a blade in his back, all Trey felt was a splash of blood slowly soaking into his clothes.
Is that it? Am I dying? Trey thought to himself. He felt confused and didn’t really have a clue what was going on. Running into a low branch somehow cleared his mind.
He wasn’t dying, he wasn’t even hurt. He looked back again to see a wolf with ragged grey fur ripping the throat out of the Forukk. Black blood oozed across its silky coat. For the second time, a wolf had saved his life. Trey silently thanked the Sprites.
“One down four to go,” laughed Zak excitedly.
“That’s still enough to kill us easily,” replied Billy as he released an arrow behind him. It harmlessly hit a branch.
Trey tore at his pocket to remove the book that was nestled within. His shaking fingers managed to free it. “I’ll try to use Nimula. We need that kind of power.” He fumbled clumsily through the old book’s pages as he ran. “Let’s see, this one should do it.” He read a passage, the words meaning nothing to him. The words flowed from his mouth yet felt sharp to his tongue. Strangely, the sounds hurt his throat when he spoke them. Each syllable drew his entire focus without him directing it there. His pulse beat to the tempo of the chant and his blood felt charged with static. He wanted to throw up but his body felt out of his control.
One of the Forukks in a thorn tree suddenly started to look like it was spasming until Trey realised it was supposed to be some kind of very bad dance. Then in a particularly complicated movement it separated its legs too far and fell very painfully on the thorny branch. It gave out a surprising and very uncharacteristic high-pitched scream then gracelessly slid into a thorn bush below him.
Trey’s head started to spin and all he could see were strange images of ancient runes imprinted into his retina. His legs felt like lead so running became almost impossible, but still he ran.
“That spell was so cool,” said Zak. “What was it actually meant to do?”
Between heavy breaths and almost constant panting Trey managed to say “Tried Dangerous Blast… Must have said one above… Dance… Just as good.”
After taking his mind off of running just long enough to speak, Trey lost his balance and crashed to the forest floor. As it was summer there were very few leaves to cushion his fall and the few that there were mostly ended up in his mouth. He spat the leaves out and rolled over to face the sky. Instead of the sky he could only see two Forukks towering over him.
He turned his head a bit more to see Billy and Zak attempt to jump in the air and kick the two Forukks in the head. They landed about three feet away. After a quick recovery they were back up, swords at the ready and preparing to strike.
A brief but intense fight was fought around Trey until the two boys were pinned against a tree. Zak had been holding his own against the Forukk’s savage attacks but had been knocked back after having to jump to Billy’s defence. All seemed lost until Zak managed to distract the beasts momentarily with a rubber duck pulled from one of his pockets. Billy and Zak stabbed their blades into the creatures’ feet.
Both boys used the Forukks’ second of weakness to hack them up, narrowly avoiding hacking each other in the whir of blades.
“Do you think we have time to gather up all this gear?” Zak asked hopefully. He pawed over the corpses’ weapons and armour like a child in a toy shop.
“No,” replied Billy bluntly. He scowled as he tried in vain to wipe the stinging black blood from his skin.
“We don’t have time,” a fully recovered Trey said. “The fight isn’t finished yet.”
The last Forukk emerged from behind a large tree trunk. It gave an angry growl and raised its weapon as it walked towards the boys.
“Ha! It thinks it can win us. It’s three verses one. We’ll hammer it!” Zak started to shout.
Before he had finished his sentence, all around them Forukks started to flood through the trees. Five of the heavier Forukks and six of the scouts came into view. The normal ones were armed with large axes while the scouts had twisted versions of crossbows. They were totally surrounded. There appeared to be no chance of escape. No chance of victory. One of the larger Forukks stepped forward.