A Forge of Valor

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Authors: Morgan Rice
too slowly; before he could get out of the way, he was clubbed again, in the back of the head, and he fell face first to the dirt.
    Merk lay there, immobile, the pain throbbing in his kidneys and head, unable to breathe, much less move. The troll stepped forward with the club, a vicious smile on his face, and raised it high.
    “Say good night, human.”
    Merk saw his life flash before his eyes; he knew that it would crush him, that he would die here, in this spot, in the mud, killed by this nation of trolls. In his mind there flashed images of the life he had led, the people he had killed, the choices he had made. Somehow, he felt he deserved this. Yet he was also in the midst of trying to change, to become a better person, and he felt he was almost there. He just needed a bit more time. He wasn’t ready to die just yet. Why did his life have to end now, of all times? And why here, in the mud, at the hands of these grotesque beasts, while defending the only place he had ever cared for, while doing good for the first time in his life?
    Merk braced himself for the blow, but to his amazement, it did not come. He looked up and heard a gasp. He was baffled as he saw a sapphire spear protruding through the troll’s chest. The troll stood there, frozen, then dropped to the ground beside him, dead.
    Merk looked up, wondering, and was confused by what he saw. A lone boy cut through the crowd, wielding the sapphire spear, slashing and dropping trolls in every direction. He was a dizzying blur of light, and it took Merk a minute to focus on him. He saw the long, golden hair, and he knew: Kyle. He had come back for him.
    Kyle cut through the army of trolls like a whirlwind, killing three before one could turn to face him. None could even get close.
    Yet the forest continued to open up, hundreds more trolls poured in, and soon it seemed there were too many even for Kyle, who, breathing hard, covered in blood, began to slow down. Merk watched as Kyle received a slice from a halberd on his arm, and he knew his time was running out. He watched in horror as Kyle then received another blow, a hatchet to his back. Merk called out as Kyle stumbled and fell, appearing dead.
    But then, even more incredibly, the wound healed before Merk’s eyes. Kyle rose to his feet again, wheeled, and faced the troll who had struck him, and instead he killed the beast.
    With hundreds more trolls filtering in, Kyle suddenly turned to Merk. A moment later he felt Kyle’s strong, bony hands grabbing him, lifting him into the air, then over his shoulder. In too much pain to move, Merk realized that if Kyle had not come for him, he would surely have died here.
    Moments later they were racing through the army of trolls, Kyle dodging and weaving, moving so fast that all the hatchets whizzed past them. Kyle ran faster, it seemed, than even the speed of light, as if he were running on air, and Merk could hardly breathe as he felt the world rush past. Soon they gained distance on the trolls, and were deep in the woods, heading south, the tower quickly fading into the distance.
    “The tower,” Merk mumbled, “we cannot leave it.”
    “It is already finished,” replied Kyle.
    “Then…where are we going?” Merk struggled to ask, his eyes closing as they ran.
    “Far, far away from here.”

    Vesuvius led the charge as his trolls smashed the battering ram again and again into the golden doors of the Tower of Ur, each collision making the ground shake. The thick iron ram was bending the door a bit more each time. They were getting closer with each and every smash. Vesuvius was so close now to his dream, to getting the Sword, lowering the Wall of Flames, taking down the only barrier left between Marda and Escalon, he could taste it. It all lay just beyond those doors. With all the humans dead, and with those last two fleeing far away, nothing stood in his way now.
    Yet still the door would not give.
    Vesuvius, in a fit of rage, stepped forward

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