A mighty crack of thunder reverberated through the mountain. Dust and stone rained down from the roof of the cave onto the freshly awoken trolls. Ditid cried for his mother as Zulkaz sat up, wondering what manner of weather could possibly disturb a troll's slumber.
"Calm, child. Mama come." Gilta took her son into her monstrous arms, consoling him with guttural grunts and growls.
Zulkaz lifted his enormous frame and grabbed his trusty club.
"Zulkaz see." He lumbered to the mouth of the cave, kicking aside fallen rocks, and peered out into the darkness. No rain. Curious. Little people of mountain bang bang blast? Maybe.
"Ditid stay. Da look see."
Zulkaz disappeared into the blackness of the night. The mountain path would be treacherous for any other being, but the trolls of Emerus had an affinity with the rocks and the stone. Zulkaz heard distant screaming from up high on Mount Rakash. Little people fight?
Someone come. Zulkaz felt the vibrations of many little feet scurrying toward him from around the curve of the mountain path long before he heard the sound of gravel crunching underfoot. The troll hefted his club, ready for attack.
"Move troll! Get away!"
The first dwarf rushed past him, quickly followed by at least another two dozen. Dwarves look strange. Scared? An elder dwarf blundered down the path, wheezing and coughing, covered head to toe in a gray dust. His eyes streamed with tears, and he almost stumbled into the troll.
"Zulkaz! Begone, quickly."
He knew this dwarf.
"Hengrod. What wrong? Boom blast bad?"
"Nay. Well yes, but also something much worse," he panted and wiped his eyes. "We be blasting a new tunnel, following a pink quartz vein. The charge ought not have been as mighty, yet I checked afore and doubly so. Half the roof must’ve come down on us. When the smoke and dust settled, I saw as we’d opened up a cavern. Poor Master Thorbaeg and young Lommet was lost ‘neath rockfall. We tried to get to them and, just as dwarf took to pick an’ shovel, something right ‘orrible came out that cavern.” He shuddered, tears welling. “So many dead. We have to go. Now!"
Hengrod staggered away, looking back along the path for signs of pursuit. Each step he took shook the dust from his body, leaving gray footprints in his wake.
Before Zulkaz could decide which direction to take, another party of dwarves rounded the corner. Skittering down the pass behind them came the terrible thing; six troll hands tall, eight long hairy legs. On its massive head, three pairs of giant black bead-like eyes reflected starlight. Its brown striped abdomen looked to be churning. It stopped and leaned back, raised its body, stretched out its two front appendages and opened its fangs. A fine white liquid jetted forth and slammed into the back of the party, forming a congealed gel. Zulkaz stood open mouthed as he watched little people immobilized, shrieking in agony.
"Ditid! No. Go!"
Too late. The dwarves were lost in puddles of smoking goo, and the thing turned its attention to the trolls. Zulkaz pulled his son behind him, shielding him from this monster.
"My, what ugly beasts. Stupid too, by your look. Sturdy though. You may be of use. You have the power of speech?"
No ear hear. Speak in head.
"Troll talk good. Strong troll."
Zulkaz stole a glance to his side and chose a sizable rock from the side of the mountain. Gripping it in his large hands, he wrenched it free and hefted it toward the spider. It leaped out of the way just in time, landing closer to the trolls. Zulkaz now understood the churning abdomen; thousands of other eight legged beasts skittered over their mother’s body, their movement like a whisper in the night.
"Ditid, no follow da!" His mother came lurching up the mountain after him.
Stroking its glossy black fangs and swaying side to side the beast once more spat out the fluid. Zulkaz pulled Ditid aside and watched helplessly as it headed straight to his beloved wife, covering her head to toe in the sticky gel.
More rock than flesh, it took the venom longer to destroy the troll. Ditid watched his mother slowly succumb to the attack, flailing her limbs in a futile attempt to free herself from the liquid web. Those arms that had so lovingly reassured Zulkaz’s son earlier were slowly dissolved into dripping goo and clouds of acrid smoke. Ditid struggled to break free of Zulkaz’s rocky grip, his own arms outstretched to his mother. Before he could witness her utter destruction, his father grabbed him, wrapped himself around his son and rolled down the mountainside.
Zulkaz eyes leak. Troll not cry before.