And, here it is!!
Pike didn’t like this one bit. Shenshen was determined to follow Rayek to bring him back, and Rayek was determined not to go back at all. They’re both more stubborn than a zwoot, he thought. And he, he was supposed to protect Leetah’s sister, but the moment they stepped inside the Troll’s tunnel, he could feel eyes on them. Hottburr was uneasy, but kept silent. The only thing that gave Pike comfort was that the three elves were obviously armed; the Trolls wouldn’t dare attack them without preparing first, and even then they’d probably take the coward’s way out.
He kept pace with Shenshen and whispered, “Keep your eyes sharp, there could be traps all over this place.”
The Sun Villager looked wary, but unsure. “I haven’t seen a Troll yet. Are you sure they’re even here?”
What Pike wouldn’t give for the two other elves to be able to receive sendings. He simply nodded. “They’re here.”
Rayek wasn’t waiting up for the other two, and seemed to even be trying to lose them, but with the wolf blood, they wouldn’t be lost so easily. And Pike remembered these halls. It would be a day or two before they reached any real deviation from the tunnel. After a while though, Rayek slowed his pace, and let them keep up, though he still said nothing to them.
They slept in shifts; two asleep, one awake, usually Rayek or Pike. When they awoke, Pike would take a nap on Hotburr while they continued. Still Shenshen said nothing to Rayek, and that bothered Pike. He couldn’t understand why they’d come all this way and then didn’t do anything. It just didn’t make sense. He asked her about it while Rayek scouted ahead on the second day.
“He’s not in the right mind to listen.” She replied. “He always was a stubborn zwoot, and until he is able to listen, anything I try will be pointless.”
“And until then?”
Shenshen smiled slyly. “Until then I have you, roseynose.” She ruffled his hair and gave him a grin, then sped up her walk until she caught up with the dark skinned hunter.
They were attacked on the third day. Hotburr sensed it only seconds before Pike and then Rayek. The Trolls came at them with a big net, just like they had out in the desert, but this time they came in greater number, and were armed and ready. Hotburr lunged at the nearest Troll, and took him down easily, but two of the others nearby threw a pouch at both the animal and the three elves. A cloud of powder erupted from the pouches, sending everyone coughing and hacking. Hotburr went down easily, and Pike, though he tried to keep conscious, blacked out shortly after.
Rayek stood strong and kept fighting, taking out two trolls with his dagger and one more with his magic, using falling rocks to hinder the rest. Shenshen had taken out her weapon and swung at any opponent who came near, but as her accuracy left much to be desired, the most damage she did was a deep gash to in a wrist or foot to any Troll who was careless. When the attacking Trolls were either disarmed, run away or dead, he grabbed Shenshen’s arm and pulled her away. She immediately wrenched her arm free and glared at the hunter.
“You’re just going to leave Pike and Hotburr?” she accused.
Rayek frowned. “We need to leave now before the Trolls come back in force.”
“Well then you are going to help me take the Wolfrider and his Wolf to whatever hiding place you have in mind.” She put one hand on her hip, and gripped her blade with the other, just daring him to say no. “We are not leaving a fellow elf behind!”
“THAT is not an elf!” Rayek pointed down the tunnel. “That is a barbarian wolf who looks like an elf.”
“He’s more elf than you’ll ever be, Rayek” She shot back at him, heading back down to where Pike lay. “He cares for all living things, elf or no. Maybe if you did the same, Leetah would have had more respect for your wish to be lifemates.”
The barb hit home, and Rayek stood solid where he was, attempting not to show the hurt from her comment. Shenshen had left him and was trying to wake Pike up. When he didn’t show any indication of doing so, she tried to lift him, but was having obvious trouble. Finally she got him in a position where she could lift and hold him and then carried him down the tunnel until she found what she thought was a good hiding place for now. She set him down gently and then returned for the wolf.
When she arrived, Rayek had taken his cloak and laid it out on the ground in front of the wolf. “He’s too heavy for you to lift alone.” He grunted out, almost too low for Shenshen to hear, but she just smiled back. She rolled the wolf onto the cloak, as Rayek seemed unwilling to touch the beast, and the two of them carried him to their hiding place.
“They will find us, you know.” Rayek said after a while. “If we stay in one place like this.”
“But you could protect us, I’m sure of it.” Shenshen teased, “Besides, once Pike and Hotburr wake up, we can move again.”
Rayek looked away and grumbled. “We’ll need food.”
Shenshen’s smile faded a little. “Why don’t you go find some? I’ll stay here and guard Pike.” He looked at her for a long time, silently, as if deciding whether she was being serious or not, then, without a word, he got up to go. “Just promise me you’ll come back.” He hesitated another moment after her comment, gave a slight nod, and left.