A sudden blanket of sunlight nearly dragged the exhausted companions to their knees. The grips of the Endless Forest now out of reach behind them, the three proceeded west. A steady, refreshing breeze kept their spirits up, though they could now feel the heat of mid-summer in full force as they pushed through a gradual incline.
“Come on, you lot! We’re nearly there!” Matthias encouraged his fellow travelers. “The crystal gate of Castle Heinguard should be just beyond this hill!” Lord Matthias the Strong was once a humble fisherman from a small port-village, Ta-Laithe, in the far East. A lifetime of brutal war against the flame riders of Maireth had made Matthias a hardened warrior. He could do like thirty pull-ups.
“This…” Isaac panted behind him. “Is such… Bullshit. Why can’t we just go inside and play Xbox?” Isaac the Powerful, grand-wizard over the Shining Mountains, was regarded as the most well-traveled wizard north of the Asotennim River, and proved a necessary guide for getting the companions through the Endless Forest. His reputation as an unconventional wielder of magic had him banished from the high-wizard council. He would argue that his counterparts were just jealous of his overwhelming magical abilities and having so many friends.
“Because my dad’s watching NASCAR,” Matthias answered. “Anyway, keep up! We’re nearly to the summit.”
“Well, we better be greeted with a hall full of roast duck, strawberry tart, and mead! I hear that Heinguard is full of busty wenches, too!”
Short on breath, Tommy simply nodded in agreement. Tommy was a ninja.
Gusts at the top of the grassy hill were nearly overwhelming, breathing new life into the companions. Peering north, the companions could make out the snow-covered peaks of the Shining Mountains. Along the base of the far-stretched range, fields of barren farmland were hidden behind hundreds of miles of the Endless Forest, which ran like a ruthless river from the western edge of the mountains into the eastern seas that now lie far behind them. To the south, there was a Chili’s.
“There!” shouted Isaac, pointing out at a dismal, gray fortress due west them. Castle Heinguard was a once-prosperous estate, being a welcoming hub for travelers across all lands to share in food, song, and tales of glorious adventures. It was widely known for its pearly, white walls, encircled by a dozen royal violet towers. Perfectly centering the front face of the castle stood a great crystal gate.
“Kinda looks like shit, doesn’t it?” Isaac remarked.
“Yes,” Mathias said woefully. “But we are in desperate need of respite for the night. At first light, we’ll continue on that road along the southern side of the castle. We’re still a fortnight away from Maireth. Shouldn’t take more than three books to get there. Maybe six movies, if we stretch it out.”
“Indeed,” Isaac agreed. “Then we must make haste. The sun is setting, and flame riders are mobile in the darkness. Their horses can smell fear. I also have a twelve-ounce container of cream cheese in my pocket, which I probably should have mentioned earlier.”
As the companions neared the backside base of the hill, a hideous troll revealed itself from a hulking oak, yards before the crystal gate. Trolls were known to build dwellings inside of caves, but occasionally one would hollow out a broad tree if it dared to venture too far away from the mountains. The troll stood twenty feet tall, with grass-stained skin, two rows of canine teeth and blood-red eyes.
“Troll! Tommy, quick, throw your ninja stars!” Matthias cried.
Tommy hurled a handful of star-shaped blades at the troll, only to ricochet off of its thick skin and fall back at the companions’ feet.
“Shit!” Isaac burst. “His hide is impenetrable! I shall conjure pizza rolls to hurl at the troll and burn through its thick skin!”
“Wait, what?” Matthias questioned. “Pizza rolls are consumables, not projectiles, you idiot!”
“Well, pizza rolls are basically lava every time you try to eat one, right? So, using my magical wizard-abilities, I can transfer that heat to the outer surface of the pizza rolls to create a fiery projectile. Magic pizza rolls, dude!”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“You’re the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Isaac mumbled under his breath, as he pointed the Staff of Thousand Suns at the ground before them. Suddenly, a steaming pizza roll appeared in the grass.
Isaac wore a proud grin. “Dare you to eat it,” he turned to Matthias.
“What? No! It’s on fire!”
“I thought it was a consumable?”
“Uh… guys,” Tommy muttered. The troll, annoyed by the feeble bickering, let out a monstrous roar while taking another bound towards the companions.
“Oh no!” Isaac exclaimed. “If only we had some type of ammunition to attack the troll from a safe distance. I guess we’ll just have to wait for our slow, unavoidable deaths.”
“Smart ass…” Matthias groaned. “Just throw the damn pizza rolls!”
“Heeheehee,” Isaac laughed. Pointing the Staff of a Thousand Suns towards the troll, he expelled dozens of flaming pizza rolls, making contact with the troll’s eyes, temporarily blinding the beast.
Matthias drew his trusty broadswords, Dragonkiller and Stephanie, and charged towards its bunion-riddled feet. Suddenly, a booming voice echoed off the hills around them, “Matthew! Put down those sticks and come inside.”
“Not now, Ma!” Matthias retorted “We’re battling a troll!”
“I made pizza rolls for you and your friends,” the voice persisted.
“Holy shit! Magic pizza rolls!” Isaac gasped.
“What was that?”
“Thanks, Linda!” Isaac hastily called back.
Dropping their weapons before the defeated turtle sandbox, the three companions made their way towards the crystal gate.
Isaac winked at Matthias. “See? Told you Heinguard was full of busty wenches.”
Tommy snickered uncontrollably under his breath.
“I hate you guys,” Matthias breathed.
And so, the companions entered the halls of Castle Heinguard to rest their weary bones. They had a great and perilous journey ahead of them. But first, it was time for a snack.
Brendon Arnold is an engineer in Arlington, VA with a passion for creating stories that people can enjoy.