Chase

Olwen hurled himself forward, legs running on air, clearing the brambles and landing with a noiseless roll on the forest floor. He turned, eyes scanning the trees. Everything was still. All his ears could pick up were the gentle rustling of the breeze and the occasional small creature scurrying across the leaf litter. Had he lost him? He crept sideways towards a large oak. Maybe he could climb it? The tree’s autumn clothing gave him no cover, but if he was high enough, perhaps –

He trod on an old branch. It cracked in two with a sound magnified a hundredfold by the silence of the forest.

“I smell elf!” came a roar from the trees, followed immediately by the sound of smashing undergrowth. Olwen cursed his clumsiness and turned, sprinting up the slope. Behind him he heard the troll, crashing through saplings and tearing up the undergrowth. In the open Olwen could easily outrun him, but this wasn’t his beloved meadows. The troll was relatively slow, but he had the stamina of a river. He could run for hours uphill at the same pace he ran down it. Olwen would have to lose him somehow, double back, try and reach the safety of the ancient willow.

“I can see you!”

Olwen risked a glance backwards. The troll was on the slope, it’s huge, misshapen mouth hanging open in a grin. An easy shot with a bow, but Olwen had nothing but his speed and wits. The troll appeared to be plodding up the slope, but he was keeping pace with Olwen all the same.

Olwen faced front and redoubled his efforts. He only need keep the distance between them the same until the slope levelled out and then he could start outrunning the troll.

The slope turned into a steep valley, stone jutting out on either side. The floor levelled off, but now the trees were thinner, the brambles and undergrowth grew thicker. They caught at Olwen’s clothes as he battled his way forward. He could hear the rip and crash of the troll’s progress behind him. Without warning the valley ended. Olwen stopped, leaning on a slim birch for support, and regarded the cliff wall with dismay. It was a blind canyon. Though the walls were only some thirty feet high, they might have been three hundred. He turned. The troll stopped and grinned, then started to slowly advance, his arms spread wide.

Olwen faced the cliff again, sprinted forward and leapt. His hands found a crack in the sandstone as his feet scrabbled for grip. He heard the troll roar as he reached for a higher handhold and pulled himself up. He was out of reach of the troll now, surely.

He felt the massive impact through the cliff face as he heard the crack. He screwed his head round to see what had caused it. The troll was staggering back from one of the birches, shaking his head. A few dead leaves fluttered down around him. Stupid troll. He’d tried to run through a tree too big to give way. Olwen returned his attention to the stone before him, looking for the next handhold.

Another impact. This time the crack had a certain splintering accompaniment. What was the stupid troll trying to do? Olwen tugged at a small outcrop. The sandstone crumbled and gave way in his hand. For a moment he was unbalanced, one hand waving in the air, before he found a handhold and hugged himself into the cliff face.

A third impact, and this time the noise was sustained as the big tree slowly toppled forward. Out of the corner of his eye Olwen saw the tree move with slow grace until with a splintering of branches it rested against the lip of the canyon. A ladder! He heard the troll chuckle below, then grunt as he started to climb the tree.

Panic leant urgency to Olwen’s movements as he scrambled for new holds. Ten feet, that was all the distance he had to climb now. Ten feet, and then he could sprint to safety. The sandstone was gritty under his fingers, his hands threatening to slide across the surface. One more foot to go. He reached for the lip of the small valley, his hands scrabbling in the thin layer of top soil. He found a root and hauled. The root snapped and Olwen leant out across the drop, arm windmilling.

His other wrist was suddenly caught in a painful grip, and the troll lifted him one-handed high into the air. Olwen dangled there, screwing up his face as the troll brought him into a fug of halitosis.

“Got you,” said the troll.

“Yes, yes, you got me,” said Olwen, the fight suddenly gone from him. It was indisputable. He had lost. The troll put him down on the ground and Olwen slumped against a tree, closing his eyes.

After a long pause Olwen snapped his eyes open.

“Here I come, ready or not,” he yelled, and started the hunt for his friend.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

2 Responses to Chase

  1. foldedflat says:

    Very nice! I like the surprise ending, and how self-contained the story is despite the in media res beginning and the feeling of more to tell ahead.

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