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The Fate Upon His Bones

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There’s a small clatter of rocks as the Trollhunter drops a hunk of brick he’d picked up to sniff. One of his ears twitches as he does so, deeply aware of the sound it was creating.

 

“Hmph,” Kanjigar huffs, glancing around at the abandoned factory “I’m beginning to think the rumors aren’t holding much weight.” The only traces he could find of the Skullcrusher’s son were faint and old scent trails, at least a year old or more. Certainly dating back to the time he’d last been seen by him in town at least. There was also an added scent mingled in, one that he wasn’t as familiar with and that had an odd and not quite trollish twinge to it.

 

The troll investigated the old and cobbled together throne that the Gumm-Gumm had constructed for himself years back, the bricks and stones and pieces of metal crushed into the proper shape for sitting on. It was nothing too interesting, at least; only having a few old and degraded bloodstains across it and the nearby wall. Whatever mural had been scratched there by anyone had long since been faded with rain and what looks like a haphazard attempt to destroy it while leaving.

 

It seems like this place hadn’t seen any activity since the Trollhunter had managed to run Bular out of the town years ago. It was quiet, it was empty, there was nothing here really to investigate. It was both fortunate, and highly unfortunate. Maybe it was the shame of his earlier defeat that had kept Bular from returning quickly, but less than a decade has passed and, all told, Kanjigar was not put at ease by his absence. It meant he had no idea where he was or what he had been up to, Ii he was conspiring with someone else or if he had just slunk back into some dark hole to lament his defeat.

 

Normally this is the sort of thing he would have been working alone on, but truth be told he had been fairly certain that the rumors were just that - rumors. So he had asked his son and his closest friends to come out with him on this mission. In the end he knew it would soothe Blinky and his conspiracy theories. One of which was that Bular was now some kind of changeling hiding amongst the humans. Which, in Kanjigar’s opinion, was rather ridiculous. Even more so than usual for his friend.

 

Another fact was that at the moment it did ease his mind slightly to know he was not the only one out there this evening. Ever since leaving Trollmarket a small part of him had felt like something was off, even if the logical part of him declared it was all fine. Like an itch where the amulet would sit above his chest, it was strange and uncomfortable and often would sneak up on him. The familiar ticking of the glowing amulet seemed ominous rather than comforting; like a countdown rather than the passage of time.

 

After a few more minutes of sniffing around the abandoned factory and the makeshift throne that had been left there; he decides to turn back. His footsteps echoed slightly in the dark and cavernous room that had once held large machinery. It lent an even more eerie feeling than the ticking of the amulet, and absentmindedly he reached up to place his hand over the amulet. He knew it would not dull the sound, which was only audible to him anyways, but it made him feel slightly better.

 

Behind him there’s the sound of something hitting the concrete floor. It’s sudden and small, but enough of a startle that the Trollhunter whips around to face it. In the dim glow of moonlight he doesn’t see anything off the bat, and even though his eyesight is better at night vision than a human’s, there doesn’t seem to be anything there right away. The echoes of the disturbance seem to fade far too quickly, leaving the large room in an eerie and empty quiet once again. It obviously had been the sound of something moving, but it was far too small to be Bular. He would have recognized the sound of that troll moving around no matter what.

 

A growl rumbles in his throat as Kanjigar advances back in the direction he’d come from. Both his ears are upright, listening intently for any other noises. Here in this room, he feels exposed, like eyes are watching him at every turn. Backtracking doesn’t seem to get him anything new; nothing amiss amongst the debris. No new scents, just the stale air and old gumm-gumm scraps. It grates his nerves a little to think he had possibly been taken in by the rumors even just a little bit. He’s supposed to be a source of stability for Trollmarket, and in turn Arcadia and the rest of trolls in general. Getting shaken up by a sourceless rumor wasn’t exactly something that reflected well on his ability to do his duties.

 

Forcing his body to release the tension it had been holding, he exhales a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.

 

“Must have just been the wind….” He mumbles to himself, pausing to scratch at the base of a horn. This whole endeavour was likely a terrible waste of time, but it was a relief to find there had been nothing waiting for him here at this old haunt. Bular likely had slunk into some dark hole, and wasn’t going to come back for a long, long time. Of course, he wasn’t so arrogant to think that he had chased Bular off for good, there was little chance in the son of Gunmar admitting defeat forever while he still breathed. At least, for the time being, it meant that Arcadia Trollmarket would be safe for a while longer. It was a liveable feeling.

 

Doing a cursory look around, he happens to glance upwards at one of the windows near the top of the building. It was broken, letting in unfiltered moonlight into the room below. The rest of the windows were dirty or cracked, letting in far less light than it. Judging by the placement of the moon in the sky, it must be getting closer to midnight. Due to agreements with his companions, he had agreed to meet with them soon just to go over any possible findings. Hopefully their reports would be as fruitless as his. As he kept glancing up at the window though, he noticed an unusual shadow swaying slightly.

 

A jolt goes down his spine as he narrows his eyes in an attempt to see it better. Without thinking he could feel his sword materialize in his hand. Daylight glows dimly as he snarls at the strange shape watching him. As the sword appears it moves again.

 

“Show yourself!” He shouts, teeth bared. The sound of his voice was loud enough to scare what had been lurking there, which turns out to have been a pigeon that was resting for the night. It unhappily flaps its wings and flies off, leaving the Trollhunter standing there looking rather sheepish. He’s been doing this for centuries, and a small helpless bird was what frightened him? Anxiety must be getting to him.

 

Unhappily he shakes himself out, once again trying to force the tension from his body and vanishing the sword from his hands. Turning tail he heads back out of the building to little noise or fanfare. It’s just still, and quiet, and empty. The walk back to the woods and towards their meeting place eases most of his anxiety. Everything so far had truly been entirely uneventful. The only signs of Bular had been years old scraps and absolutely nothing fresh. The only thing he’d seen in the end was a bird, which was not all that unexpected either. He was searching around abandoned human architecture. Birds liked to congregate there.

 

Quietly he clacked and clanked his way through the woods, his armor making noise he’d practically grown deaf to over the years. The same with most of the small and quiet noises of the wildlife that lived in the area around Arcadia. Which was mostly a few deer, some raccoons, birds. Maybe goblins, but not as often.

 

Soon enough he found himself walking along the back fences of several human homes, using them as a guide to get back towards the designated meeting spot. Tonight it seemed there would be no news, and that in and of itself was a good thing. Meandering out and around the trees, he continued to glance at the mostly dark human homes he was passing by. Although he was not exceptionally fond of humans, like most trolls, he still did his part to keep them safe. They were often rather dumb and fragile creatures.

 

Protecting them and trollkind wasn’t exactly a job he would have picked for himself, but it seemed like fate had decided otherwise. And he could live with that.

 

Several houses down he could hear the sound of a dog barking, obviously annoyed with something happening nearby. Kanjigar assumed it was likely due to his presence and how close he was to the houses, and moved further out into the woods to avoid provoking the poor animal further. But that didn’t seem to calm the dog, who only barked more ferociously. It was the only hint that it wasn’t barking at Kanjigar, up until the barks ended in a very sharp yelp.

 

It was enough to make the Trollhunter wary, instincts telling him that was not the natural conclusion to the animal’s distress. Summoning Daylight to his hands once more, he creeps closer to the yard he was sure he had heard the barking coming from. It did not take long to notice that the back fence had been pulled apart, the planks torn off and askew. Several were just strewn about the grass, and from what he could tell there was no dog in sight.

 

Cautiously he scents the air, nostrils flaring as he catches wind of a fairly disgusting stench. Rank, rotting meat and blood, decay. It’s harsh and familiar, and it makes him set his teeth in a snarl.

 

He could see through the hole in the fence a large black shape, that quickly shifted upright as it spotted him in return. Red and yellow eyes glowed like coals in the darkness, like kind young human children would describe hiding under their bed. And of course they were all too familiar. It was hard to keep himself from snarling as Kanjigar pointed his sword at the Gumm-Gumm he’d only mere minutes before had assumed wouldn’t come back.

 

“Bular! I hadn’t expected you back so soon…. Was I too kind in letting you yield before? I would have thought shame would have kept you hidden in some hole for the next five decades.” The words are growled out from behind his tusks, eyes narrowed. The only response at first is a dark and low chuckle from the other troll.

 

“Oh, you knew I would come back! As if I could wait around forever for you to die of old age… A fate so unbefitting of Trollmarket’s most noble Trollhunter to date.” He grins, crooked fangs glinting in the moonlight. “But maybe if you hand over the amulet I’ll make your death swift, and gnaw on your bones for the next century. Either way, though, I will kill you.”

 

Bular wipes a smudge of blood off his face, then licks it off his paw. The action is rather distasteful to the Trollhunter, but not of the utmost concern at the moment. Watching him cautiously move forward and out of the yard, Kanjigar is beginning to ready his sword for a fight. And instead both of their attentions are drawn to the house, as a light flickers on inside.

 

Recovering only takes a few seconds, and in that time Kanjigar lowers his head and charges at Bular. Hitting him square in the gut, he sends both of them sprawling back into the trees. There’s a crash as the gumm-gumm is thrown into a tree. His weight was enough to cause it to creak with strain, nearly pulling some of the roots up out of the ground. Angrily he climbs back to his feet as the Trollhunter finds his own again.

 

With a roar Kanjigar stumbles upright, charging back at Bular again. There’s a loud metallic ringing as the two meet swords first, the intended blow being blocked by the other troll’s weapons. Another swipe is attempted, which clangs and glances off. Repeatedly they swing and block; the two of them being closely matched in skill makes it hard for either to get a one up on the other. The longer it goes, the more Bular seems to be retreating himself back into the woods. Each blocked blow earns a snarl from the gumm-gumm as well.

 

Dropping one of his swords, Bular uses the moment of surprise to swing the remaining one upwards. It catches the Trollhunter’s left horn and breaks off the tip. Immediately the pain is intense, practically reverberating down through Kanjigar’s skull. Blinded by the pain, he howls and slashes wildly in an attempt to push the other troll away. In his blind flailings he actually catches Bular across the eye, Daylight slashing through it easily and leaving them both bleeding.

 

Temporarily they’re both going blind, howling in agony. Weapons are forgotten as instinct takes hold, instead going straight for fighting with teeth and claws. Roaring, Bular punches Kanjigar in the face and stunning him. It’s enough to give him the space to grab his swords and take off into the woods. It was an unexpected move, and sloppily Kanjigar reaches a hand up to touch his face. The gumm-gumm has sharp claws, and he can feel a deep gash across his cheek. His hand comes back with blood. Although the armor does dull pain responses, everything aches from the horns down.

 

He knows this fight isn’t over yet though, and he has to gather himself even though his vision is swimming. Thick rivulets of blood are finding their way down into the collar of his chest piece; a sensation he finds rather uncomfortable. Angrily he starts to follow Bular, frustrated that he seems to think he can get away that easily. He had been far too lenient last time, but no more. Daylight is clenched in his fingers tightly as he follows the other troll’s trail of blood.

 

Catching up to him isn’t that hard as neither of them seem to be moving very fast. Injuries are already starting to pile up from the short scrap only a few minutes ago and neither one of them is feeling particularly good about it. Stumbling his way out of the woods, the Trollhunter finds himself standing at the edge of a road. Across it is Bular who seems to have been waiting for him.

 

The two trolls stand there for a moment, assessing the situation at hand. The houses just a block or so down are silent and dark, no animals barking. And the road seems to be empty of cars for the time being. Snorting, Bular rubs at the ruined stone where his right eye had been. It wasn’t the first time that Kanjigar would think that there was a family resemblance, regardless of if Bular was truly Gunmar’s blood kin or not. And to be entirely fair, a small part of Kanjigar was pleased to see he had dealt real damage to the gumm-gumm.

 

At this point both of them could easily scent the blood, as it hung thick and heavy around the Trollhunter and gumm-gumm alike. Bular rolls his shoulders a bit and straightens himself up.

 

“I would have thought that you would have been practicing these last few years… Pathetic.” A gravelly chuckle leaves his throat, “I wouldn’t have expected you to be so soft.”

 

Frustration bubbles up in Kanjigar, hot and angry and tense. It causes him to grind his teeth together, tusks making a slight ‘click’ as he clamps his jaw shut. Narrowing his eyes and flicking his ears back, the Trollhunter growls.

 

“You’re a lot of talk for once, Bular; usually you go straight to cowardice and run.” The angry snarl he gets from the other troll makes him grin for a moment. “But maybe I just never took you for suicidal. I’m sure your father would be disappointed.”

 

Another angry snarl pulls itself from Bular’s chest, and it increases the smirk on the Trollhunter’s face. It falters slightly when the other troll takes a step towards him, and the tune of the amulet’s ticking seems to change. It goes much faster, a rapid clicking in his head that distracts him momentarily from his surroundings. Instinct tells him that it means nothing good as a cold heavy feeling forms in the pit of his stomach. The way Bular is bristling and growling pulls him back to what’s going on though, and back to the task at hand.

 

It seems likely that only one of the two would be walking away from the fight, and duty calls to Kanjigar like always. It was rule number three, after all. Always finish the fight.

 

Letting out an angry howl, Bular charges at him. Bracing himself as best he can, Kanjigar meets him head on. The sound of them colliding was incredibly loud, like boulders and metal thrown together. For several minutes it’s just desperate grabbing and clawing, teeth sinking into stone flesh, angry and bitter yowling and pain. It’s hard to tell for the Trollhunter exactly how long. Seconds? Minutes? Hours? It felt like an eternity.

 

Finding purchase by digging his heels into the road, the troll manages to get a grasp on one of Bular’s horns. Using all his strength he throws the other troll away from him in an attempt to get some breathing room. And although it does work for Bular, he suddenly feels the weight of another troll land on his back. It is far smaller and lighter than him, and without thinking he reaches up and grabs at the nearest limb.

 

This other opponent gets thrown right into Bular, and he can get a much better look at her. Small, slender, long hair. His recognition is a little low, but he’s almost certain that this was the changeling his son had mentioned. Of course Bular wouldn’t be working alone, it had been stupid to assume he was.

 

Bular swipes her away, grumbling at the changeling for getting in the way as he does. She hisses and warbles something in trollish, but Kanjigar is far too worried about his odds to pay attention. The changeling’s name had honestly escaped him, he had only heard of her in passing when he had shown his disapproval. But a part of him is certain it doesn’t really matter right now either.

 

Quickly he finds himself distracted by Bular charging in yet again. The two trolls collide yet again, Kanjigar’s feet slipping on the asphalt as the other troll starts to overpower him. As if the armor itself knew he was faltering slightly, the Trollhunter can feel a burst of energy run through him. Using that to his advantage he pushes back, once more grabbing and throwing the other troll as hard as he can.

 

The distraction seems to have worked though, as once more he feels the weight of the smaller troll hit his back. Before he can even reach for her, there’s a sharp and cold blade shoved down in the gap between his helmet and chestpiece. Panicked, he blindly reaches for her and manages to grab her leg. Thoughtlessly he throws her as hard as he can into the woods. Already he can feel pain spreading from the wound, his muscles beginning to seize up. Out of the corner of his eye he spots something else coming down the road. A human vehicle? It was hard for him to tell.

 

The light from a small puttering thing hits him across the eyes and he blinks in response. The strength seems to be rapidly draining from his limbs, and the sound of creaking and cracking wood is beginning to feel dull and distant. It seemed like the Gumm-Gumm wouldn’t be stunned for very long. Numbly the troll staggers himself back to his feet yet again, certain that whatever was on the blade was the cause of his issues. Creeper’s Sun seemed a likely culprit to the Trollhunter, as he could feel the way his body was beginning to stiffen. It was spreading rapidly from the wound, and he knew there wouldn’t be much time before it killed him. Turning to stone there in the middle of a road was not the way Kanjigar had seen himself going, if he had to admit that to himself someday.

 

But he was more interested in the small puttering of an engine coming towards him. The taste of blood coats the back of his tongue and throat, an unpleasant side effect of the poison on top of turning to solid stone.

 

Squinting against the little light, he stares as the sound slows to a stop a good yard or two away. A human sitting on top of a moped was sitting there, staring back at him. Summoning all of the strength he can, Kanjigar takes a few steps closer to the human. As he does, the amulet’s ticking in his head grows louder, more rapid. He knows that he can’t let it fall into the hands of the Gumm-Gumm that was likely getting up right now. It was as much his duty to protect the amulet as it was to use it to protect others.

 

Groping at his chest, he finds the rapidly clicking amulet where it belonged. Looming over the human, who seems too stunned to react, he pulls it from the armor. In an instant he feels the magic evaporate around him, leaving him cold and exhausted and in more pain that he had realized. Fate must have found its way to him though, as he looks down at whoever had stopped.

 

“Take it.” He pants, shoving the amulet towards the human. “Take it and run.”

 

Jim Lake Jr stares up at the strange creature standing in front of him, with a hand outstretched. The amulet glows almost ominously, casting a strange light upon the two of them. Carefully he climbs off his moped taking a step closer.

 

“W-what?” He manages to squeak out, just as his hand is grabbed by the troll.

 

“I said take it. ” The thing commands, shoving the glowing amulet into his hand. “And run .”

 

Behind the troll, Jim can see a set of glowing eyes, and can hear the sound of something very big and very angry climbing its way back onto the road. Fear crawls up his spine, sending a shot of adrenaline through him. It’s enough to spur him to hop back onto his moped and hit the gas. As he swerves around the creatures in the road, his heart beats rapidly in his ears.

 

“What the fuck ?!” He yelps to no one in particular, hearing the sound of roaring and crumbling rock behind him. The amulet that was hastily shoved into a hoodie pocket almost seems to pulse, and for a moment he was certain he heard some voice call his name.

 

But that really was not his main concern at the time. For now, he was far, far more concerned with escaping the giant monster that was attempting to chase him down.

 

He presses the gas as far as it goes, and curses that he didn’t spring for a better vehicle. Later he would investigate this weird amulet. For now, escape was his only priority.