Many thought Kanjigar a fool for bringing a whelp into battle. Kanjigar was insistent his son was not a whelp. Maybe his limbs were a little too gangly, and his horns a little too big for his head, but he was certainly not a whelp. Kanjigar had raised his son to be a warrior, much like him. While other trolls may have been carved of soapstone, Draal was as tough as they came. Kanjigar made sure of that.
Draal didn’t feel like a whelp, either. No matter what the other trolls thought, he was ready to tear Gunmar limb from limb. His fangs were bared and his claws ready for battle. Although he desperately wished to tear into Gumm-Gumm flesh, Draal had a smaller opponent to take his frustrations out on.
Gav, son of Yerkel, son of Torro. The young troll was as insolent and arrogant as a troll could be. Draal was just about ready to pummel his stupid face into the dirt. Gav had repeatedly insulted Kanjigar, and Draal would not stand for this whelp disparaging his father’s image. Draal would die before trolls would begin to walk all over Kanjigar. His father was legendary, better than Deya herself, even.
“He’s as large as a mountain - and not in a good way.” Gav’s remarks reached Draal’s ears, along with the sniggering of his lackeys. Draal felt familiar rage pump through his veins, filling his body up with heat. “He may be one of the Quagawumps, now that I think about it.”
“Yeah, I can see the resemblance,” one of his buddies chortled. A hot breath escaped Draal’s throat, and he imagined he could see smoke. Who else could they be disgracing, aside from his father? Kanjigar was ten-times more troll than these sorry sacks of meat could ever hope to be. Draal would gladly tear Gav a new one.
Draal shoved past a troll that was in his way, his eyes firmly set on Gav. The offender was the color of rust, his antler-like horns much too large for him. He looked up and looked directly at Draal. A lazy, uncaring smile crossed over his face.
“Ah, look, it’s daddy’s little boy! I knew he’d come crying eventually,” Gav taunted, standing up and rolling his shoulders. He was much leaner than Draal.
“Silence, you lying bastard!” Draal roared, baring his tusks. That seemed to shock Gav awake. Draal ran a tongue over his canines, already tasting the copper of blood in his mouth. Although Gav liked to act tough, he took a step back when Draal approached. “You know nothing.”
“We all grew out of worshipping our fathers already, Draal.” Gav, to his credit, stepped towards Draal. “He is a coward. He gets beaten into the ground so often that I might dare say he’s a masochist.”
Although Draal was no scholar, that was one word that he knew. Draal roared, vision clouded red with fury. Gav was laughing until Draal leaped at him, knocking him to the ground. Draal pinned Gav down, leaning so close into his face that their noses nearly touched. “Tomorrow, at the chasm. You will die for your insolence.”
Draal let Gav up, glowering at the smaller troll. Gav stared back, equally as enraged. There was fear behind Gav’s eyes, and Draal grinned. “We’ll see about that.” Gav backed into the supporting arms of his friends. Draal could beat all of them into a pulp without breaking a sweat.
Kanjigar’s son trotted away. He needed somewhere he could let off steam, since he couldn’t tear off Gav’s arms until tomorrow. Draal should have torn his throat out right then and there and seen the end of it. With the threat of Gunmar looming, no one would notice if one snaggle-toothed coward went missing - forever.
Draal looked to the ground beneath his feet. His father would never approve of that rhetoric. His father had honor, something Gav would never understand. Draal’s feet traced the path to his home. He had to turn his head so his oversized horns would fit through the door. He slammed it behind him, and it rattled in the doorframe.
Ballustra looked up as her son entered, with even more anger than normal. He inherited her flaring temper. Draal began to sulk away to his chambers, but she stopped him before he could. “What’s got you in a huff?” When her son didn’t respond, Ballustra followed after him.
“Leave me alone. It’s nothing,” Draal snarled, not looking back at his mother. He knew, however, that she was going to do anything but leave him alone.
“You are not fully grown yet, Draal, you cannot ignore your mother,” Ballustra called after him.
Before Draal could escape, Ballustra placed a hand on his shoulder. He sank down beneath the touch. “I won’t tell your father,” Ballustra persuaded. Draal sighed and turned around, crossing his arms over his chest.
It took a moment for Draal to respond, but Ballustra was evidently willing to wait. “You know Gav?” Draal huffed in a moment. It didn’t matter if she did or not, so Draal just kept talking. “He was insulting father.”
“And you just stood by?” There was no way Draal was this upset over a whelp using playground trash-talk. He ran his tongue over his tusks, the big tell that he wasn’t telling everything. “Like I said, I won’t tell your father.”
“I challenged him to a duel tomorrow. To the death.” Draal cringed, avoiding Ballustra’s eyes. When he looked at her, finally, there was a thinly veiled horror in her eyes. Ballustra sighed, seemingly sinking under the weight of having to raise Draal.
“That was foolish of you, Draal. Incredibly foolish.” She snarled, baring her fangs. “You really think you’re going to be able to kill this boy?”
“You should have heard what he was saying!” Draal roared. “You wouldn’t have let it slide and I was not about to!”
“I am a grown troll,” Ballustra snarled back. Between she and Draal, it was surprising the house was still standing. “Let me tell you what you’re going to do-”
“You can’t tell me to do anything,” Draal protested. When he looked at Ballustra’s face, rage etched into every one of her features, he quieted.
“When the duel starts, you will pin him and spare his life. Neither of you boys are dying tomorrow.”
“The duel is already in place, we can’t cancel it now. We’ll be shunned.”
“Which is why no one will know,” Ballustra growled, her voice rumbling like impending thunder. “Who heard the challenge?”
“Good. Draal, you have to understand,” it seemed as if centuries of age seeped into Ballustra’s features, “you have to understand that killing someone is something you can’t shake.”
“I’ve killed Gumm-Gumms with father,” Draal protested.
“Gumm-Gumms are different. They’re not trolls. Not anymore. This child’s blood will not wash off your hands so easily.” Draal looked up at his mother. Along with his father, she was one of the only trolls Draal was truly frightened of. “Do you understand me, Draal? You cannot go through with this duel.”
“I understand,” Draal huffed, turning away from his mother and sulking into his chambers. In reality, he did not understand in the slightest. His mother and father and every other troll got to defend their honor, so why didn’t he? He hadn’t just crawled out of his birthstone, he could care for himself now. And that meant fighting Gav.
There was no sun down where the trolls lived, and the only way to tell time was by your internal clock, and the patterns of the trolls around you. When Kanjigar returned from fighting and slipped out again after a very brief sleep, Draal knew it was time for him to leave as well.
He didn’t need to sneak past Ballustra, she had already left. Draal paused on his way past the weapons rack. There was a dazzling array of swords, hammers, daggers, and axes, all hanging just in front of Draal’s nose. He wouldn’t need one to defeat Gav. He could rip the coward apart with his claws and devour his innards. Still, the gleam of the weapons was tantalizing. Draal flicked his tongue over his canines, hungry for battle.
He would be fed soon enough.
Draal knew the bridges and tunnels of the home of the trolls well enough. His paws sank into the indents of paws that came long before his. Generations of trolls had lived here, powered by the Heartstone. The young troll looked towards the humongous crystal, glowing softly. Just the sigh of it filled his chest with something indescribable.
Perhaps, he would think as he grew older, the sense of destiny.
The home of the Heartstone was built like a spiralling pit. Draal’s home was near the top, and from here, he could survey nearly the entirety of Trollhome. Far below was where his duel would be. ‘The chasm’. It was a thin bridge of stone that stretched over a seemingly bottomless pit. Any troll that fell from there would surely perish.
Draal set off on the path to his duel. For many young trolls, their first duel was their christening. You were a whelp until you had spilled blood and butted heads. Trolls lacking scars were like mewling newborns. Common dueling locations had to be patrolled by older trolls to keep the young ones from fighting. That, in part, was why Draal had chosen the chasm. No one would step in there.
It was a long trek to the chasm, and thankfully, Draal didn’t see Ballustra on his way there. He knew it would surely inspire a lecture. Or worse, Kanjigar, asking him what he was up to. If either of Draal’s parents made him step out of the duel, he’d be shamed for centuries to come.
As the thought of the duel drew closer, Draal’s blood began to pound through his body, into his ears. He dropped down onto all fours, sprinting through Trollhome. It was so early that many trolls were not yet out, and Draal did not have to worry about colliding with any of them. The action made Draal feel truly free. The only thing more liberating than this was being in actual battle. Which, Draal reminded himself, will come soon enough.
Today was shaping up to be a good day.
Draal’s sprint turned into a roll, and he gained even more speed. The few trolls that were out avoided him as he came barreling through, rolling down the spiralling road that lead down to the chasms. How was Gav feeling right now? Terrified, surely. He was probably pissing himself and crying to his mother about how he was going to be slaughtered by Draal, son of Kanjigar.
As Draal approached the chasm, he slammed his paws down into the rock, slowing his roll. His claws tore through the stone, shredding it as if it were dirt. Draal stood, stumbling slightly as his momentum caught up with him. The young troll took in deep breaths, trying to regain his composure. He would need to look threatening when Gav arrived, tears in his eyes. He looked towards the battlefield.
The bastard was already there. His legs dangled over the edge of the bridge, and he sharpened one of his weapons on a rock beside him. He held a dagger in each of his four hands. “Did your father teach you not to act like a child, or is he too busy drowning his sorrows?” Gav gestured towards Draal with a dagger, a careless grin on his face. Why wasn’t he sobbing at Draal’s feet yet?
“Will you let those be your last words, scoundrel?” Draal snarled, baring his tusks. They were much larger than Gav’s, he noticed with pride. Gav got to his feet and cracked his neck.
“Why do you defend him so vehemently? You know that he just mooches off Deya and Vendel, right? What has he accomplished?” Gav taunted, moving threateningly towards Draal. The blue troll would not budge.
“He is an amazing warrior. He is more than you could ever hope to be, bastard,” Draal snarled. Gav paused for a moment, weighing his daggers in his four hands. He was much thinner than Draal. He thought about snapping Gav’s limbs like twigs.
“I wouldn’t be so sure, friend. All he’s done-”
Gav’s head hit the stone. Draal stood on top of him, one paw around his windpipe. Gav tried to claw Draal’s arm, but it was no use. “I am not your friend. I will never be your friend.” Draal roared in Gav’s face, his saliva spraying everywhere. It burned Gav’s skin.
Draal should pick up Gav and toss him over the side of the chasm. He should rip out each of Gav’s fangs and stab him with them. He should break Gav’s bones and take his horns home and hang them on his wall. He should tear Gav’s eyes from his skull and put them in his mouth. There were so many things he wished to do to Gav, and yet he suddenly felt very tired. Draal relaxed his grip for a moment, and Gav struck.
Hot blood sprayed from Draal’s cheek. The bastard had the gall to cut him, when he was completely at Draal’s mercy. Draal stumbled backwards, pressing a hand to the cut. The slash had just barely missed his eye.
Gav took the opportunity to stand. He rubbed his throat, and Draal took at least some pride in that. Gav spun the dagger around his fingers, and Draal thought he should have taken one of those weapons. Gav advanced, slicing at Draal’s own throat.
Draal dodged out of the way easily. The two were easing into the battle, like two dancers getting to know each other. Gav lunged more confidently this time, and Draal grabbed his wrist. It snapped easily. Gav cried out. His arm hung uselessly by his side. Draal headbutted the insolent whelp. He stumbled, but did not fall.
Another dagger came for Draal. It connected with his flesh. Hot blood spilled down his shoulder. Draal reared up to his full height, swatting Gav with one of his paws. Gav fell to the ground. Draal stood above him, nostrils flaring. He broke another one of Gav’s arms. Gav was positioned right at the edge of the bridge, the endless black of the chasm below him. Draal pulled his fist back, ready to punch Gav straight into the void.
Gav’s eyes widened, and Draal was tossed backwards. He roared and scrambled to his feet, expecting to see one of Gav’s buddies. Instead, his father stood above him, helping Gav to his feet. He looked over Gav’s injuries, seemingly uncaring that the arrogant bastard had insulted him and sliced Draal.
Kanjigar turned to look at his son, and damn it if Draal was not terrified. He had never seen his father so righteously pissed at anyone except Gunmar’s armies. Even then, he did not look as he did now. What was that emotion behind his eyes? Shame?
“What is this meaning of this, Draal?” he roared. While Kanjigar was not the most traditionally threatening troll, the sight of his wicked fangs made Draal’s stomach roll. Draal got to his feet. He was a large troll, but he barely even stood up to Kanjigar’s shoulder.
“I was defending your honor, father!” Draal whined, hissing as blood spilled from the wound on his cheek. “The things this whelp was saying, it would insult even Vendel. If you had heard half the things that came out of his ugly mug-”
“Silence!” Draal cringed backwards. Kanjigar asked for ‘the meaning of this’, he couldn’t yell if Draal gave him the answer. “You threatened another troll’s life over playground insults? You put your own life at risk?”
Draal snorted, shaking his head. “How can you expect me to fight alongside you when you do not trust me to fight a coward on my own?” Despite his better judgement, Draal continued to protest against his father. He knew this interaction would only cause more jeers from Gav, aimed at both he and Kanjigar.
“I expect you to listen to what I say! I expect you not to act like a child! I do not expect you to act like you are the Trollhunter!” Kanjigar was fuming now, and Draal could only imagine what it would be like when Ballustra heard about this as well. “Dark days are upon us, and you resort to attacking one of your brethren.”
Draal looked towards Gav’s face, hoping there was something there to help him defend himself. A mocking grin, a jeer, anything. Instead there was only an empty, shocked hurt. Two arms hung uselessly by his sides. Judging by the look in his eyes, he didn’t even hear the conversation that was going on. Kanjigar’s son felt an emotion that was nearly foreign.
He wanted so desperately to say he was sorry, but he could not spit out the word. Kanjigar left with Gav, leaving Draal alone on the chasm.
When Kanjigar was far enough away, Draal roared. He slammed his fist into the rock and knocked his horns against the stones. He wanted so desperately to tear into something, to voice his frustrations into flesh and bone. Draal closed his eyes, roaring into the void. His own voice roared back at him.
Draal opened his eyes and looked around, only to see a gnome perched a little ways away. He threw a pebble at Draal. It bounced between the troll’s eyes. Finally. Draal had something to tear into without being reprimanded.
He chased after the gnome, pouncing towards it. It wriggled out from underneath his paws, biting into his fingers. The damn pest taunted Draal, leading him in a wild chase around the chasm. He nearly slipped and fell to his death several times.
By the time Draal finally got a hold on the gnome, he was exhausted. His muscles burned, and he wondered how long he’d been chasing this thing. Why had Kanjigar not come to retrieve him?
Draal ripped the gnome’s arm off.
Did he not want his son to return?
Draal tore off its leg.
Whatever, Draal didn’t care.
Sick of the gnome’s pitiful squealing, Draal dropped it into his mouth. May it find peace within his gullet. Draal turned to leave, though he didn't know to where. Not home to Kanjigar and Ballustra, certainly.
Before he could make the choice, a horn rang out over the entirety of Trollhome, shaking the very rocks around Draal. The horn echoed back and forth until it died off. Everything returned to an unnatural silence.
Deya the Deliverer was calling them. All of them.