Chapter 44:

Red Wolves' Might II

Sword Quest

Quentle’s bloodied legs quivered as he charged up the dirt-covered volcano’s side. He looked back to see his three companions right behind him, and their pursuers closing the distance between them. He turned back, scoping out the volcano itself.

In front him, the slope narrowed and winded slightly, exposing a deep drop-off. The volcano’s second entrance, another cave-like tunnel, laid some twenty meters ahead. To the right of that, the slope winded once more to the volcano’s tilted peak, a rocky mound that pointed toward the top of the surrounding cliff. A good escape into a separated forest, he thought.

“Alright boys, let’s make our stand where the path winds!” he shouted with confidence. “We just have to wreak havoc and make sure nobody gets inside that cave! Geraint and Jorge, keep behind and try to knock off anybody who gets past me!”

“Got it!” the boys said together, gripping their daggers with shaking hands.

“Kaolo, you’re the last line of defense, so take that extra dagger I gave you and throw it at ‘em, and if it comes to it just defend yourself and let ‘em through!”

“But Quentle, your strong point is defense,” Kaolo responded with an eager tone. “Shouldn’t you be in the back? I even have two daggers to lead the attack!”

“Nah, that’s fine,” Quentle responded with a confident smirk as he skidded to a stop at the start of the winding path. “Should work out okay this way, and I wanna take that young-looking Shlank head-on.”

“Well, alright then, we’ll follow your lead,” Kaolo responded with a concerned look, taking his position in the back.

“Here they come, hold your ground!” Quentle cried as the young Shlank tore through the dirt between them, regarding him with fierce eyes that were barely exposed by his wild hair.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” he barked, thrusting his spear at Quentle, his moves crisp and precise. Quick to react, Quentle deflected the spear’s tip with his own and pushed him back with his grounded defensive stance.

“I’m the one who should have gotten the sword, and you’re about to see why,” he responded with fierce eyes of his own.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” the scruffy boy scoffed with rage, “since I’m the true heir to that sword, the next SHLANK Heir!”

The boy attacked again in a barrage of strikes, which Quentle parried and evaded again and again, only accruing minor scratches on his arms. Their spears locked and the two bore down, trying to overpower one another.

“Oy, you’re gonna get squished by those Red Wolves, Shlank Heir,” Quentle muttered, taunting the boy as the red and gold-clad soldiers grew closer.

“Gramps, do it before they get here!” he responded, not taking his eyes off of Quentle.

The older man behind him then turned his back and threw something at the dirt path they’d come up from. Just like before, Quentle watched as smoke burst forth, clouding the area just as the Red Wolves approached. The smoke engulfed them and drifted up the slope towards the others.

“Young master, they’re coming!” the old man cried out, wielding his spear firmly. The boy broke loose from his clash with Quentle and took to the old man’s side.

“Geraint, Jorge, get ready!” Quentle yelled, positioning himself just behind the two Shlanks as the smoke grew thicker. One by one, the Red Wolves came into view, rushing headlong into the waiting defenders.

The Shlanks took out the first two attacking Red Wolves with ease before clashing with two more. Another two appeared from behind them, making for Quentle. Quentle’s arms faltered at the sight of the tall men, his spear feeling heavier than usual.

The men raised their short swords, only a meter away from the frozen boy.


Right then, a dagger soared over Quentle’s head, cutting through the smoke on a path to the rightmost man’s face.


Having noticed just in time, the man deflected the dagger. However, the rushed deflection caused the blade to ricochet directly into the other man’s thigh.

The man shrieked, losing his grip on his blade, while the other looked at him in surprise.

That split-second distraction was all Quentle needed to regain himself. With a wide swing he thumped the distracted man on his forehead with his dull spearhead, knocking him unconscious. While the wounded man worked on pulling the thrown dagger out of his leg, Quentle stepped into a side-jab, jamming the butt of his spear into the man’s neck.

The man collapsed, coughing and grasping at his leg. Quentle gnashed his teeth and moved back just as two more men appeared from the smoke in front him. He steadied himself, focusing on his defensive stance, and the men bounced to either side of him after a brief clash.

Quentle looked back to see Geraint and Jorge step forth, intercepting the two. The men thrust their blades vigorously at the boys, but their large frames and strong posture held them up, allowing them to defend and draw the fight out.

Quentle quickly refocused as another Red Wolf approached. Thinking there couldn’t be any more than two left, he glanced past the incoming attacker to see the two Shlanks fighting off four men.

That’s definitely got to be all of them… anymore would have broken though…

We’re almost there!

He dug in, receiving the last attacker with his feet planted wide and his grip strong. The spear tip met the blade, and the two engaged in several back-and-forth blows. Quentle maintained focus on his defense, keeping the attacker on his toes while waiting for an opportunity to counter. However, his attacker persisted, throwing heavy blow after another. Wincing as his wounded legs began to fade underneath him with each spear thrust, he glanced around as the smoke began to clear.

Geraint and Jorge looked to be getting overpowered. Jorge proceeded to take a few blunt blows to the head and was being pushed toward the edge of the slope, prompting Geraint to break loose and run to his aid. Geraint’s enemy followed suit, with Kaolo right behind him.

A chaotic three-against-two melee ensued, and Quentle could sense disaster. In front of him, the Shlanks had taken out one of their men, but let another break loose toward him.

Desperate, he left his guard open, goading his enemy into an all-or-nothing attack. By sheer luck, he guessed the blade’s trajectory and managed to dodge it by a hair, its edge barely slicing his cheek.

The man’s attack left him open, while Quentle’s arms were unoccupied and ready to counter. With a powerful sweep, he whipped the butt of his spear into the man’s temple, sending him staggering toward the edge. He tried to stop himself, but the weight of the strike, along with the downhill slope, sent him skidding off the edge.

As he fell, the man stretched out his left arm. Quentle had begun to make for the scuffle his friends were currently losing. Therefore, through the dissipating smoke, he only saw a glimpse of a thin silver line between the man and the edge of the winding path they were on, as if he’d somehow attached a rope to its surface.

At the very moment he saw it, half of the path itself collapsed inward like a landslide. With it, everyone staggered, falling one by one off the edge into a storm of sinking dirt.

Quentle watched in horror as Geraint, Jorge, and Kaolo all descended into the storm along with the Red Wolves. Having barely caught himself, he was able to plant his feet just beyond the point where the surface caved in. Wide-eyed, he looked to see the Red Wolves in front of him, along with the older Shlank, also falling.

The only one left, holding himself still while watching with a grimace as his ally fell, was the younger Shlank. Quentle, speechless, wanted to jump down and ensure his friends’ safety. However, when the self-proclaimed Shlank Heir made eye contact with him, he knew all he could do was give the young man, quivering with rage, all of his attention.