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The Skriglord guards dragged the old witch up the rocky mountainside. The whole way she squirmed and writhed, trying desperately to get away. But the Skriglords held firm. Her efforts only incited their fury, the skin shedding from their skull-shaped faces faster and faster.
They dragged her through a twisting line of trails. The trees were sparser now, and the volcano's belching louder than before. For a moment, she was able to look back over her shoulder, at the forest below. But as soon as she managed this glance of her home, a Skriglord claw tightened its grip and dragged her round the sharpest corner yet – to the court of the villainous Gogahath.
The great warlord sat on a throne carved out of the mountainside, his arms draped in his robe of mail. The harsh fumes of the mountain swirled around him, venting from the dark gaps between the imposing stones.
"What does she say?" Gogahath thundered.
A Skriglord leaned forward. "She is silent," he sneered.
Gogahath locked his large goblin eyes on the small, frightened witch. "What is the threat to my rule that the seers speak of?"
She blinked heavily and shrunk in the clutch of her captors.
Gogahath rose, throwing back his robe. His arms rose high into the putrid air – his arms, which formed themselves like tree branches, their stony sticks and twigs spreading themselves into hands and fingers. He gestured to his side.
Two giant Skriglords emerged from the shadows behind him. As their skin peeled furiously, they began to pull on the giant boulders that flanked the stone throne. Molten lava seeped from the crevices.
Gogahath broke a stone stick from his left hand and dipped it into the stream of lava. It burned and grew, forming itself into a smoldering spear. The dark master of the island stepped towards the cowering witch. "What is the threat?"
"The flaming sword," she whimpered.
"Yes, I know," the warlord grinned. He did not lower his threatening weapon.
"No," she said, fighting back tears. "The ‘Flaming Sword'."
Helegar fought off the last of the last of the Skriglord, sending his sword into its side with a scream.
Or, he thought it had been the last. Two more jumped from behind a tree, their faces falling away furiously. For a moment, Helegar lost his bearing amidst the foam of shedding skin. But he summoned his spirit and let out a powerful yell. His sword cut through an unguarded neck.
Helegar thought of his father, murdered by the Skriglords' master, Gogahath, at the Stone Forest.
As the cloud grew denser, he drew himself close to the other opponent. Screaming wildly, he threw his sword from side to side. His sword – which had been his father's sword.
His will prevailed, and he drove his blade into the beaten Skriglord's frightened heart.
And then he stood still for a long moment.