After a bit of a delay, I have finally returned to the adventures of Ava and her monster hunting. This is the third installment out of four, so be sure to check back for the exciting conclusion to this story. If you are just now finding this, you can read Part One and Part Two by following the links. Leave a comment and share how you think it is all going to come to an end in part four.
How could her father’s sword be here, in the lair of a meager ogre? These were the monsters she grew up hunting because they were slow and stupid and predictable. She refused to believe that her father could have met his end at the hands of an ogre. He had been hunting monsters for decades. His death had to have something to do with that unusual visitor who he left with. Ava tried to think back to the day when her father left.
A short, muscular man appeared in the dead of night, his horse slathered in sweat and on the brink of exhaustion. They spoke together in hushed tones, but Ava had learned a thing or two about eavesdropping and could hear enough. The man was called Jerek, and he was forming some sort of organization to free the people in the kingdoms. Her father tried to say his place was at home, hunting monsters because that was all he knew. He was not a soldier, he was a mercenary.
Then he showed her father a piece of parchment and, whatever it was, it changed her father’s attitude. He rose from his chair and they went outside to continue their conversation. Ava waited for him, hoping he would return and go to bed. She fell asleep before she could see him, and when she woke up both of them were gone. Her father had left her a note, saying that he should be back within a fortnight or two, but he never came back. She was fifteen when her father disappeared.
And now she held his sword once more. The sword he used all his life to vanquish monsters for the kingdoms. The sword he trained her with. Even after all of the years that had passed since his absence, she still struggled to contain the emotion. She bit her lip, trying unsuccessfully to fight back the tears. She vowed that this ogre would die.
She heard the lumbering footsteps of the ogre coming down the tunnel. She glanced around the room and decided to head into the dark tunnel. She clutched the sword in her hand and slipped into the shadows, prepared to strike down her prey. It would pay for her father’s death with its life.
She slowed her breathing as she saw its towering frame enter into the chamber. It walked over to the treasure horde and leaned down, sniffing it momentarily. She bit her lip, confused by its behavior. Did it smell her presence? Every ogre she had ever encountered had an extremely poor sense of smell. It contradicted everything she had been taught about ogres. And then it did something that was even more confusing to Ava.
The ogre turned toward the tunnel where Ava was hidden and raised something over its head. In the light she couldn’t know for sure, but it looked like one of her daggers that she jammed into its foot. The ogre made a few guttural grunts and growls before bowing low to the ground, extending the dagger toward the tunnel. Could the ogre see her? Was it trying to offer the dagger back to her? This was the most unusual, and apparently the most intelligent, ogre that Ava had ever witnessed in her life. She was about to step forward out of the shadows when it got back to its feet and set the dagger on the pile of treasure. Evidently it hadn’t seen her, but then what was the purpose of that reverent display? She didn’t have time to sit and mull over what it could mean. She had to be ready to strike when it had its guard down.
The ogre had its back to her and was rummaging through a small stack of bones and rocks on the other side of the treasure. Ava crept closer, her breathing measured as she crouched low. One hand gripped the sword tight while the other brushed a strand of hair from her face. She pressed against the wall when the ogre stood back up, a giant femur in its hands. It snapped the bone in half, the crack echoing through the chamber, and sucked on one of the halves. It sat down and leaned back against the wall, its eyes growing heavy as it sucked. It had clearly forgotten that there was an intruder in its home. This was going to be easier than she thought, as long as she could be patient. It would be asleep before long.
In the dim light it looked like the ogre was asleep. The bone dangled from its lip as the ogre snored. Everything was in order for a quick finish to this assignment. Ava could already picture the bags of gold crowns weighing down her horse as she rode back home. She stepped out of the shadows and moved toward the ogre. She reached the chamber, the dull light illuminating her body. She took in a deep breath and took another step toward the treasure. All of a sudden the ogre’s eyes snapped open and it let out a roar that reverberated through the cavern, shaking rocks loose from the ceiling and causing the treasure to shift. Ava tried to dodge the falling stones as the ogre got to its feet, towering over her. It looked at her and it gave her a crooked grin.
A bright red glow began to fill the chamber. Ava paid no attention to the glow and braced herself for an oncoming attack, but the ogre wasn’t moving. It stood there, watching her intently. And then she smelled the smoke. Years of hunting monsters had sharpened her reflexes. She dove aside, rolling along the floor away from the ogre as a stream of fire burst into the room and enveloped the treasure. It all made sense now. The ogre wasn’t alone; it was sharing a home with a dragon. This is how her father had died, lured into a monster’s trap, and now it was her turn to meet that same fate.