This one's a bit shorter than usual, at just 560 words.
Three days ago Gorg had found the skeleton of a horse he'd known and liked--and the swordswoman who'd ridden him. What was her name? Gorg didn't care, though he mourned the horse in his slow, trollish way as he trudged along.
Gorg had bigger problems than that now. He had set out to cross the Iron Desert because it was the quickest way from Mosternestine City to the Valley of Baleful Stones. There he expected to find the Duke Bale the Artichoke-Hearted, nephew of King Celery the Half-Wit. The Duke, Gorg had reason to believe, had givent he order that he led the now-dead sorcerer Mergle to petrify various members of Gorg's family. It had been a cruel and unnecessary act, given that trolls are nine-tenths stone in any case. When Gorg scratched his head, he scattered rock dust and flakes of shale.
But now, in the middle of the Iron Desert, it was dawning on Gorg that he was in trouble. Thing was, a troll could cross an ordinary desert with no worries. Rock everywhere? It was the stuff of life. A troll is born of rock, and eats the stuff. And they don't need to drink, since there is very little water in their make-up.
Gorg hadn't known that "Iron Desert" wasn't a metaphor.
For an entire day Gorg had been crossing a flat pan of iron. No stone. Just iron. As though forged by the hand of a divine smith, and utterly without sustenance for a troll (or anyone else; but Gorg didn't care about anyone else just then, because they weren't there and he was). If he didn't get out of this soon, Gorg could see he wouldn't get out at all.
He was starting to stagger. A vision of that poor horse crossed his mind as he slowed for another rest. He unslung his massive stone warhammer--as a last resort he would eat that, though it was worn and tasteless--to take it's weight from his back. It narrowly missed his foot as it slipped from his now-stiff and weakened grip and crashed to the iron ground.
Iron is brittle. Gorg gaped at the crack that opened in the smooth surface. Trying hard to think, he picked up the hammer and dropped it again. The ground shattered. Gorg pushed aside the shards of broken iron, his face breaking into a smile. He ignored the chips that flew from his cheeks as they creased, reaching for the stone that lay under the iron.
Gorg chipped off a few savory bits and nibbled them slowly, recovering his strength. The blazing sun didn't bother him. The absence of water didn't matter. But somewhere in his earthen troll-brain, Gorg was realizing that smooth-cast iron was not a natural coating for a desert floor.
Duke Bale had found another sorcerer. A powerful one, to spread such a surface over the desert. Or maybe it had been an illusion. No matter, it took power either way, and a deadly intent. Rock is slow to anger, but when it grows hot, it is a force to reckon with. Gorg was growing hot. Battle was rejoined, and he had won the first round.
Taking up his warhammer and another handful of light, tasty rock, Gorg turned his stony face toward the Valley of Baleful Rocks. He'd be pickling artichoke hearts before he finished.