by Chuck Wendig
Esbern and Tinturn sat crammed beneath the tiny stone bridge like wads of garbage shoved in the
too-small mouth of a trash can. Esbern, clearly the larger of the two, sheltered the smaller and
younger Tinturn beneath his tree branch arms, beneath his bent and broken nose, beneath his nest
of gently twitching chin whiskers. Esbern also craned his bone spur arm around Tinturn's back,
his soft-palmed hand held tight against his side: his old wound was throbbing again. And now, it
was leaking--greasy bile like snot flecked with soot. He groaned.
"It's almost night," Tinturn said, his voice a throaty warble, like a little bird with gravel in its
gullet. "We can go out soon."
"Don't want to go out," Esbern growled.
"Are you hurting again?"
"No," Esbern lied.
"You're leaking. I can smell it." It did smell. Like hot tar with a hint of vinegar: thus was the
blood of the troll.
"It's not that. I haven't washed."
"We never wash." The creek dried up decades before. It was now just a ragged scar with dusty
"Then that's why I smell."
Tinturn sensed the tension in his elder. He waited a few moments, then tried again: "If we go out,
you can tell me a story."