Chapter 1: Day 1 - For the Glory
I really just wanted an excuse to write from Draal's POV.
It was rather strange to think that a handful of months ago Draal hated the Trollhunter. The small human was surprising, and he honestly didn’t know what life would be like without him. He would probably be the Trollhunter, the boy would be living a normal life, and… he would probably lose the impending battle.
James Lake Jr. was like a brother to him. Funny how things like that change.
A few months ago, he thought Blinkous Galadrigal was, well, a pain in the rear — as the Trollhunter’s closest friend would say. Now, he was an admirable companion. A battle brother.
A few months ago, he and AAARRRGGHH!!! would rarely converse. Now, they were speaking on relatively friendly terms. And discussing battle tactics. Mostly, they discussed ways to help improve the Trollhunter’s training.
Nothing could have prepared them for Blinky’s kidnapping or the fact that the Trollhunter would be going into battle injured. He expected it to happen eventually, but the boy was still soft. He wasn’t ready for it yet.
“But if not now,” Draal said to himself, as he and the others move to the Trollhunter’s aid, “he won’t ever be.”
“Uh,” the Trollhunter’s friend said, looking up at him, “you okay, dude?”
“I’m fine,” Draal said.
They jogged through the sewer system that wound underneath Arcadia Oaks, following the tracking device. It was several minutes before the little dot on the screen slowed to a halt.
With the rain and gloom acting as their cover, they managed to avoid being seen by humans as they saw the familiar forms entering the museum. Quick as they could without causing any alarm, he, the Trollhunter’s friend, and AAARRRGGHH!!! followed after them.
The voices of the Trollhunter and Stricklander bounced off the hard surface. Draal had a feeling if he and AAARRRGGHH!!! hadn’t been there, the poor boy with them would have gotten lost.
As the pair slipped behind a pair of curtains, the three of them got into position.
“Okay,” the Trollhunter’s friend said, “we got to be as dramatic as possible.”
“May I ask: Why?” Draal said.
“Because that’s how it’s always done. Duh.”
“Yeah,” AAARRGGHH!!! said, “duh.”
Draal rolled his eyes. Dramatics. These humans and their taste for it was exhausting.
“And now,” the Trollhunter’s friend said, his words a soft whisper, “we wait.”
One minute passed.
It was three minutes before they heard the beeping — the signal to slide into the final position.
He could hear Nomura (of all the Changelings, of course she was here) grumble through the fabric.
“Not Trollhunter,” Jim said, his voice clear and distinct above the others. “Trollhunters .”
AAARRRGGHH!!! reached out and pulled the fabric down. The Trollhunter’s friend raised his wooden bat (which was a stupid and utterly silly weapon).
“I am Toby,” he said. “Grandson of Nana. Fan of hard rock!”
His hand lowered to his cellular phone taped to the makeshift armor and pressed the screen. Soft jazz carried out of the speaker.
“Sorry. Wrong playlist. Hold on one second. Oh, okay, here it is.”
The sound of distorted electric guitars broke out, and they readied to charge. Light and magical armor swirled around the Trollhunter. The battle was on.
Draal only had one opponent in mind. He tossed himself into a ball, a snarl ripping through him as he charged up the stairs to the top of the bridge to where the Trollhunter and Bular were locked in combat.
He broke their swords apart and forced Bular back.
“I am Draal the Deadly,” he said, blocking Bular’s fists, “son of Kanjigar, and you will suffer for my father’s death!”
Draal didn’t see much of the battle the others waged against the few others — and the Goblins — with Bular. He was too focused on the enemy in front of him. The destruction they made was simply the consequence to their cause.
AAARRRGGHH!!! stepped in, kicking Bular off him at one point, giving Draal a moment to reassess the situation. It was a good and a bad thing. Good, because he could help the others. Bad, because… Nomura got in the way.
“Care to rekindle what we had, Draal?” she said, sneering up at him.
“Rekindle this,” he said, charging at her. Her dual-khopeshes swirling around. If they had been younger and there hadn’t been a fight to the death, Draal would have reminded her of their training. But now wasn’t the time for that.
If he had been paying more attention, he could have thrown off Nomura easily, but he wasn’t.
A blinding flash, and he knew that the worst had happened. The Amulet had been ripped from the Trollhunter and was fixed into the central keystone of the bridge. And he wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for the new Changeling, the one who’d allied himself with the Trollhunter.
“Killahead Bridge,” Nomura said, clenched between his fist and the pillar. “The time is now!”
He tossed her away and charged at the bridge with a great cry.
Tug as he might, even he couldn’t pull out the Amulet. He had to. The Trollhunter was stuck in a rather painful looking arm lock and the others were too far away.
Please , he pleaded, please let me help them. Let me help my friends!
Something in the Amulet heard him. It gave a little pulse and a chime, budging only slightly. There was a whisper in his ear, something that sounded like his father’s voice.
He felt Nomura land on him and try to claw his eyes. He was able to jerk his head and throw her off. He didn’t hear her cries and then silence from her.
The Trollhunter begged him to let go, but he couldn’t. Not when he could tell that he was so close . He had to. And he was almost… almost there.
The Second Battle of Killahead Bridge ended in victory but not in glory for them all. There was still more to go. Bular was still alive.
Chapter 2: Day 2 - Eclipse
Short and sweet, and I wrote this at work.
My mind isn't fully working quite yet, sooooo this is the outcome of sleep deprivation and some coffee. Enjoy!
Fear was becoming an old friend far too quickly.
Jim had learned this his first day as a Trollhunter. Everything had been exciting and frightening and bearing down at him faster than a freight train. His life had constantly been in danger since he plucked the Amulet from the broken corpse of Kanjigar.
Without his friends and family by his side, would he have even made it this far? Most likely not. In fact, he was sure they would have been dead several times over.
He turned his head to look out the window. The sky was a churning, roiling mess as Morgana’s magic moved to block out the sun.
He hated that everyone he loved was preparing for the worst, for the world that could possibly take shape right there. Arcadia Oaks could be the epicenter for the end of the world. And it was all his fault.
Hoo boy, that was… Yeah, that was a lot of weight.
Strickler was right. He was Atlas, bearing the weight of the world.
The Amulet pulsed against his chest, warm and protective. Whatever magic it possessed from the hundred of years and the numerous Trolls that bore it, there was a sense of… something he couldn’t quite place his finger on.
But he got the gist of it. He was a Trollhunter. Those that came before him were by his side. They would be with him and the others until the very end.
As they always would be.
He touched the Amulet and said a silent prayer, head bowed and eyes closed.
As the Eternal Night settled into its place, he summoned Eclipse into his hand. The feel of it familiar yet different. He didn’t want to think it was because of what Merlin’s magic had done to him, but that… that was the only explanation.
His final battle was upon him. And he was ready to answer the call.
Chapter 3: Day 3 - Awesome sauce!
Thank you for all the kudos so far! ^_^
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Toby strut — yes, strut — through the main entrance of Arcadia Oak Junior High School. It wasn’t every day that one graduated and moved up to high school, after all. He waved to a few people. Some waved back, others… eh, not so much.
He’d left his backpack at home. There wasn’t a need for it — his locker was cleaned out and he didn’t need to return any books. He’d only brought his favorite pair of sunglasses, a yearbook, and a pen.
What else could he need on the last day of school? Well, besides his best friend, that is.
Said best friend was sitting with Hank McCoy at one of the outdoor lunch tables. Both were talking rather passionately about something, if their gesticulations were anything to go by.
He made his way over and called out a greeting.
“Hey, Jimbo!” he said, waving the arm not holding onto the yearbook. “Hey, what’s up, Hank?”
Toby offered his fist to Hank, who pounded it with his own.
“Toby, my man,” Hank said. “Glad to see that you could join us on the most hallowed of holiest days.”
“Always glad to kick off the summer in the best way possible, hanging out with my best buds. So, what were you guys talking about before I got here?”
“Oh, nothing much,” Jim said, his eyes glinting a little mischievously with a telltale shrug of something that was most definitely not ‘nothing much’.
“Yeah, only the fact that I got tickets to the best monster movie marathon in all of Arcadia Oaks!” Hank pulled out two tickets, showing them to Jim and Toby. Both drew in loud gasps, eyes growing wide and alight.
“Awesome sauce!” Toby said, half singing.
“Yeah, good for opening day.”
“Tomorrow?” Jim said, looking between the tickets and Hank’s face. “You got us tickets for tomorrow ? But… but they were all sold out!”
“It’s part of the perks of having an older sister who works at the Arcadia Oaks Cinema.” Hank held the tickets out to them. “Here, you guys take your tickets.”
“What about you?” Toby said, stuffing it into his pocket protector.
“Eh, don’t worry about me. Got mine at home. Oh, hey, there’s that new girl. See you guys tomorrow?”
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
“Oh, man,” Toby said, picking the ticket out of his pocket to gaze in awe at the words printed on the front. “I can’t believe he got us tickets. Hank’s such a great guy.”
“He’s not bad,” Jim said, slipping his ticket into hooded sweatshirt.
“Why, because he’s flirting with the girl of your dreams?” Toby fluttered his eyelashes and made kissing noises.
“Get a room,” someone passing by said.
Toby rolled his eyes and took Hank’s vacated spot on the table.
“You can’t be that mad at him,” he said. “Besides, you haven’t even spoken to her yet.”
“Yes, I have!” Jim said, his voice cracking. “I say ‘hi’ to her every morning.”
“That doesn’t count.”
“Yes it does. It so does.”
Toby watched as Hank said something to the girl. She and her friends all laughed. Hank chuckled and said goodbye to them, heading off somewhere else to talk to someone else.
“Well, now’s your chance,” Toby said, waving his hand in her direction. “Ask her to sign your yearbook or whatever.”
“Alright,” Jim said, shooting to his feet. He squared his shoulders and thrust out his chin. “I’ll be right back!”
He… didn’t move.
“I can’t do it.” Jim sat back down, cradling his head in his hands.
“I knew you couldn’t,” Toby said, patting him on the back. “Come on, let’s go see where Eli is. He probably needs help getting out of a locker again. Wouldn’t be the last day of school if the twelve year olds didn’t stuff him in there.”
. . .
The rest of the school day, if the three hours could even be called a school day, passed quickly. Toby didn’t see Hank after the bell rang. He and Jim rode their bikes home together. Jim babbling excitedly that the yearbook had fallen into the pretty girl’s hands.
(Toby had seen the signature. It was girlishly loopy and in purple ink. “Have a great summer - Claire”. He… felt kind of bad for Jim, though he didn’t seem to mind so much.)
He spent the rest of the evening texting both Ji and Hank. Mostly Jim. Hank’s responses were… obscure, to say the least. He didn’t dwell on things too much. Hank usually had a lot going on anyway.
The next morning, he and Jim prepped themselves for the Monster Madness Marathon!!!! (with four exclamation points).
They headed out early in the morning to get in line. (And by early, it was a little after 10 am.)
“Do you see Hank?” Toby said, raising himself on his toes to see over the heads of people taller than them.
The pair turned and saw their friend jogging across the street to them.
“Ready for the best time of your lives?” Hank said, giving them high fives.
There was a loud cry from ahead of them. People were starting to file in to the theater.
“Let the summer being!” Toby said, pumping his fists in the air.
. . .
The movies were to be expected, a few classes lower than B-films, things that wouldn’t even appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000 .
“That was the best!”
“Ohmigod, I can watch them all again.”
“But, Tobes, your brain will melt.”
“Hey,” Jim said, turning to Hank. “Thanks for getting us the tickets.”
“Oh, no problem,” Hank said, shrugging as he stuffed his hands in his jean pockets. “I figured I had to make it up to you guys somehow.”
“Make what up to us?” Toby said, the smile slowly falling into a frown.
“I wasn’t sure how to tell you guys.” Hank kicked a pebble out into the street and looked up. He thought for a moment, giving a sharp nod as he decided on something. “My parents enrolled me into Arcadia Oaks Academy.”
“Wait,” Jim said.
“What?” Toby said, drawing the word out.
“Yeah,” Hank said, “I wanted to tell you guys sooner, but you’ve been so pumped for the summer that I didn’t want to… yeah.”
“So, we won’t go to school together.”
“Uh, no. We won’t.” Seeing their dejected looked, Hank added, “But we can still make this an awesome summer! Come on, Toby, how did you describe it? Awesome sauce, right?”
He jabbed Toby with his elbow lightly, trying to get out a smile or something other that the kicked puppy dog look.
“Yeah,” Toby said. “Yeah, awesome sauce.”
Also, Tight Jeans Hank being middle school friends with Jim and Toby, yay or nay?
Chapter 4: Day 4 - Keep It Crispy
I have no idea what was going through my mind, but I love Darci and Mary. We definitely need more of them.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“...Why do I have a feeling we should stop Claire?” Darci said, watching as her friend marched over out of the courtyard. She nearly bowled over poor Eli in her manic state.
“We shouldn’t,” Mary said, not looking up from her phone. Darci didn’t want to know who she was texting. Though, she could fathom a guess. (‘Tight Jeans’ Hank, was her number one bet.)
The pair of them were standing in the middle of the courtyard, listening to their classmates reel over Jim somehow getting into the main office and making… an announcement over the intercom.
“And give me one good reason why.”
“She and whatshisface might make out, and we won’t have to sit around and listen to her go on and on about him. She just needs to get it out of her system.”
“Or they could end up dating, and then we have to listen to her go on and on about their —”
“Please stop right there.” Mary turned, eyes wide and mouth twisted in disgust. She took Darci’s hands in her own, holding them tightly. “I don’t want to hear about their…”
“And you think we like hearing about you and your boy of the week?”
“Excuse you, ‘Tight Jeans’ Hank and I are practically going steady.”
“You’re not even dating!”
“Fight me, Scott.”
“Anywhere, anytime, Wang.”
“Uh, Darci, Mary?”
“What ?” they both said, practically seething as they glared down at Eli. Darci would have felt sorry for him, but well… Her mind was elsewhere at the moment.
“Shouldn’t you go, uh, stop Claire from murdering Jim?”
“Oh, fudgeknuckle,” Darci said, standing up on a nearby bench. Her eyes darted around, trying to spot the purple and blue Claire always wore. “Where’d she go?”
“You lost sight of her?” Mary said, getting up next to her.
“Yeah, no thanks to someone .”
“It’s not my fault.”
“It’s partially yours, but it’s mostly James Lake, Jr.’s fault with that dumb song and the ‘keep it crispy’. Where’d he even get that anyway?”
“Don’t know, but it’s trending on Twitter, right now,” Mary said, scrolling through the social media app to see if there were any updates.
“Wait, really?” Darci leaned over her shoulder to see for herself.
“Guys?” Eli said. “She was heading for the theater? We have practice in twenty minutes.”
“Just enough time to find Jim and keep him from getting killed.” Darci hopped off and jogged after Claire.
“Hey, Eli,” Mary said, jumping off and landing next to him. “Any theories on why Jim’s acting so strange.”
“That’s what I figured.” She started after Darci and Claire, stopping to turn back to Eli. She gave him a pair of finger guns. “Hey, keep it crispy.”
“Oh, uh… Keep it crispy? I guess? Man, girls are weird.”
Well, now to start researching for another project. On my day off. When I should be binging Gargoyles...
Chapter 5: Day 5 - Wingmen
This was supposed to be about AAARRRGGHH!!! being there to help Toby on his date with Darci, but words no come to work make story in brain to type. Sooo... yeah?
(Did that make sense to anyone or just me? Probably just me.)
Also, one of the first drawing I did on my laptop since I got it that didn't look like I was finger painting with a machete to a canvas?
Chapter 6: Day 6 - Best Friends
This was a fun little experiment.
I was going to show off my HTML skills, but the codes weren't generating in the system. (shrugs) Probably a built in override. Ah well.
I plugged it into a fake text generator, but I didn't like the way it looked. So, hopefully, this is understandable? Even with the intentional spelling errors.
I kind of made myself sad because this was how a friend and I were for, like, a whole year. We're still besties tho, so there's that!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Fri., Jun 9, 9:23 PM
hey tobes check out this picture of a sunset
[image of a sunset]
made me think of u
awwwwww 🥰 thanks jimbo
Mon., Jun 12, 10:13 PM
i saw this dog n thought of u
[image of a dog]
hey where you guys at
let me ask claire
she says were in utah
dont know where in utah but its utah
how r things
u guys good
yeah were good
kind of miss my bed
and my shower
but hey what u gonna do 🤷♂️
armwrestle a giant and lose
that is something that can happen
omg i asked blink and he said giants exist
im totally going to fight a giant
hey toby before you freak out that jim died fighting a giant
i stopped him from going off and finding one
this is claire btw
used your feminine wiles
but maybe next time 😘
Wed., Jun 14, 1:13 AM
a lot of thigns r happening
call me whn you can k?
Ok im seriously freaking out now
james lake jr
seriously call me
Ok neither u or claire are answering
imma try blinky
do u guys not have service or something
Fri., Jun 16, 12:14 PM
aja and krel are aliens 👽
i wanted to call you to tell you but you werent answering
Ok super weird
plz call soon
Sat., Jun 17, 12:43 AM
theres a gun robot marathon tomorrow
there is a gun robot marathon today
dude ur missing the gun robot marathon
YOU ARE MISSING THE GUN ROBOT MARATHON
i would be so offended if u werent crossing the country
dude this is probably the longest weve ever gone without talking
besides that one time i went to camp but nvm that
its been over TWO DAYS
TWO DAYS JIMBO
AND I HAVE NOT HEADR FROM YOU
just let me know that youre ok
Tue., Jun 20, 12:09 AM
dude aja can like eat
also she and steve are dating????
i dont know what to do about that????
krels a good bro tho
huh wonder how eli feels about all this
totally thought he and steve were dating
Wed., Jun 21, 8:14 PM
you remember stuart?
that dude that fixed your old computer?
hes an alien
just found that out
i made a sandwich 🥪 and thought of you
[image of a sandwich]
Thu., Jun 22, 4:15 PM
remember how i said theres a lot going on?
theres a lot going on
Fri., Jun 23, 4:24 AM
did you know i can play the tuba?
[video of toby playing a tuba]
PLZ DELETE THAT OFF UR PHONE
I CANNOT PLAY TUBA
DO NOT BLACKMAIL ME WITH THAT
DO NOT SHOW IT TO CLAIRE
SHE WILL SHOW IT TO DARCI AND I WILL DIE
mary got my phone and showed it to darci
jim i love you
you can have everythign except gogo sushi
that goes to argh
also u 2 have to split my socks i already promised him this
Mon., Jun 26, 9:07 PM
Tue., Jun 27, 6:43 AM
why am i awake
there is no god
i found a whole bag of nougat nummies
remember when we got sick from eating half a bag
do u think i can do it all on my own without puking
imma try it
i have made a horrible decision and i regret everything
Wed., Jun 28, 1:01 AM
WHTA HTE UFKC
IM CALLING U NOW
i have nothing to say
im not even gone for a MONTH
and shit hits the fan
claire says hi btw
hi claire bear
u guys taking a break
yeah somewhere in illinois
no idea where tho
u guys made it pretty far
yeah its been ok except for no cell reception
why is arizona and colorado and kansas and missouri like that
bc in missouri there is only misery lol
there was only mountains
it was okay for travlling w the trolls n stuff
but no way to call you
MISS U TOOOOOOOOO
call u tonight when we start heading out?
looking forward to it!!!
Making up times was hard.
Also, kind of forgot about my laundry. Need to finish that. I have work tomorrow.
Chapter 7: Day 7 - Darkness
What was originally going to be for today ended up being moved to day 16, so I had to rewrite this at work. Hopefully, y'all like it.
His heart thudded against his ribs. It was so loud in his ears, that he was certain if the Gumm-Gumms hunting him could hear it. He prayed to God, Deya, and every Trollhunter who came before him that he was much more silent than he thought he was.
He watched as they passed over him. All they would have to do is look down (up?) at him from the upside down bridge and they would spot him.
He pulled himself further into the shadows of the boulder that was acting as his temporary protection. He drew in a quiet breath, holding it and waiting.
He kept his eyes trained on the soldiers above him. Their armor clinking together at the slightest movement. That was one of the pluses. They were too loud and too big to be stealthy. He could easily keep track of them, even when he lost sight.
A moment and then two, and they were gone. He would be too far away for them to reach, even if they ran.
In the blink of an eye, he was out and darting in the direction they came from.
Unlike his Daylight armor, which he mentally had to will to be silent, the Eclipse armor was made for stealth. It made no noise and whatever metal it was made from (even though it glowed) made it easy to blend in with the shadows, despite the green fluorescent glow the rocks gave off.
Here, in Gunmar’s realm of a prison, the darkness was his friend. It worked with him in ways that it wouldn’t have if he’d been back on Earth. He mostly had Bular to thank for that.
He trotted to a stop, straining his ears for any sound before he rounded a corner. Nothing. Carefully, he poked his head around to double check.
The guards who were supposed to be there by now were later than usual. Had they figured out that he was memorizing their schedule?
He bit the inside of his cheek, sinking into the darkness of a small niche while he waited for them to come. No use running into them, after all.
Just as he was about to shift his position due to a leg cramp, two of Gumm-Gumms came into view. They took their time, mozing down the route.
They paused near his hiding spot, as if waiting for him to either appear or reveal himself — which was becoming a possibility rather quickly as the cramp travelled up his thigh to his chest and down to his shin and heel.
He willed them to move, for something to catch their attention and draw them away. For… something, anything , to happen.
It was a full five minutes before they moved on, and it was another four before he could move comfortably again.
He let out a hiss, vainly attempting to massage the aching muscles through his armor. If he thought he knew pain, that was nothing compared to what he was feeling right then. He sat there for a good eight minutes, enough time for the next pair of soldiers to come into view.
He had to quickly reposition himself — another uncomfortable position — on trembling legs.
They didn’t pause like the ones before them, they continued on.
When he was sure it was safe, he got moving. Hanging around any longer than he already had was bound to get him caught.
Blessedly, there were only a few more turns before he reached a cave he’d taken over two days after going through to portal. And, while there was one more set of Gumm-Gumms, he was able to easily dodge them as he had the others.
It was cozy, all things considered, for a temporary home. A map was scratched onto one wall and on the one next to it was a picture of his friends. Well, mostly. He was still working on AAARRRGGHH!!! Their smiling faces fended off the shadows creeping into his mind.
He lit a fire, ignoring the pinching of his stomach as he went without food again, and allowed some warmth to seep back into his bones. For now, at least, he was safe.
Chapter 8: Day 8 - Late Night Study Sessions
If there's any confusion as to who's speaking, let me know. I tried to make it obvious when I was writing
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What did you guys get for number seven?” Toby said, flipping back and forth between his notebook and the textbook.
“Uh,” Jim said, flipping back a couple of pages, “RT is congruent to SA, but JK is not congruent to MN.”
“Wait,” Claire said, her head popping up from behind her History textbook, “that doesn’t sound right, hand it over.”
“I’m actually working Chemistry?” Toby said, flashing the cover of the book to the other two.
“What’s the question?” Jim said, pulling out his Chemistry notebook.
“‘Which of the following represents a correct ground-state electron configuration for a silicon atom?’”
“I put… C. But I don’t think that’s right.”
“RT is congruent to SA, but LK is not congruent to MN,” Claire said, handing his notebook back. “What are the sequences?”
“Uh, here.” Toby handed over his book to show her.
“Want me to look over your notes on the Nanjing Massacre?” Jim said, already slipping the notebook out of her lap.
“Please,” she said, nodding. “B is the correct answer.”
“Right, right,” Toby said, taking his notebook back. “Now, what’s the answer for number nine?”
“What’s the question?”
“‘Which of the following —’ Wait, just answered that one. Let me write it down. B, right?”
“Okay, so number nine… ‘What is the element for the following configuration?’”
“What’s the sequence?”
“You wrote the wrong invasion date,” Jim said, showing Claire her notebook. “It should be the seventh, not the thirteenth.”
“What happened on the thirteenth then?”
“1s22s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2. The massacre officially started on the thirteenth, is that what you’re thinking of?”
“Sounds like calcium.”
“What, the massacre officially started on the thirteenth? Where’s my white out?”
“Here, I borrowed it to fix my Literature homework.”
“Okay, so the answer is C. Now, number ten. ‘Which of these is not a configuration?’”
“You finished the Literature homework?”
“Yeah. It’s just a three question thing on Animal Farm .”
“Master Jim,” Blinky said, interrupting them. His six eyes blinked at all of them. “I am sorry to intrude, but —”
“Blinky,” Jim said, “not now. We’re almost done.”
“Well, we would be,” Toby said, shrugging, “but we keep having to double check everything. We probably should have just worked on everything together.”
“Yeah, that would have been smart,” Claire said, nodding. “What time is it? Oh, no! I’m late. I am so so so so so late.”
“What time — Nana’s going to kill me!”
“It can’t be… Oh man.”
“That was what I was coming to tell you,” Blinky said, his hands twisting around one another. “It is almost one am, and I do believe you have school in a few hours.”
The three teens scrambled around, collecting their correct books and notebooks, trading off writing utensils, and handing over what they were sure wasn’t theirs. It was a chaotic mess for a good three minutes, before they were certain they had everything.
And then, they were rushing out the door and out of Trollmarket.
I had to look up the science and math stuff. I don't remember anything. It's been way too long.
Chapter 9: Day 9 - Winter
I'm getting better at this drawing on a computer thing.
Chapter 10: Day 10 - Bookworm
This was inspired by all of my childhood fantasies of bookworms. And D&D.
Also, I wanted something sort of... relaxing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The duties of a Trollhunter never quite ended, even when the day did. For Jim, exhausted as he was and ready to collapse on the floor if he stood up, this stood very true.
Sometime between his daily training with Draal and the homework session, he’d fallen asleep. Thankfully, it was a Friday night (early Saturday morning?). The others let him sleep. And they would have let him go on sleeping if it hadn’t been for a discovery Blinky made in a book.
His cry was loud enough to wake the dead — which was close to where Jim was.
“Great Gronka Morka!”
Jim’s eyelids fluttered slowly, looking over to Blinky from the spot where they left him to lie sprawled out on the floor. Even though his head felt like it was made of lead, or some other rather heavy metal… stone… thing, he lifted it and sat up. Immediately, he wanted to lie back down.
Blinky was fretting over some book or another. The others — Toby, Claire, and AAARRRGGHH!!! — were staring that the six-eyed troll, as if he’d grown a second head. (Which, though he’d never seen it happen, was possible with Trolls.)
“What is it?” Claire said, creeping closer to see what he was looking at. She stared down, fascination crawling across her face, at the book.
“A jar,” Blinky said. “Give me a jar.”
“For what?” Toby said, grabbing a jar from his bag. He looked over at Jim. “Oh, hey Jim. Have a good nap?”
Jim gave a noncommital sound and a shrug. He got to his feet and staggered over to the table, leaning heavily against it.
“The most glorious of creatures to ever exist.” Blinky said, taking the jar and scooping something up from the book in front of him. He held the jar aloft for them all to see. “A bookworm.”
“What?” Jim said, his brow furrowing as he stared at the little creature. It’s legs making a clicking sound as they tapped against the glass.
“Like a beetle or moth larvae or a termite?” Toby said, leaning far over to look at the insect.
“No, an actual bookworm. They are extremely rare, though they are a nuisance. Curious how one got into my library.”
“Never seen,” AAARRRGGHH!!! Said. He brought his massive head as close to the jar as he could and gave a sniff. He backed away, his nose wrinkling and twitching. He gave a sneeze, ruffling their hair and the pages of books and scrolls. “No like.”
“Soooo,” Toby said, “it eats books.”
“Correct you are, Tobias.”
“If it eats books,” Jim said, “and it’s in your library, why don’t you just kill it? I mean, if you keep it, it’s just going to keep eating your books?”
“It is endangered, Master Jim. We can’t just kill it. We will have to… relocate it.”
“We could bring it to the school library,” Toby said. “It could go nuts in there.”
“Toby,” Claire said, jaw dropped and forehead wrinkled.
“What? We have the worst selection of books. Besides, more than half the library has been scanned and made into ebooks.”
“We’re not going to feed it school library books.”
“Why not? Nobody uses them anymore.”
“They’re not ours to begin with.”
“Fine, we’ll feed it our school books.”
Woke up this morning and cuddled with my dog. She fell asleep on my leg and then my leg fell asleep. So, uh, went to get up and start my day, and wouldn't you know it? I collapsed on the floor. My dog, sweetheart that she is, gave me kisses for a good ten minutes. And almost knocked me down several times as I hobbled around to a chair.
Good way to start my day off.
Chapter 11: Day 11- Distance
Wrote this late last night. It's somewhere along the same vein of Day 6, only it's voicemail instead of text.
The end is good! I promise! Not sad!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
You have nine missed messages. First missed message:
“Hey, Jim, it’s your mother. Just wanted to check in and see how you are doing.
“Things are okay here. Walt and I have decided to raise the kids by ourselves. Well, not completely by ourselves. Nancy has offered her help and Toby and AAARRRGGHH!!! have been by a lot to see what they can do.
“Ophelia and Javier have brought Enrique by for a lot of playdates. They all get along. Well, for the most part.
“There’s one, I don’t know, precocious little girl. She can be an absolute sweetheart when she wants to but give her time alone with the others and, the next thing we know, she’s gone and made everyone cry.
“We’ve renamed Walt’s familiar-child-thing… the baby. He goes by William now. I call him Will. He has the fattest cheeks and his thighs. Oh, Jim, he has the best laugh.
“He reminds me of you, when you were a baby.”
There was a crash and several cries broke out at once.
“I’ve got to go and check on the kids.
“Call me back when you can.
“I love you.”
End of first missed message. Press 7 to delete the message, press 9 to ski—
Second missed message:
“Hey, Jim. It’s me again. Your mom.
“You’re making sure Claire is getting enough food and rest, right? She’s eating enough?
“Are you eating enough?
“I worry, you know that. It’s part of being… It’s part of being your mom.”
A little huff of laughter through the nose.
“Neither of us really asked for this did we. But it… it’s just sort of fallen into our laps. Just like everything else.
“Call me soon, okay?”
End of second missed message. Press 7 to delete, press n—
Third missed message:
“Jim? It’s Walter. Please give your mother a call back when you get service.”
End of third missed message. Press —
Fourth missed message:
“Jimbo! You won’t believe what just happened. Oh my god! Call me when you get a cha — AAAAH! Not cool, dude. Not cool!”
End of fourth missed messa—
Fifth missed message:
“Hey, Jim, it’s me again. You’re mom.
“Don’t know if you have service yet to hear any of these. Just checking in.
“I love you.”
End of fifth missed message. Pr—
Sixth missed message:
“Jim, I love you. Please remember that. Okay? I love you, and I always will.”
Seventh missed message:
“Jim, we’re all okay. Just…”
A soft laugh.
“Just me, panicking. We’re all okay, in case you were wondering.
“Toby, AAARRRGGHH!!!, and some… kids from your class stopped a meteor from coming to Earth with the help of the military. It’s been a tough few hours for us.
“Give me a call back, okay?”
Eighth missed message:
“Hey, Jimbo, you’re probably super busy with some Trollhunter stuff, but call Dr. L. soon, okay? She has some big news. Like, really big news.
“I kind of found out by accident. Totally wasn’t snooping or anything.
“Anyway, let your mom know you’re all good.”
End of —
Ninth missed message:
“Hey, honey. Just want to see how you’re doing.
“Got your text the other day. Don’t know if you’ve seen my response, but please call me soon.”
End of ninth miss—
End of messages.
Check erased messages, press 1. Personal options, press 2. Check skipped messages, press 3. To disconnect, press * or hang up.
. . .
“Hey, mom. Look, yeah, no… I know it’s been a while. I’m sorry. We’ve just had a hard time crossing the desert and then… No, yeah. Claire’s fine. She’s sleeping right now. Do you want me to wake her — Okay, yeah. I’ll let her sleep… I got all the voicemails, just didn’t have time to check them until a little bit ago… Yeah, I’m going to call Toby in a bit, why? Something big? Course I’ll call him next. I wanted to see how you were doing, though. Toby said he was snooping and got some big news… You’re what ? How is that even — No, I know how it happens. You explained it to me when I was five. And ten. And fourteen. And it was horrible all three times… Don’t you think you and Strickler have enough babies to take care of? No, I’m not trying — Look, mom, I love you. I really, really do. But if you think I’m going to sit by and let him knock my mom up — What do you mean I can’t come back to Arcadia! I’m totally — Oh, right, the Heartstone-quest-thing. Yeah, got to finish that first. But when I do, you can bet I’m coming back! No, I won’t kill him. I’ll just make it so he can’t have kids any more!
“Hey, wait. Did you just hang up on me? Mom? Mom!”
Thank you for all the kudos. It really makes me happy to see people are enjoying these. ^_^
Chapter 12: Day 12 - First Encounter
I'm getting better with the art program I use!
Chapter 13: Day 13 - AU
Short little thing today. I'm not feeling too great. So, happy Friday the 13th?
It's not explicitly clear, but this is a TV Show AU. I
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The planetarium was lined with tables holding up mostly working model volcanoes. Anyone with any knowledge at all would know that it is what the American public school system deemed a “Science Fair”.
But it wasn’t the science fair that was the focus of the large Canon EOS C500 cameras’ attention, it was the elephant in the room. Or, rather, the Troll in the room.
(How he got in, only he knew.)
The Troll had leapt down from the balcony overlooking the lower section of the room, ruining several models and the giant mobile of the solar system as he stormed his way around. He was generally just creating mass havoc. Clearly, he was looking for something.
He found it, spotting an odd shaped claw-like mechanism on one of the tables. The boy sitting behind the table barely had enough time to get out of the way before everything crashed down in front of him.
“The Daxial Array!” the boy said from the floor, his face twisted into fear and worry.
Seeing that the first boy was in trouble, another charged forward, wielding a glowing amulet.
The Troll backed away, smirking as he dislodged Mercury from the solar system.
“For the Glory of Merlin,” the boy with the amulet said, as a girl moved to stand beside him, “daylight is mine to —”
The girl didn’t make it before Mercury hit the boy. It bounced off his head with an audible “phooontkk!” of the mock planet hitting the boy straight in the forehead and landing him smack on the ground.
The room erupted in laughter as a few crew members who’d been standing behind the camera rushed over to help the fallen boy.
“Dude!” said the first boy, “Are you okay?”
“I’m dead,” said the fallen boy. “I’m dead. I’ve been murdered.”
“Sorry,” said the Troll, who was having the foam headpiece removed to reveal the man underneath. “I can’t really see in this thing.”
“You had really good aim, though,” said the girl who’d been rushing over, somehow having managed to stop laughing for a few moments.
The boy who’d been hit was helped to his feet and lead over to a chair for a few moments.
“Okay,” the director said, not like that he had to redo the scene again, “reset. Cast…” He gave a sigh. “Cast, take a break.”
It's been a long while, but I still remember how to use a Canon EOS 500C. Thank you, journalism classes!
And the "phooontkk" is what a dodge ball sounds like to me.
Chapter 14: Day 14 - The Fallen
My original version of this was a lot more depressing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was rare that Jim had much alone time in the Hero’s Forge. It was rare that he had alone time, period, nowadays. The solitude was almost cathartic.
Don’t get him wrong, he loved being around people (especially those he cared for), but even the most social of people need some time to themselves. Every now and again, they need to recharge and resettle themselves.
The sounds of Trollmarket were far off, distant. No more than a steady rumble.
The tension he’d held for several days, weeks, months — how long had it really been? — rolled off his shoulders and into the stone ground.
He sat down, legs spread out before him as his arms held him up.
He could see where every training device lie hidden. He knew which ones moved first and in which order. At this point, he could dodge out of their way using his muscle memory.
He could see the circle where the Soothscryer would rise from. A simple pull of the lever and he could speak to them.
He could see the the Trollhunters who came before him, all who had fallen — whether in battle or not. After all of Blinky’s training, he could name each of them, how they died, their greatest feats of valor, and their greatest loses.
“It is the loses,” Blinky had just said that evening, “that teach us what we need to know. Learn from them, and you will come out a victor in the end.”
It was difficult to see that when their greatest loses usually ended with their deaths. All untimely and at inconvenient moments. What would happen to him, he’d often wondered, if he died in battle.
He wouldn’t turn to stone. He was human, after all. Soft and squishy, with very breakable parts. Kind of like a banana but with bones.
Now that was a disturbing image, a banana with bones.
He shuddered, feeling a smile pick up the corners of his lips. He’d have to share that with Toby and Claire.
Toby and Claire. What would they do if he was gone? Toby would refuse to get a new best friend, that much was obvious. Claire would… probably move to New York City and become a great actress. Or a journalist. Or anything else that she wanted to be. They could both have normal lives. Well, as normal as one could knowing Trolls and Goblins and stuff existed.
And his mom?
He bit back a groan.
Who would tell his mom?
He shook his head and stood up. He stayed behind to clear his head, and wouldn’t you know it? He was bringing all those thoughts back again.
Jim gathered his things and started towards Blinky’s library to regroup with the others. There would be plenty of time to contemplate his demise in Geometry. It’s not like any of the other Trollhunters prepared for their deaths.
He stopped, dropping his bag with a thunk . He turned and moved toward the lever for the Soothscryer.
He couldn’t be the only one who’s ever wondered about these things. Surely all Trollhunters had similar thoughts at some point.
His fingers just brushed the lever when the sound of someone clearing their throat stopped him.
He turned to see Draal standing there, scuffing his toe on the ground as his eyes looked at Jim and then anywhere else.
“Sorry to, um, interrupt,” Draal said, “but Vendel wishes to speak with you.”
“About?” Jim said, lowering his hand and making his way over to Draal. He made sure to grab his bag.
“The gnomes on the north end of Trollmarket.”
“Ugh, again? I thought we closed up all the tunnels.”
“So how’d they get in?”
“Good question. Well, you’re the Trollhunter. You’ll figure it out.” Draal slapped him on the back, almost knocking him flat against the floor.
Great. Duty calls!
The next couple have managed to break 1k words, so yay!
Chapter 15: Day 15 - First Kiss
I wrote some Steli for y'all.
“What?” Eli said, his eyes never leaving the TV screen. The bright colors and lights reflecting off his glasses.
Steve didn’t see what happened to his character, but he was sure the little guy crashed into something and died a virtual death. Mario Kart was a dangerous game, in general, and then Eli had thrown out that curveball.
It had to have been a distraction.
“Hey, if you don’t hurry up, you’ll be in last place,” Eli said, nudging him with his elbow.
Steve quickly refocused on the task at hand, but his mind never left what Eli had said. It was going to haunt him until his dying day.
Or, at least, until Mrs. Pepperjack announced that dinner was ready — lasagna with cheesy garlic bread. Yum.
He didn’t get much sleep that night. Which ended up with him sleeping through his first, second, third, and fourth alarms. Coach had to flip him and his mattress over in order to wake him up. (Coach, at least, had been thoughtful and cleared the floor of anything he could land on.)
School was, eh, school. But every time he looked over at Eli, he had to look away immediately afterwards. How could he just… blurt something like that out? Seriously! What was wrong with that kid’s head?
Well, a lot of things were wrong with Eli, but Steve liked those things. They were what made Eli, well, Eli . He wouldn’t change his Pepperbuddy for anyone else in the world.
But how could he go around carrying that secret? How long could he hold it in?
Turns out, not even a day.
He cornered Eli in between lunch and their next class. (Math? He thinks that it’s math.) He physically grabbed Eli by the collar and pulled him to a secluded area. People watching probably thought he was going to stuff him in a locker or something.
(Honestly, he hadn’t done that in months . And he’d apologised over seventy times for it, to Eli’s face! He liked his little dweeb friend. He stood up to Seamus and Logan for the guy. In front of a big crowd!)
“Uh, Steve,” Eli said, unhooking Steve’s fingers from his shirt, “you okay?”
“Huh?” Steve looked down at him, releasing the rest of his grip instantly. “Oh, sorry. I, uh, yeah.”
“What’s up with you?”
“You’ve been acting off all day today.”
“I have no idea what you mean.” Steve brushed his hair back and looked away from Eli’s face. He knew if he met those eyes, he’d totally spill everything.
And he did.
“Okay, look,” Steve said, dropping his hands onto Eli’s shoulders. He took a deep breath and focused all of his energy on telling the truth. He opened his mouth and… nothing came out.
“Is this because I said I never kissed anyone?” Eli said, tilting his head to the side and blinking up at him.
“What? No! No! Not at — Yeah. Yeah, it’s because you’ve never kissed anyone.”
“I don’t get why that’s such a big deal.”
“It’s not! It’s not a big deal.”
“You sure? Because you’re making it seem like a big deal. To you.”
“It’s not a big deal. To me. At all.”
Eli crossed his arms and frowned
“Okay, fine,” Steve said, tossing his hands up before running his fingers through his hair. “I just don’t get it. How haven’t you had your first kiss yet? Don’t, like, all nerds have their first kiss at space camp or something?”
“First off,” Eli said, holding up his fingers as he counted the reasons, “I’ve never attended space camp in my life. I’m a nerd, not a loser. Second, lots of girls offered when we were younger. I just wasn’t interested. Third, it’s not important to me. And fourth, it won me the Mario Kart game.”
Eli was a little bushy tailed about the last one.
“But it’s a first kiss! Everyone has to have a first kiss.”
“Well, I don’t.”
“But that’s… that’s…”
“Not everyone is interested, Steve. That’s just how things are.”
“But how do you know you don’t like kissing if you’ve never tried it?”
“How do you know you like girls?”
“I like boys, too!”
Eli stared blankly up at him. Steve felt himself go cold and then hot all over. He… he hadn’t revealed that to anyone. Ever .
“Shit,” Steve said, covering his mouth, running his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth. “Shit. You didn’t hear that. You did not just hear that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual,” Eli said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“I’m not bi!”
“Fine, there’s nothing wrong with being pansexual.”
“I don’t even know what that is!”
Eli sighed, shaking his head. A smile spread across his face.
“If my first kiss means that much to you,” he said, “just kiss me.”
“What? No! I can’t just… Kissing dudes is wrong.”
“Steve, why does my first kiss matter this much to you? You wouldn’t be arguing with me if it didn’t matter.”
“Because you’re a great guy! It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“As I said, girls have offered before.”
“And you said no.”
“I said no.”
“So… why did you say yes to me? Kissing you? To be your first kiss?”
“Because you’re my friend. And I trust you.”
Steve scuffed the toes of his shoes on the cement for a moment while he contemplated. He could kiss Eli and get this whole thing out of his brain. But it might also give Eli blackmail.
Wait, why would Eli blackmail him? They were best friends. Best friends didn’t blackmail each other.
“Aw, to hell with it,” Steve said under his breath.
He took Eli by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes, making sure that this was okay. That he was okay with it. That he would be fine after this. Eli nodded, and Steve ducked his head in. He left the last few centimeters for Eli — to back out or go ahead.
He didn’t have long to wait.
A pair of dry lips pressed against his own. They were warm and soft, different from girls. They weren’t all sticky with lip gloss or bathed in chapstick. It was actually kind of… nice.
Steve would have kept kissing Eli if it hadn’t been for the intruders.
He turned to see Lake and Domzalski gaping at them.
“We, uh,” Lake said looking away.
“We didn’t see anything,” Domzalski said, grabbing Lake by the arm. “Come on, Jimbo. A terrible, terrible lunch awaits.”
Steve stood there for a moment, watching them leave. It took him that time to realize he’d been caught kissing Eli.
He did the only logical thing: He ran after them, cursing them out.
He didn’t see the blush that creeped up Eli’s neck or the way Eli pressed his fingers to his lips.
Chapter 16: Day 16 - Magic
This kind of runs into something I wrote for Jlaire week back in 2018. I always wanted to explore that little idea a little more, which meant I had to kind of go over how it all started. It was originally going to be posted for Day 7, as I said, but it changed so much during the writing process that it suited this prompt more.
Please do read The Garden State of Mind. You don't have to have read it to understand this, but it was such a great thing that I enjoyed writing, I think other people would like it to.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The call had always been there — gently whispering to her, singing through her veins at odd times of the day. It wasn’t until she picked up the Shadow Staff that she really started to notice it, but by that point it was more of a consistent hum in the back of her mind, steadily growing louder until it rose to the fermata and hung there while Morgana had control over her.
After she’d been freed of her, it quieted back down. Every now and again it would come back with a shrill note that made her ears ring. During the Battle of the Eternal Night — as Merlin was calling it, which was annoying in and of itself — the call buzzed through her. It was more of a soundtrack for the fight.
And then, when she’d released the staff, it all went silent. It had been silent since that moment.
Until it wasn’t.
She couldn’t quite remember when she’d started to hear it again, sometime between Utah and Kansas, but it had started picking up again.
Unlike the shrill, off-key sound it had been before, the call was sweeter now. And it flooded her system with a euphoric sensation.
And to think, just to angry Trolls trying to butt heads (literally) was the cause of it. She’d forced them back with some kind of spell, sending them flying backwards and apart.
Claire could only stare at her hands, eyes wide and mouth gaping. Her throat was dry, and she felt tears welling up.
She ducked away and found a private little spot that was hidden from all prying eyes — a great feat, if she wasn’t so caught up in the “Oh no, I have magic powers. What did Morgana do to me?”
She curled further in on herself as Jim circled around the boulder to join her. He could easily spot her, even in the shadows. Then again, it wasn’t hard. She was still glowing. A bright purplish-pink.
Jim reached out to touch her hand. She pulled it back.
“Hey,” he said, his voice soft and warm and every bit as comforting as she needed but didn’t necessarily want. “Hey, it’s just me. It’s just Jim.”
She felt a sob escape her throat, an attempt at a cry to make he leave, go away and let her figure things out. But, just like she hadn’t let him be when he was freaking out about being a Troll, he wasn’t letting her close in on herself.
He scooped her up and held her close. Had he been anyone else, she would have punched them. Heck, she should punch him. She gave a smack to his chest, which just made her hand hurt where it struck his armor.
“Go away,” she said. “I might hurt you.”
“You’re not going to hurt me,” he said, resting his chin on her head. His arms held her more firmly against him.
“How do you know?”
“It’s not in you to hurt anyone you care about.”
She gave a huff and relaxed into him. She’d be more comfortable if he wasn’t in the armor, but something in him was still in panic mode. Her sudden burst of magical powers probably wasn’t helping anything.
“I think Morgana did something to me,” she said after a moment. He hummed and it revererated down from his chin to her head and his chest through her… everything. “More than just possess me. I think,” she licked her lips as she organized her thoughts, “I think she cursed me or something.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know.” She relaxed into his arm with a breath. “Just a feeling.”
“So long as she doesn’t come back and try something, I think we’ll be good.”
She snorted and smiled.
“Do you think we should go find Merlin?” she said after a moment.
“If there’s anyone who’d know anything about this,” Jim said, “it’d be him.”
Her lessons started the day after that.
During their breaks, in between all of the walking, Merlin would have her blindfolded and feeling out the energies of others. More often than not, she bumped into someone.
“No that that,” Merlin said, huffing and puffing. “You need to feel their energies.”
“And how do I do that?” she said. “You haven’t exactly told me that.”
“A good portion of magic is intuition. Don’t focus on everything all at once. You’ll end up wandering around blind. Find something familiar and focus on it. Think that over while the quest continues.”
He moved to join the Trolls as they got back on their feet to continue on the never ending trek to New Jersey. She was left standing off to the side, mulling over his words.
‘A good portion of magic is intuition’? What on earth had he meant by that?
“Hey,” Jim said, taking her hand. “Going to stay here all day or…?”
“Yeah, no,” she said, forcing her feet to follow after everyone. She pulled Jim after her. “Just thinking.”
“About what Merlin said.”
“And What did he say?”
“Magic is intuition,” she said. “Well, most of it.”
“Okay? Anything else?”
“Just to focus on something familiar.”
He hummed and thought for a moment.
“Focus on me,” he said, stopping her.
“Focus on me. I’m familiar, right?”
“Well, yeah —”
“So, focus on me. Do you want me to grab the blindfold?”
“So I can run into everyone again?”
“I promise I won’t let you run into anyone or anything. Or trip and fall and die.”
She snorted and bumped her shoulder into him.
“Alright. I’ll focus on you. Just… keep holding my hand. As an anchor.”
He squeezed her hand and gave her a smile. He was still trying to figure out how to do that around his little tusks. She didn’t point out how cute she thought that was.
“If I trip, I’m taking you with me,” she said, stopping to re-tie the blindfold. When it was securely in place, she held her hand out and felt his hand grip her, fingers lacing together.
Alright. She could do this. Focus on Jim. Not that hard. She could physically feel him. His presence was close and comforting, as it had been when he’d first shown her Trollmarket all those months ago. She’d held his hand that time, too.
She took a breath and felt a tug from her pelvis that took her breath for a moment and made her fingers tingle. Spots of color started to prickle all over into her… Well it wasn’t her vision, so her mind?
A squeeze around her waist as she was pulled away from something.
She refocused on Jim. The colors sizzled out. Except for one.
It was close and it was blue — no, sky blue. Clear and fine as the sky on a brilliant summer day. It felt like… it felt a bit like home.
The blue simmered but never wavered. It grew in intensity and solidity the more she focused on it.
And it was Jim. It was all just Jim.
Then he broke her concentration.
“You okay?” he said, his voice a little tense. “Your breathing is uneven. Do you need us to stop?”
She shook her head and untied the blindfold.
“I’m okay,” she said, smiling at him.
Except she wasn’t. She took one step and collapsed. Jim ended up carrying her the rest of the way for the night.
Back in high school, I was obsessed with Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet? My favorite play. (And I still believe it is the worst to actually teach in school.) Nowadays, my all around favorite is The Tempest, with King Lear as my favorite tragedy and As You Like It as my favorite comedy.
Chapter 18: Day 18 - A Heart Divided
This was inspired by “Beating Heart” by Ellie Goulding. The song came on while I was walking my dog last night. As soon as I got home, I grabbed my laptop and started typing away. (I ate a whole six pack of mochi ice cream and regret everything.) Some of the lyrics hit the mood of what I wanted to do just right, that it had to become this.
There was no other choice.
My only other idea was something to do with Dr. Lake, and I think I'll save that for later.
Just a bit of a trigger warning: There is some gore towards the end (within the last two scenes). I don't have it directly posted in the text, but I wanted to give a heads up just in case.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He was kicked awake by the sharp toe of a boot. The spot stung something awful, sending sharp jolts down his arm and back and up his neck. He rolled over and curled in on himself.
“If you’re not dead,” said a voice, “then get up and leave. I don’t have time for mindless peasants today.”
He groaned in response. His breathing was ragged, though it was almost drowned out by the lapping of the waves on the stoney beach.
“If you’re not gone in the next twenty minutes, I will let my friends eat you.”
That certainly got his attention.
He uncurled and sat up, blinking bleary eyes at the speaker. They were a blue blob against a sea of gray. Hardly a terrifying sight — though what little sight he had could call a lot of things into question.
The person scoffed and waved a white hand in his direction.
“Go ahead,” they said. “Better to get this over with.”
The sea of gray surged forwards and broke into several forms. He willed his eyes to focus and just in time, too. A frighteningly sharp blade was thrust into his face. He barely dodged it.
A massive arm (made of stone?) swung down at him, burying itself in the spot he’d been standing. He grabbed onto it and, as the creature brought it up to smack him away, he kicked out to one of the others nearby.
The kick landed with enough force to knock that creature and a few others down, as well as send the one he’d grabbed onto careening into a few others. (How many were there?)
He wasn’t sure how long the fight went on like that, but he was able to hold his own against the towering creatures for quite some time. It didn’t end until one of them had him pinned against a boulder and was ready to strike down on him with its deadly blade.
He thrust his hands over his head to protect himself — a vain attempt. At least, it seemed that way until the blow never landed.
When he looked up, the blade almost kissed his arms. Beyond that, the creature was still as a statue. Looking beyond that one, the rest were all the same.
It was a moment or two before he caught the sharp clip of a heel on the hard packed stone beneath him. The speaker. He’d almost forgotten about them.
He got to his feet and started to dash away when something pulled him back. He was lifted into the air and held upside down in front of a woman.
“Well,” she said, tilting her head, “what do you know? The humans brought me someone I can use for once.”
She waved her white hand again and the creatures stumbled about as they were freed from whatever had bound them in place.
He remained floating, though he’d been righted, and was forced to follow after her. She took him to a cave that was sparsely decorated.
There were strings of shells hung in various places along the walls, glowing rock orbs floating precariously above his head that cast strange shadows, and there were green things drying here and there. In one corner was a pool that was waist deep and in another what looked like a bed.
He was placed down on top of a boulder that would leave him eyelevel with the woman. She allowed him to study the room before sticking her face in his.
Unblinkingly, her green eyes bore into his. He did his best to not blink but after they started to water, well… She gave a little laugh and pat his head, bringing out a freshly baked loaf of bread, with fruits inside and dripping with honey. She broke it unevenly, offering him the larger piece.
Hungrily, he tore into it. He was licking off the honey that had trickled down his arm when he realized she had barely touched her part.
“Aren’t you hungry?” he said, pointing to it.
“Not as hungry as you, it seems,” she said, holding up the second half for him to take.
“You should eat it.”
“Go on, little one. I eat enough.”
He took it and scarfed it down, just like he had before.
“What did they call you?” she said, combing his shaggy hair out of his blue eyes.
“They didn’t call me anything.” He shrugged and looked at her.
She was pretty, milky white hair, sharp face, and eyes so green they were unnatural. The blue tunic she wore fit her loosely, though her trousers were quite snug on her legs, and her boots came up to just below her knees.
“Well, that’s not right. Everyone should have a name.”
He shrugged and continued to clean himself of the honey. It was really good honey. He wondered if she baked the bread and gathered the honey herself.
“Do you have a name?” he said.
“I have many, actually. Though the people around here call me Morgana.”
“Morgana.” He tasted the name on his tongue, rolling it to see how it sounded. “I like it.”
“Of course you do.” She gave a little laugh and tapped his cheek. “How about a name for you, hm? Something that sounds just as nice.”
While she thought it over, he thought back to the place he’d called home. It was a sea village, a trading post with more people coming in and out daily than people who actually lived there. His mother had died before she could properly name him, which had saved him on many occasions from the Shining Ones.
It seemed that what little protection it had brought him would soon be driven away by one such creature. For that is all she could be, a Shining One. Oh well, all good things must come to an end.
“There was a hawk circling above you,” she said. “That was how the Trolls found you.”
“Trolls?” he said, tilting his head to the side. “Is that what they are?”
“Yes. Gunmar and his friends saw the hawk and told me straight away.”
“They eat children?” His mind flickered back to not only what she’d said earlier but to what the villagers often whispered about.
“Only the naughty ones who try to hurt them. But don’t worry, little one, I won’t let them eat you. You have something special about you.”
“Yes. You have magic?”
“I’m a Shining One?”
She laughed at that.
“No, no, silly. You’re human. You were just born with a very unique gift. Like I was.” She snapped her fingers and little gold sparks shot out of the ends. He gaped in awe. “Now, a name for you. Where was I? Oh, right. The hawk.”
He kicked his bare feet out as he waited for her to decide what to call him. Eventually, she landed on something that didn’t sound as nice as ‘Morgana’ but seemed to suit her choice.
“Myrddin,” she said, patting the top of his head. “I’ll call you Myrddin.”
“Morgana,” he said, holding up a glowing sphere for her to see. He’d been practicing in the cave without her assistance. She was out on the beach in the middle of discussing something with a Troll. “Morgana, look!”
She turned and smiled down at him. She gave a little coo and patted him on the head.
“Very good, Myrddin,” she said, “but what did I say about interrupting important meetings?”
Myrddin looked up to the Troll she’d been talking to, frowning.
“It’s just Gunamr,” he said, shrugging as the glowing orb disintegrated into nothing.
Gunmar, of course, didn’t like being referred to as ‘just Gunmar’. Morgana, though, laughed.
“Tell you what,” she said, “go back to the cave and, as soon as I’m done, we’ll work on something together, okay?”
He smiled and reached as far up on his tip toes as he could (which wasn’t very far and she ended up having to bend down quite a bit) to kiss her on the cheek. He took off running back to the cave to await her return.
“We’re going north,” Morgana said one morning before he went to bed. She offered him a loaf of bread with fruits and dripping with honey. The really good honey.
“What?” he said, back straightening and turn to look at her as he took the bread.
“We’re going north.”
“Why? What… What’s north?”
“We need to move the Trolls north so they can rest properly. Summer months are difficult on them.”
“Why do the Trolls need us to look after them?”
“Well, Trolls need someone to care for them. They’re a bit like you, Myrddin. Lost in this world and unsure of where to go or what to do. It’s a good thing that I’m around to help all of you.”
“How long will we be in the north?” he said, sitting down on his bed.
“Most of the next two seasons,” she said, waving off his question. “Maybe longer. It depends on what Gunmar and I agree on. You’ll like it there, Myrddin. You won’t have to hide in a cave as much. There’s more forest there for you to run around in.”
She was right, of course. There was a lot more forest and more green and more animals and more… everything than in his little village. He liked the north and the people there.
He didn’t say anything to Morgana — and he was certain the Trolls hadn’t either — but he sometimes snuck out to one of the bigger villages. There were a good deal of children there. He blended right in with them. No one seemed to mind an extra scrawny limbed boy running around and playing.
He watched as some of the kids returned home to their mothers before he, too, had to return to his home. The kids would clasp their mothers around their plump bellies and tell her how much they loved them.
He felt a pang in his heart every time he saw it, thinking of his own mother — her face and voice a blur. He was sure her hair was as dark as his own and her eyes the same as well, but nothing more than a dull hum of a lullaby and the faded warmth of a hug remained of her image.
In her place, Morgana seemed to creep in. Every night he watched his newfound friends greet their mothers, the more Morgana slipped into his own.
It wasn’t long before he returned and held her in a tight embrace.
“I love you, mama,” he said to her stomach.
He retreated soon after that. It would be some time until he realized that she never responded. And it was a few days later that it was announced they were going north. The day after that, the village was in flames and there was no one left alive.
The return to the southern cave was most welcome. They had to clean it up a bit from the animals that had taken over residence in their absence. For many, many years, Myrddin did not question the back and forth they did. The changing residence with the seasons made some sense in his mind.
After all, you went south when it got to cool in the north, and then you went north when it got too warm. He didn’t understand why everyone didn’t do it.
Each evening upon their first night of their return to the south, the Trolls held a party. Morgana had told him numerous times he wasn’t allowed to join in, but there came a time when he was older and taller and he believed he was ready to join in the festivities. It was difficult to make it past all the large bodies of Trolls. He’d been physically removed many times before, so they knew to keep an eye out for him.
So, it lead him to dramatic measures. This time, trying to see from above.
He was sneaking along the cliffs to see what he could of the celebration, but it wasn’t much in the darkness. He gave a huff and sat down, looking out to the sea beyond the beach where the revelry was taking place.
He wondered what was beyond that. The edge of the world? Or was there something more out there? He was inclined to believe the latter.
Myrddin wasn’t given much time to ponder anything else because he heard the shifting of pebbles under feet and the cursing of someone. He didn’t recognize the voice of Morgana (he would know his mother’s voice by now), so it was someone entirely different. Someone who might do him or the Trolls harm.
This was why Morgana was training him, to protect the Trolls and them from outsiders.
He quickly ducked behind a tree, fingers sparking with green energy as he waited for the person to reveal themselves.
As soon as they were in sight, he charged at them. The magic smacked them full on the side of their abdomen, knocking them flat onto the ground. They were wheezing on their side.
Merlin’s green magic lit up the space, and he looked down. It was a girl, no older than him. She gazed up at him with fear in her eyes as she lie gasping. She tried and failed to push herself up.
She was at his mercy.
Morgana’s voice rang clearly through the small wooded area. It didn’t take long for his mother to find them. She gasped when she saw the girl in the grass.
She flung her arm out, and the girl flew back into a tree. Its branches twisted to hold her in place.
“And what, pray tell,” Morgana said through her teeth, as if she was spitting venom, “is one of the Nine doing here? They know this is my territory. Are you so unsuitable for them that they sent you to your death?”
“I,” the girl said, her voice a gasp in the wind, “I ran away.”
“The others want to put me to sleep. They think I’m too powerful. So, I ran away.”
“Then why run away to me? You know I can kill you.”
“Just a snap of your fingers.”
Morgana and the girl stared each other down. The girl, whoever she was, was hardly afraid of Morgana. The second she looked back at Myrddin, however, she shrunk away.
With a snap of her fingers, Morgana freed the girl, who collapsed in a pile on the roots of the tree.
“Alright, little sister,” Morgana said, “you ran away because you said they were afraid of your power. Tell me, what can you do?”
The girl spared a glance at Myrddin and then back to Morgana.
“Pay no attention to him. He won’t hurt you unless I give my orders.”
The girl nodded and looked up to the tree. She raised her left hand in the air, a soft red glow slowly creeping out from her skin. As she curled her hand into a tight fist, the tree behind her wilted its leaves — which turned brown and died on the forest floor — and shriveled up, rotting where it stood.
Myrddin’s eyebrows shot up and his jaw dropped. He looked over to Morgana,
“Is that all?” Mogana said, impassive as she had been the last few years towards his magic.
The girl, without so much as breaking a sweat, unfurled her fingers. As she did, the tree slowly came back to life. It looked as beautiful and green as it had before she’d killed it.
Morgana smiled at this.
“The power over life and death,” she said. “How old are you, if I may ask?”
“Eighteen summers,” the girl said.
Morgana hummed, tapping her chin.
“The problem is, I already have an apprentice.” She gestured over to Myrddin, who jerked as he was startled from his reverie.
The girl wilted just like the leaves as she looked over to him.
“Sorry, love. You’ll just have to go back to the Nine and explain why you betrayed them by coming to me.”
“But they’ll kill me .” The girl’s eyes widened and her lip trembled.
“Pity. Such a waste of all that power.”
“I wouldn’t mind,” Myrddin found himself saying. “I wouldn’t mind. Having someone else to work with. I really wouldn’t.”
“Are you sure, little one? We can’t squander your talent just because you sympathize with an outsider.”
“Well, since that’s settled, come along you two.”
Morgana started down the cliffs, going over the edge and floating down and leaving them behind.
The girl watched with wide eyes, still sitting on the roots of the tree. On shaky legs, she made her way over to him.
“Can you do that?” she said.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “That hasn’t come up yet.”
“The Nine never taught me either.”
“The Nine Ladies of Avalon. I was apprenticing to take over when one of them was ready to pass on.”
“Huh. I’ve never heard of them.”
He could feel the girl’s eyes on him as he focused on Morgana’s form disappearing into the mass of Trolls below.
“Nineve,” she said after a moment.
“What?” he said, turning to look at her.
“My name, it’s Nineve.”
“And, what’s your name?”
“Morgana calls me Myrddin.”
“Well, hello then, Myrddin. I am Nineve, the abandoner of the Nine.” She gathered her skirts in her hands and gave a wobbling curtsy.
He snorted and bowed to her.
“Nice to meet you, Nineve. I am Myrddin, son and apprentice to Morgana.”
If Morgana was pretty, Nineve was downright breathtaking. Her hair was a deep, dark brown that was packed into a braid, though there were flyaway strands of tight curls that bounced when she moved around. Her amber eyes danced in whatever light caught in them. And her skin was a warm color not native to the island — at least, not what he’d seen of it.
All of her breathtaking-ness was probably due to her outgoing nature. Myrddin hadn’t interacted with too many people after the northern village had gone up in flames, so a girl his age often threw him through a loop.
Morgana seemed to notice as well, though she didn’t say anything on it.
The Trolls were at first irritated to have another human amongst them, but upon seeing her power, Gunmar declared that she was under their protection.
Nineve, for her part, was a superior healer. She was obscenely gentle with the Trolls, who were unsure how to react to the quick talking little thing that flitted about them. Most of them just sat there listening to her ramble until she’d freed them.
Her knowledge of magic was far above anything that Myrddin could even comprehend. Morgana assured him that his abilities surpassed hers, and some day his knowledge would outdo hers as well.
“You have a bit more wild magic than she does,” Morgana said one evening. She offered him a loaf of bread with fruits and dripping with honey. The really good honey. He took it without question and eating it immediately. “It takes a bit more to rein your magic in. You’ll get there someday, little one.”
“But there’s something about her that… that… I don’t know. It makes it seem like I’ll never catch up.”
“All men feel like that at some point. You’ll get over it soon enough.”
“But what if I don’t.”
“But what if —”
“Myrddin, please, you’re going to give me a headache.”
She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. He stalked off in search of something to do. Of course, he was lead subconsciously (or completely consciously, though he wouldn’t admit it), to where Nineve was hiding.
She was gazing down into a little tide pool, making faces at whatever fish was caught in them.
“Hello, Myrddin,” she said, not looking up.
“How’d you know it was me?” he said, coming to stand next to her. The fish in the tide pool ignored her faces. Maybe they couldn’t see her at all.
“Your footsteps are a lot lighter than a Trolls. And Morgana doesn’t have footsteps. She just kind of… floats everywhere. And no one except you ever comes looking for me so calmly.”
“Glad to know that I stick out.”
She looked sharply up at him, locking his eyes with hers.
“You will always stick out, no matter where you go. That is who you are, Myrddin Wyllt.”
“How do you know that?” he said, forehead scrunching up.
“You’ve never had a vision of the future?”
“No. Am I supposed to?”
She tilted her head, remaining silent for a few moments.
“The greatest wizard of all time doesn’t know who he is yet or what journeys lie ahead of him,” she said, mostly to herself. Her eyes refocused on him and she nodded. “It’s not really something you’re supposed to know how to do, it just… happens. Visions come at the most random times. If you haven’t had them yet, then there must be a reason.”
“I have wild magic, whatever that means. Maybe it's suppressing the visions.”
“I don’t think wild magic works that way, Myrddin.”
“Well, whatever is going on, I think it’s better that I don’t know the future.”
“And why is that?”
“Only fools want to know what's going to happen to them next.”
Nineve watched him meticulously over the next few days. It put him on edge to see her normally bright eyes so hawklike and attentive. He didn’t even want to sneeze in front of her.
By the Graces, what was wrong with him.
Morgana didn’t notice, for once. If Myrddin hadn’t been so preoccupied by Nineve, he would have asked what was going on.
After the third night, he confronted Nineve. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from the Trolls and down one of the many tunnels.
“Can you stop?” he said.
“Stop what?” She blinked up at him.
“The staring at me thing.”
“So, no visions of the future?”
“I’m not sorry to disappoint.”
She rolled her eyes, a smile pricking at the first ends of her lips and then it faltered. Her cheeks started to flush, and she looked up at him through her lashes. Her voice turned softer and lighter.
“Did you, uh, did you want anything else?”
“No.” He was going to add more but, seeing the way she seemed to sag against the hard rock of the wall, he decided against it. He backed a step away to let her pass without bumping into him.
She pushed herself off the wall and started back to the Trolls, pausing just before the corner to sneak a look back at him. When she saw that he was still watching her, she hurried along.
The group returned to the north a bit later than they’d intended. The changing of the seasons were growing a tad unpredictable. Morgana cursed out the Nine for it.
“What do the Nine have anything to with the seasons?” Myrddin said.
“Hm?” Nineve said, looking up from the bag she was packing. Her voice was as nonchalant as if she’d told him the wall was made of stone. “Oh, the Nine control the weather.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond to that.
The north was as boring as ever, though Nineve did seem a bit more flighty. She rushed around the group, weaving in and out of the organizes Trolls as they trooped up to their favored caves. Well, Myrddin thought they were going to their favored caves.
Instead, they continued further on. The woods grew wilder, things smelled greener, the nights were surprisingly longer.
As they continued, Nineve’s mood dwindled. She breathed more raggedly through her nose and her jaw was tightly clenched.
“Where are we?” Myrddin said, eyes wide as he gazed over the beauty of the place before him.
“We’re close to Brocéliande,” Morgana said, offering a loaf to Myrddin and Nineve each with fruits and dripping with honey. The good honey.
Nineve’s eyes narrowed as she accepted it. Where Myrddin ate it almost immediately, Nineve only had a few bites before slipping the loaf into her bag.
“If the brownies catch wind of me —” she said, only to be cut off by Morgana.
“They won’t. Not with this many Trolls. Their scent drowns out yours. Now, we must hurry. Dawn will come soon, and I would rather not lose anyone else.”
Myrddin frowned and furrowed his brows. He couldn’t recall them ever losing one of the Trolls. Perhaps she meant before she took him on?
They found a glorious mountain to settle in, one that was spacious and the entrance close to the woods. He could easily slip past the guards blocking him in and into the forest beyond. Morgana wouldn’t follow him, and Nineve… Nineve seemed a little unsure if she should wander too far away from the Trolls.
He was out and enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin for the first time in quite a while. The foliage was strange but quick analyses showed that the plants resembled what he knew from the south.
The deer trails weren’t as well travelled as the ones he knew, though they could have been and he just wouldn’t have known. The air seemed to sing with something other. Something that felt familiar, though he couldn’t place his finger on it.
Really, Myrddin was enjoying his exploration of the new place.
And he would have continued to enjoy it if the snapping of a twig hadn’t alerted him to someone following him.
He ducked behind a tree and waited with sparking fingers. When the person was in reaching distance, he charged at them. Too late, he realized it was Nineve.
She was a heap on the ground, gasping like a fish out of water and blinking up at him rapidly.
Suited her for following him. Still, he kneed down next to her and waited until she could breath.
“You certainly know how to treat a girl, Myrddin Wyllt,” she said, accepting his hand to help her to her feet.
“You certainly know how to let someone know a friend is following them,” he said in return, leading her to a fallen tree. She sat down heavily. “Mind telling me why you were following me?”
“To show you where not to go.” She nodded her head in the direction he’d been going. “There’s a basilisk nest over there. Also, there’s a fantastic berry patch that way.”
She pointed to the left of them, a wide grin on her face.
“Aren’t you worried about the brownies finding you?”
“They only come out at night, like Trolls.”
He shook his head, giving her a small smile.
“How about those berries, hm? They should help us sleep.”
“I want to explore some more.”
“You can explore when we come back this way,” she said, standing up and dusting off her skirts. She started in the directions of the berry patch.
“Come back?” he said, following after her. “Where are we going?”
“No, I mean, all of us. Mother, the Trolls, you and me?”
“We’re going to the isles. Didn’t Morgana tell you?”
“No. What… What’s on the isles?”
“There’s a colony of Trolls there. And the Nine.”
“Isn’t that dangerous? For you to go back to them?”
“If I’m caught, yes. But I’m stronger now.”
“I took you down easily.”
“I was expecting you to.”
A grin spread across her face and she dashed towards a cluster of berry bushes. There were little creatures flitting in and out.
“Hello,” she said in a sing-song voice to them, “do you mind if we joined you?”
The little creatures chirped and offered to help. A few came to Myrddin and pushed him over to the bushes with a surprising amount of strength.
“What are they?” he said, as one of the ones who’d pushed his got in his face and started tugging at his lips and cheeks.
“Piskies,” Nineve said, her voice as melodic as before. “They can be a troublesome lot, but really they’re quite nice. They like you better if you sing while you speak.”
“I’ve never sung anything before in my life.”
The piskies all gasped and chittered together, looking frantically between Nineve and Myrddin. Nineve gave a laugh and gestured for him to join her. She made him mimic a few simple tunes, which did not sound the same at all when he attempted (making the piskies laugh at him).
He didn’t notice the figure creeping up on them until it was too late.
When Myrddin came to it was to the hushed voices of two people talking. One of them he recognized at Nineve right away. The other, most definitely female, was too deep to be Morgana at all.
He blinked bleary eyes up at them. Nineve was right there, but the other woman was a bit of a ways off.
“Is he alright, little sister?” the other woman said.
“Yes,” Nineve said, brushing her fingers through his hair. She flinched her hand back when he gave a hiss as she touched a sensitive spot. “Sorry.”
“What happened?” he said, sitting up. The world tilted and turned this way and that. He was forced to lie back down.
“Didn’t mean to hit you so hard,” the woman said, coming over to kneel by him. Her voice sounded amused. “Surprised you haven’t healed him yet.”
“Pay back,” Nineve said, “for punching me in the stomach a second time.”
“Told you that you should have just said you were following me,” Myrddin said, feeling his head lifted onto her lap.
She didn’t respond. Her hands glowed a soft red as they passed over the tender spot. The thumping easing almost immediately.
“Mind explaining why you knocked him out?” Nineve said.
“You said he wouldn’t come willingly,” the woman said, shrugging.
“Willingly?” Myrddin said, sitting up. This time the world didn’t tilt and turn as much. “Who are you?”
“Myrddin,” Nineve said, taking his hand in her own. Her hand was unusually soft. “Myrddin, this is Thiton. She’s one of the Nine. Thiton, this is Myrddin Wyllt. He is the… son of Morgana.”
“Just Myrddin. I’m just Myrddin. Why do you always add the Wyllt at the end?”
Nineve shrugged. He turned to look at Thiton.
She was tall and her arms were thicker than his neck. Her red hair was cropped tightly to her head, framing a rather square face. Small, dark eyes stared down at him.
“This is the boy from your visions?” Thiton said, a frown somehow growing on the immovable face.
“Yes,” Nineve said. “Myrddin, Thiton is here to help. You don’t need to use your magic. She won’t harm the Trolls.”
“There is a colony near Avalon,” Thiton said. “The Trolls are our friends. Have been for a long time.”
Myrddin frowned, doing another sweep of the woman.
“So,” he said, “why am I here?”
“Because you’re the only one who can stop Argante.”
“Argante? Do you mean Morgana?”
“And stop her from, what, protecting the Trolls? Keeping them from danger?”
“Stop her from creating an eternal night,” Nineve said, tugging his hand. He hadn’t realized she hadn’t let go of him. “Morgana will create an eternal night so the Trolls can hunt the humans.”
“I don’t… What’s wrong with that?”
“Myrddin, you’ve spent far too much time with Trolls and Morgana. You’re human, too, you know. Far more human than her, at least.”
“Argante hasn’t been a human for a very long time,” Thiton said. “She’s older than any of the rest of us in Avalon. She came from a country so thick with forest and so cold, all humanity escaped her the moment she got lost there. I don’t know everything that happened to her, just that it was all terrible and unforgivable. But what she wants to do to humans is worse. They’d have no chance against the Trolls, even with all of us helping.”
“And what does this have to do with me?” Myrddin said.
“You’re her son. She can’t and won’t harm you. She refuses to. At least, that’s what Nineve told us.”
Nineve flushed, tucking her chin to her chest.
“And give me one good reason why I should believe you?”
“She’s been stopping your visions with this,” Nineve said, drawing out the mostly there loaf of bread from her bag. “The honey, at least.”
Thiton reached out and broke off a piece. She sniffed it and tasted for herself. A few seconds later and she spat it back out.
“Potent,” she said, wiping the saliva from her chin with the back of her hand. She looked at Nineve. “You’ve had the stuff too?”
“To throw off her suspicions,” Nineve said, nodding. “Myrddin’s been eating it for… How long have you been with Morgana?”
“Almost all my life. I think I was… ten winters when she found me on the beach?”
“Beach?” Thiton said, her eyebrows arching upwards.
“They people in some of the villages send sacrifices to the beach to keep the Trolls from killing all of them,” Nineve said. “I only found out about it by accident. Some of the Trolls were talking about it before they settled down for today.”
“Sacrifice?” Myrddin said, his brow furrowing. His eyes practically burned holes into the stone floor beneath them. “I wasn’t a… a sacrifice. I couldn’t have been… Why would anyone do that?”
“Humans get desperate and hope for the best,” Thiton said. “It’s foolish, but we’re all a little foolish sometimes.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Who would sacrifice a kid? Why?”
“Myrddin,” Nineve said, reaching for his arm. He stood up and got away from her as quickly as possible.
“I’m going back. Don’t try to stop me.”
He didn’t see the look that passed between the two, but a muscle in his back tensed. He knew what they were thinking. But neither of them stopped him. In fact, Nineve rejoined him. Her shoulders sagged a little and her smile didn’t quite meet her eyes.
“You’ll get lost here,” she said, slipping her hand into his. “Come on, I’ll lead you back.
They crossed the strait between the continent and the isles the next evening. Boats weren’t hard to come by, but ferries that could hold the weight of many Trolls at once weren’t so easily available. It took several trips (and two nights) before they could all make it across.
Myrddin kept an eye on Morgana during that time. Something seemed to be prickling at her very being. Her shoulders were tense and she kept looking about for any dangers that would be lurking about. There was, of course, nothing.
Nineve stayed near enough to put him on edge, but she never got too close. That probably had a lot to do with Gunmar standing guard next to him, per Morgana’s orders.
The isles were dangerous, Morgana said. Dangers were lurking everywhere. Enemy Trolls and the Nine had spies stationed in every town, village, and forest. It would be very difficult to reach safety without alerting them.
This made Myrddin question why they were there in the first place. He asked Gunmar and received a non-committed response.
He caught Nineve’s wide brown eyes. She knew why they were there. Her silence most likely had to do with visions she was receiving. She hadn’t eaten the loaf of bread (she’d dropped it into the strait). He’d woken a few times in the afternoons to the sounds of her hushed cries and whimpers of whatever fearful thing her brain was summoning forth.
Perhaps it was time he did an experiment for himself.
The next evening, when Morgana handed him a loaf of bread with fruits and dripping with honey (the good honey), he stashed it in his bag. This made Morgana pause for a moment.
“You’re not going to eat it?” she said, rapidly blinking at him.
“I’ll eat it as we walk,” he said, patting the bag. He just hoped the honey didn’t bleed through the handkerchief and drip all over the contents before he could toss it.
She nodded, turning back to the Trolls to get them moving.
Nineve hung back with him, eyes narrowed.
As soon as Morgana and Gunmar were out of sight and he was certain the Trolls at the tail end wouldn’t see him, he chucked the loaf into the forest.
Nineve’s eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped.
“You,” she said, looking between him and the leaves that were sticky with the honey. “You’re going to… Myrddin?”
“I decided to test out your theory.”
Nineve’s mouth split into a wide grin. She leapt up and wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close. As soon as he decided to react to the hug, she pulled away.
“Sorry,” she said. “Let’s go catch up with the others. It might take a while for the honey to work its way out of your system anyway.”
The group didn’t travel too far that first night. On the second, they found a village and stayed hidden in the outskirts, taking to the hills for shelter. That night, the Trolls attacked.
Myrddin didn’t see what set them off, he just heard their battle cries and the clanging and thumps of their running. He looked around, trying to spot Morgana or Gunmar. Wherever they were, it wasn’t in eyesight.
He did see Nineve. She was looking around wildly, as if deciding to go charging in after the Trolls or run away.
She chose the latter.
He ran after her, crashing in and sending them both in a heap on the ground.
“What is it with you,” Nineve said, getting up with fingers sparking red energy, “and knocking me down?”
“What’s going on?” he said, grabbing her hands and ignoring the bite of the magic that pricked at his palms. He held back a wince. “Why are they attacking?”
“Morgana ordered them to. They’re hungry, and this village just happened to be the first. If we go now, we can find Thiton. She’ll help us get away from here and to Avalon.”
“Avalon? And to the Nine?”
“ Yes .”
“But… Wait, you said, in that cave back on the continent, that Thiton was one of the Nine.”
“I thought the Nine would kill you if they ever found you.”
“Look,” she said, lacing her fingers through his and licking her lips, “there’s a lot I need to explain, but now isn’t the time. Myrddin, I —”
A scream that sent his very soul deep into the bowels of the earth reverberated around the hills. Without thinking, Myrddin charged toward the village. Nineve followed after, calling his name.
He found himself in an inferno of fire and chaos. All around, Trolls were attacking innocent people and the humans were running away, screaming and crying. Or trying to. One Troll lifted a human boy — who’d been no older than himself when he first joined them — and bit him right in half. The wet sound of flesh and muscle splitting, blood dribbling and splattering on the ground, and the breaking of bones made him close his eyes and turn away.
It was happening all over the village.
His core trembled and everything blurred around him. The world tilted and turned, nearly knocking him off his feet. He was vaguely aware of Nineve grabbing his arm and attempting to pull him away. Her voice just mumbles to his ears. Her grip was tight though, an anchor to the physical world.
It didn’t stop the power that exploded out of him, nearly knocking her off her feet. She clung to him, pressing herself to his side with wide eyes.
Trolls, humans, carts, animals, and who knew what else was blown back. All eyes turned toward him.
Morgana landed softly not too far from where he stood.
“Myrddin,” she said, her voice a hiss through her clenched teeth. She held out a hand to him, her nails like talons.
“Myrddin,” Nineve said, the word a trembling breath across his neck.
“This stops now,” he said, his eyes never leaving Morgana.
Her frown deepened, and she lowered her hand. She straightened her back and turned her gaze to Nineve.
“What have you been poisoning him with?” she said.
“The truth ,” Nineve said, her voice a hoarse growl.
She would have charged at Morgana if Myrddin hadn’t pulled her back by her waist.
“Lies! You’ve been lying to him and me since you came. I should have killed you on that cliff, or allowed Myrddin to.”
Myrddin struggled to keep his grasp on Nineve. Her tightly curled hair was coming out of its braid.
“Killing me is only one of the many means to prove to him just what kind of monster you are.”
He pulled her closer.
“Stop it,” he said into her ear. “She’ll kill you if you —”
“And you’ll stop her,” Nineve said, quietly. She turned to look at him. “You always do.”
She took his hesitation and slipped out of his grasp, snatching up the blade of a fallen Troll, and charged at Morgana.
She was knocked backwards by the twist of Morgana’s hand, sending her flying back into a house. People nearby ran away, screaming as they scattered.
Nineve swept up the sword again, a red glow forming around her and the sword. With a great cry, she hefted it up once more and charged.
The blow landed, sending Morgana tumbling to the ground.
“I can’t let you keep hurting people,” Nineve said, pointing the tip at her. “Especially the people that care about you.”
Morgana forced herself back on her feet, a snarl marring her features.
“And I can’t keep letting you sabotage everything I’ve done,” Morgana said, her fingers seeming to pop and twist. Gold tentacles curled out and wrapped around Nineve and the sword. The sword was pulled from her grasp.
The tentacles tightened around Nineve. Anguished cries rose up from her until there was a pop. Her head lulled to one side, and Morgana called the tentacles back. Nineve fell in a heap on the ground.
Myrddin stared down at the limp form of the girl, afraid to move or speak or do anything. He continued to stare as the chaos picked up around them again. He continued to stare until every last screaming human was gone and the fires had put themselves out.
Morgana was the one to retrieve him.
“Come along,” she said. “Daylight will be here soon.”
He went with her and stayed for only a handful of hours. By then the sun was high enough in the sky that the Trolls wouldn’t be able to catch him.
He returned back to the village. Thiton was there with two others, both of whom gripped the handles of their swords when they saw him. Thiton didn’t so much as flinch when she heard him approach. Her eyes and cheeks stained red from tear, from the still smoking embers or the loss of Nineve, he couldn’t tell, turned up to him.
“Who did this?” she said, her voice raw in the back of her throat.
“Morgana,” he said, a lump starting to swell and bob in his throat as he breathed.
“Sister,” one of the other women said, her arms grabbing Thiton’s shoulder, “who is this?”
“Myrddin Wyllt. A friend of Nineve and the one in her visions.”
“By the Mother’s great mercy,” said the other. She kneeled in front of him, head bowed. “At long last. Emrys is rising.”
“Emrys?” he said.
Thiton scooped up Nineve and nodded.
“Come along,” she said, “there’s much to discuss.”
I kind of like the idea of Morgana being older than Merlin. I can't remember if it's completely supported in canon, but in my brain it is.
I went with Nineve instead of Nimue or Vivian because it's somewhere in the middle of the two. Her whole story was going to be a bit more tragic (a brother was going to be involved and she was going to get revenge against Morgana for his death), but it was going to lead to a quicker conclusion than what I wanted to write, so I changed her to being an apprentice for the Nine. (The Nine Ladies of Avalon. You'll find them in some sources but not in others. Also with nine being a multiple of three, it's a magic number.)
You all know how the rest of the story goes from here, yeah? If you don't, you might want to rewatch the series again for the umpteenth time.
Chapter 19: Day 19 - Chef Jim
And we're back to the short stuff. Yesterday took a lot out of me.
“Dude, are you making us a pizza crust?”
Jim turned to look at Toby, who was staring at the countertop where Jim had been working the dough.
“And?” he said, shrugging.
“I thought we would just, I don’t know, order out or something. You know, like normal teenagers.”
“There’s nothing normal about us, Tobes.”
“Riiiiight. Both of us having missing parents and all that.”
“Not what I was going for, but if you want to go down that route…”
“Well, what route were you going to go down?”
“We’re both fairly depressed preteens who got lumped into the nerd clique at a young age and kind of don’t know how to interact with anyone except a handful of others.”
“I don’t like it when you put it like that.”
“Yeah, well,” Jim said, going back to the dough, “you opted to be my friend. It’s kind of your own fault.”
“Kind of your fault my diet’s not working.”
“Oh, come on, Tobes. You know that’s not it. And you don’t need to diet. You’re perfectly fine the way you are.”
“Says the guy who ran the mile in under ten minutes.”
“That was just pure luck.”
“And my left sock doesn’t stink.”
“Dude. Low blow.”
“Yeah,” Toby grinned as he hopped onto one of the bar stools to watch Jim work his magic. “I know. Hey, tell me something, you’re not making your own pizza sauce are you?”
Jim paused a moment and bit the inside of his cheek to stop smiling.
“No?” he said.
“Liar. And I bet you make your own cheese.”
“That’s actually something I haven’t experimented yet…”
“Please don’t. If you do, you’ll put us both in a food coma, where we’ll die.”
“Okay, that sounds pretty accurate.”
Jim finished working the dough and got out the jar of sauce he’d made a few days before. He got to work spreading it evenly across the dough.
“Oh man,” Toby said, using his finger to taste some of the sauce. “That’s so good. Your mom is beyond lucky to have you for a kid.”
“You realize this pizza is for us, right? My mom won’t be home until tomorrow morning.”
“And how is it that you haven’t had a party here yet?”
“Having a party here would mean talking to Steve, and you know how Steve gets around me. He’s all… super macho and extra aggressive.”
“Eh, he’s probably just trying to show off and seem tougher than he is. Watch, you’ll end up decking him one day and winning over the girl of your dreams.”
Jim snorted as he put away the sauce and got out the cheese and toppings (peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, sausage, and pepperoni). He made short work of dressing the pizza and popping it in the oven.
“We have about twenty minutes,” he said. “Want to watch a little bit of Gun Robot ?”
“ Do I?”
Chapter 20: Day 20 - Spanish
Sooooo, I opted to take German in school instead of Spanish and this is one of the many times I regret not doing it. Guess it's time to retry Duolingo...
“Aren’t you going to go ask her for help?” Toby said, bumping Jim’s arm and gesturing to the girl he’d been openly gaping at for the better part of lunch.
“I can’t just go over there,” Jim said, feeling his cheeks and ears grow hot.
“Uh, yeah, you can. That’s, like, half of normal human interaction. It’s easy. Just go over and ask her for help with your Spanish homework.”
“But I can’t just… She’s way out of my league. Like she’s seven leagues up and three to the left.”
“That doesn’t change anything.”
“Yeah, well… How about you go ask her for me? So I don’t say anything stupid.”
“Uh, no,” Toby said. “That’s not how it works.”
“Fairly certain it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, it —”
“Hey, guys,” Eli said, waving as he came over. “Can I sit with you?”
There was an awkward silence as Jim and Toby glared at each other over the tops of their pudding cups.
“Uh, so,” Eli said, “what were you talking about before I came over?”
“Jim’s too scared to ask Claire out.”
“I am not !”
“Why?” Eli said, shrugging. “It’s just Claire. She’s actually really cool.”
“I want to ask her for help with my Spanish homework.”
Eli stopped messing around with his peas and looked up to Jim.
“Claire would be happy to help. If you want, I could —”
“No!” Jim said, reaching across the table to stop Eli from moving away. “No. It’s fine. There’s no need.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’ll just… suffer through Señor Uhl’s class.”
Chapter 21: Day 21 - Stronger Together
A day late, whoops!
I wasn't feeling too good yesterday. Between being on my feet since 6 am and then trying to catch up on some paperwork for next year so things can go smoothly, it was busy and I was dead inside. I needed time to recover.
As you can tell, haven't quite gotten there yet.
She forced her leg to remain steady as she raised her blade, though she could already feel the sting of the straining limb. She was just a small obstacle — barely even a speed bump — in the path of the Gumm-Gumms.
But at least she would be something keeping them from reaching the others.
The soft glow emanating from her khopesh acting as a beacon, a nightlight to lead them to her. Like moths to a flame.
She squared her shoulders and got as far into a defensive stance as her body would let her, biting back the hiss.
She blocked a few blows before a fifth made a little half-sob escape her mouth.
Still, she was able to force them back.
She just hoped it was enough to allow Little Gynt and his friends to escape. She admired them. They worked well together, they always had. A part of her wished she could actually have been a part of it.
Now was not the time for that.
There were enemies to hold back.
A whirring, grinding sound reverberated off the path behind her. She wanted to see what sort of monstrosity Gunmar was sending now, but the other part of her just hoped that death would be quick.
“ Nomura! ”
Of course, it could also be Little Gynt and his friends coming in for a dramatic rescue like the heroes they were. Yes, it could also be that.
She saw his outstretched hand and moved to get herself in a position to hold onto it. She was pulled and tucked in between a mix of humans and Trolls.
Her nails scraped against the side, gripping the lip of the gyre tightly.
Her eyes flicked over to the driver. She wasn’t surprised to see Draal navigating them through the Darklands.
Little Gynt encouraged Draal on towards the glowing green of the bridge. Just distance and a Nyalagroth stood in the way. She pressed the two human companions down into the gyre as the Krubera traitor did the same to her and Blinkous. Little Gynt and Draal pushed them all forward.
They made it through and out of the Nyalagroth no problem and into the gate with little issue. They rolled out onto Earth, crashing through some trees and colliding with a boulder.
Nomura sat in the gyre while the others all scrambled out, just like they did with everything else. Together.
There was an ache in her chest that made her wish for something like that for herself. She wanted it to curl up and die in a pile of ash.
She didn’t want to admit it, but they had always been stronger together.
Chapter 22: Day 22 - Guidance
A short little thing today, while I attempt to play catch up.
“No,” Blinky said, his voice flat and as even as his gaze at the Trollhunter and Claire. He crossed all four of his arms. It was a vain attempt to intimidate, he knew, but a part of him was hoping that their sentimental attachment to him would sway their decision.
“Oh, come on,” Jim said, his voice rising into his nose to force out a whine. Sometimes (well, most times), he could be such a pup. “Blinky, you’ve always wanted to help before.”
Behind the two teens, a few curious Trolls cast amused glances their way.
“Yes, well, grooming is considered a rather… intimate part of Troll culture.”
Jim and Claire simultaneously rolled their eyes.
“And who better than you to show us?” Claire said, reaching out and touching one of Blinky’s arms.
Their wide eyes and slightly frowning faces worked whatever magic spell they had over him. He gave a huff and unfolded his arms.
“Alright,” he said, “you two come with me.”
He tried to ignore the chuffed faces the pair of them wore, but it was a little difficult when they kept beaming at him.
Chapter 23: Day 23 - Young Atlas
Sooooooooooo, this is a couple of days late. Did not mean to take that long, but it happened and there's no going back. The holidays really took a bite out of me, which left me socially and mentally exhausted.
I'll be getting these up over the next few days, though the next one will have to wait until I get home today. My sister doesn't want to mess up any of the pictures I drew, sooo yeah.
Kind of short because my brain wasn't functioning, and I couldn't figure out how to approach the prompt any other way.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Walter had favorites. He was aware. In fact, he had favorites in at least one school per his time teaching there. (The teaching gig had started because he’d gotten bored, and what better subject than history? Especially since he’d lived through quite a bit of what he’d been teaching.)
His tenure at Arcadia Oaks High had proven rather fruitless until one James Lake Jr. had stepped in through his doors. The year prior, James — well, he went by Jim now — had proven quick on his feet and attentive. His wit was sharp, and they’d had a couple of good back and forths as Walter drew out what knowledge Jim had actually learned under his tutelage.
It wasn’t hard to figure out that Jim became a fast favorite. (Not to mention he was well liked by most of the staff, and had he mentioned how delicious his baked goods were? Really, Jim ought to have had his own cooking show by now.) His fondness for the boy was one of the reasons he didn’t hand him a detention slip whenever he caught the boy dreamily gazing at the new student.
It was also the reason Nomura had been called in to the area.
The Order was starting to think he was going soft on the flesh-bags. Well, they wouldn’t be wrong , per se. He was growing soft, but it was rare that he met anyone who had the potential of equal intellect.
Not to mention he’d seen how hard Jim had worked to get where he was.
From what Walter had gathered from the emergency contact forms he had everyone in the class do, Jim only had his mother (a doctor who could be reached at the local hospital) and his best friend’s grandmother. And, when he spoke to said mother at the parent-teacher conference the year prior, it had been that way for a while. Jim did a lot of the cooking and cleaning and house maintenance. He’d done it since his father had left.
Quite a bit of a burden for a teenager to bear. He was an Atlas, carrying his world and the world of several others.
So, he let the boy have his crush on a classmate. There was no harm in it.
He still did his work and turned it in on time, he still got good grades, and he could still come up with witty banter. James Lake Jr. was probably his favorite student of all time.
Which was why it stung when he saw the Amulet of Daylight fall from his bag. Jim had unknowingly (or knowingly) made himself the enemy.
Walter really should have taken him aside and talked to him about it, but how does one go about broaching that subject? It certainly hadn’t been covered in any of his years with the Order. And it wasn’t like he could turn to any of is colleagues and ask.
They’d suggest filleting the boy and getting it over with.
No, he couldn’t do that.
He would just have to figure out another way.
Today has been busy at work, with me and only two housekeepers being the only ones staffed for the day. The AM manager had a family emergency and couldn't make it in, my unwillingness to call in another manager just to stand on guard duty by the desk just so I could clean the kitchen, and the PM manager not getting back to me until later in the day.
Honestly, it's a miracle I'm still functioning at this point.
Chapter 24: Day 24 - Trolls, Trolls, Trolls!
This was one of the ones that kind of held me back from posting anything, as I couldn't think of anything else.
There is some animal abuse (Troll abuse), but there's a happy ending. (yay!)
And there's some pictures. I found my Wacom and made good use of it for this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jim landed lightly on his feet, his well worn shoes softly tapping on the cobblestone. He could hear Toby struggling behind to get over the wooden fence. Jim stood and turned to help his friend. They landed in a heap on the alley floor, thankfully missing the puddle of… questionable substance.
“Sorry,” Toby said, rolling off Jim with a groan.
“You’re fine,” Jim said, dusting off his coat.
“Come on.” Toby grabbed his arm and started off down the alley to the street. “We’re close.”
They paused at the alley’s end, looking for any familiar faces or officers. There were, blessedly, none. As quick as was considered polite, they slipped out and made their way to the end of the road where tin pipe organ music and brightly lit tents were. The smell of popped corn and caramel and dirt permeated the air with the cries from the throng of people moving in and out of the fenced off field.
A red and gold banner reading “The Janus Circus” stretched across two poles, welcoming everyone to the fairgrounds. A two faced man bookended either side, their eyes seeming to follow every move anyone made.
Toby hurriedly bought them their tickets, and they slipped in.
Inside, it was chaos. True, it was contained chaos but that didn’t stop Jim from feeling overwhelmed. His head gave a few throbs. Too many people, too many lights, too many tents, too many carts… He had to close his eyes and take a deep breath to steady himself.
“Where to first?” Toby said, looking around. He hopped onto his toes, as if that would help him see over the shoulders and heads of the others around them.
“Not sure,” Jim said, rubbing the space above his ears.
“Alright. We’ll wander around. See what catches our eye.”
They ended up getting some buttered and popped corn first, as well as two chocolate covered apples each. A short time later, they found themselves in a tent with a magician. Well, he was called a magician.
His act and the man himself, eh, made it hard to believe.
Still, they stayed until the end and moved on to another tent, this one with a strong man. With as scrawny as the man was, neither of them would have thought him as strong as he was if Jim hadn’t been the volunteer to test out the weights the man would lift.
They lost their way in a hall of mirrors, only finding their way out with the help of a mother and her son. The son, barely two years old, had pointed out random directions and gotten them out. It was a little embarrassing.
After a few hours, they found themselves in the less crowded part of the fairgrounds. It smelled of animals, damp straw, and muck. The mud sucked at their shoes as it squelched under their feet. It was easy to understand why a lot of people were avoiding this section.
Still, Jim and Toby paused outside one tent, eyeing the poster pinned to the painted canvas. There was a sort of gray creature with green fur bursting through the poster, advertising for one day only. (Though they both doubted it was really only a one day thing.) It was a beast, the poster said.
“What do you think it is?” Toby said, squinting at the figure.
“No idea,” Jim said. “It’s probably just a man in a costume or something. You know how these places are.”
“Well, we paid for the whole evening. Want to check it out?”
“Sure.” Jim shrugged, and they headed in.
The tent was dimly lit, with a spot light focused on a cage in the center of the room. A caged pathway leading out the back was barely visible in the din. Unlike the rest of the tents, there were no benches to sit upon. The pair were forced to stand, though they managed to get a spot near the front. Then again, they didn’t have to fight many people for a close spot.
Only a handful of people were inside. Most were gentlemen, others were curious children, and there was one unaccompanied young lady, roughly their age.
It was only a few moments later that they were left waiting.
A slender man with a worn bowler strode in through the caged path and out through a gated door to them. He locked it behind him, turning to smile at the few people gathered inside. His patched jacked tails flapped behind him, swaying with every move he made.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, the whites of his teeth and eyes flashing in the dark. “Welcome, welcome. Tell me, do you believe in monsters?”
Someone coughed and sniffed. There was some shuffling but no one actually responded to the question.
“No? How about things that go bump in the night?”
“Aren’t they just monsters?” Toby said quietly to Jim.
“Not necessarily,” the man said, making them both jump. Toby hadn’t realized that he’d spoken so loudly. “Monsters can be… so much more . And the things that go bump in the night? Well… Let me show you.”
There was a growling and the clinking of chains rippled through the darkness. There was grunting and the wispy shapes of people pulling something into the cage began to form. A massive figure began to form, shadows of its shape shifting and twisting until the thing came into the spotlight.
It was not dissimilar to the creature on the poster outside, only it was much larger than Jim had thought. It would have been terrifying had it not been for the chains holding it in place and the way its green eyes darted about, trying to spot something in the darkness.
It shifted from one foot to the other. The chains clanking together at every movement.
There were cries and gasps from the few people gathered in the tent. Someone on the other side cursed quite loudly.
“This is the Beast from the Mines!” the man said, gesturing grandly to the creature — who winced away at the sound, tucking its head down.
There were murmurs. Jim, for his part, wondered where and what mine.
“How horrible,” the young lady said, her face one of longing and grief. She reached out a gloved hand, about to touch the cage. The man operating the event stopping her before she could.
The creature met his eyes. Jim saw something there — a beckoning, a question — and knew immediately what he had to do.
“I can’t believe I agreed to this,” Toby said, adjusting his trousers to keep them from falling off his hips.
“Oh, come on,” Jim said, peering around a pile of crates as he looked out for anyone who would be watching them. “Who else would help me with this?”
“Uh, I don’t know. How about no one else because this is mad?”
“You saw the creature, Tobes. You know that keeping it here is wrong.”
“No, I don’t.”
Jim turned to look at Toby, frowning. He opened his mouth to say something when Toby cut him off, hissing that they needed to duck.
A pair of circus employees passed by. Jim didn’t see who they were, but they had heavy footfalls. He struggled to keep his breathing quiet and even. He only allowed himself a good breath when they were gone and wouldn’t hear them.
They continued tiptoeing through the fairgrounds until they reached the tent near the back. Jim made sure to step lightly, so as not to leave any boot prints.
They slipped inside with little difficulty and looked around.
“Where do you think the creature is?” Toby said, eyes trying to pick out the cage in the din. His hands waved around in front of him. The gate rattled when he brushed it.
Jim tried prying it open. It gave a wretched creak, but it didn’t draw any attention to them. Together, they followed the caged path down. Jim kept his hand on the makeshift wall, pausing at the back flaps of the tent. He took several deep breaths before slipping through.
The area was a little brighter but not by much. It still smelled strongly of animals and damp straw but the earthy tang was mostly predominant. And there was a soft voice.
“...be alright now, okay?”
Jim saw a small form crouched in front of the chained creature. They plucked something from their hair and started fiddling with the locks.
The creature looked up and made a sound that sounded like a question. The figure turned and yelped.
“Who are you?” the person said.
“No one,” he said, moving to block Toby from their sight.
“Yeah, well… I, uh, I work for the circus. It’s, um, feeding time.”
Jim squinted, studying the figure. Far too slim of a figure, a young boy perhaps? But they appeared to be about the same age as he and Toby.
“Hey,” Toby said, over Jim’s shoulder. He pointed at the figure. “You’re that girl from the show earlier.”
“What?” the figure said, their voice cracking. “No, I’m not.”
“How can you tell that?” Jim said, turning to look at his friend.
“Eh,” Toby said, waving the question off, “good instincts.”
The figure cursed and dove to the ground feeling around for something.
“What are you doing here?” Jim said, frowning at the person — young lady dressed in boy’s clothes that looked like they could fit him.
“Same reason you’re here,” the person said, “I guess.”
“You’re here to free the beast?” Toby said.
“Do you think you can help me? I dropped my bobby pin.”
“You honestly think a bobby pin is going to get it out?”
“Him. His name is AAARRRGGHH!!!”
“With three ‘R’s,” the creature said, holding up three fingers to illustrate his point.
“It can talk ?” Toby said, jumping back.
“It can talk ,” Jim said, smiling and moving forward to help.
“You help AAARRRGGHH!!!?”
“Yeah. Yeah, we’ll help. Come on, Tobes. That bobby pin has to be around here somewhere.”
I've always been really, really fond of old Victorian circus posters. The prompt reminded me of a song ("Girls! Girls! Girls!" by Emilie Autumn), which while it sounds like a fun, catchy show tune, is actually about the exploitation of asylum inmates for money. Asylums and sanitariums used to have these... displays of people who sent to them to recover and recuperate. This wasn't every asylum/sanitarium, just a select few -- Bethlem Royal Hospital actually had one. These little displays were something akin to a circus or a freak show. They weren't that great.
Well, asylums and sanitariums weren't that great until after the [edit:law] was passed, and it took an even longer time for them to actually improve and start seeing people as human beings. (Which, by that time, the Holocaust had happened and LSD was a thing.)
And there is still a lot of progress on that front.
"Girls! Girls! Girls!" inspired me to write this. It was fun to flex my weird knowledge. (I also I may have listened to the song, sung along, and did the can can. Thank god no one was home with me when I did it.)
Kind of want to continue this, kind of want to leave it as is. We'll see.
Chapter 25: Day 25 - Nicknames
I really, really like Steli. It's so cute.
Sooo, three in one day. I should catch up in posting pretty soon.