Gnomenasher, the Giant Magic-Tracking Gerbil

I looked inside and saw something unexpected. It was a gerbil. A giant gerbil, the size of a Doberman, but it was definitely a gerbil. “That’s your magic tracker?” I asked.

“Best tracker in 13 shires!” the sheriff proclaimed proudly.

I looked at the gerbil again. It was staring blankly at a wall. “That thing?”

The troll glowered. “Don’t believe me, do you?”

He picked up the gerbil and whispered into its ear, “Ok, Gnomenasher. Ready to get work?” The poor thing didn’t respond in any way. “All right, Gnomenasher, go find the magic! Go find the magic, boy! Go get it!” The sheriff put the gerbil down. It didn’t move.

“Impressive,” I said. The troll sheriff glared down at me. I smiled apologetically up at him out of fear.

“Just you watch,” he said and knelt down next to the giant gerbil. “All right, Gnomenasher, be a good boy. Find that magic. Go ahead, boy. Find it! Come on, nasher. Go find the magic, boy!” The gerbil looked up at him like it had no idea what he was talking about.

“Are you s…?” I began to ask, but then the gerbil jumped to life. I had to leap out of the way to keep from being run over by it. It rocketed out of the room like a bolt of lightning, slamming right through the door.

“Follow him!” the Sheriff yelled.

He pushed through the door and ran across the sheriff station to the outside, followed closely by his deputies. I chased after them, doing my best to keep up with them. As we ran outside after Gnomenasher, the other trolls who had been waiting to find out my fare quickly joined in, or at least the ones who hadn’t been bowled over by the gerbil did. We all ran down the streets after the gerbil as he raced after the scent. Suddenly, he turned and went plowing into a building.

The sheriff chased after him inside and I followed him and everyone else followed me. We found the gerbil sitting patiently in the middle of the room as if he had been there all day. I recognized the room instantly. Not that that was any great feet, I had only been in two places in this village and we had just left the other. We were back in the tavern, right where I had come in. “That’s one special gerbil you’ve got there,” I said. “I never could’ve brought us here.”

“I don’t appreciate your snide words, Gnomenasher did his job. He found the portal that sent you here. Could you have done that?”

“Brought us to where I had just been? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could have done that.”

“Oh yea, smart guy? Could you have brought us to the exact spot that you had first appeared?”

“The exact spot?” I chuckled, not buying a thing this troll was saying. “How could you possibly tell that this was the exact spot I first came in? You weren’t even here when I did?”

The Sheriff didn’t say a word, he just moved his hand until it was hovering over the gerbil’s snout. It shimmered.

I blinked vapidly. “Ok, so it’s the exact spot. So what does that mean?” I asked, as trolls began to fill in behind me.

“That means we can open it back up.”

“Open it up? How do you plan on doing that? Don’t you hate wizards? Wouldn’t one of you knowing magic be somewhat hypocritical?”

“Yes, we do hate wizards. And no I’m not going to open it up with magic. I’m going to use a crowbar. Toleuk?” A large female troll in a deputy uniform walked over carrying a large crowbar. And by that, I mean it was large to me, nearly half my size, but to the trolls it seemed about the appropriate size.

The Sheriff took the crowbar and smacked it into his palm. “This’ll do,” he decided and then thrusted it into the invisible point that remained of the portal. Its tip began to shimmer. And then he began to push against, the tip of the crowbar remained unmoved as he struggled against it.

For the longest time, nothing happened. All there was was the sound of the Sheriff grunting. The Sheriff stepped back and took a deep breath. He slammed the crowbar in angrily and let out a loud growl as he threw his weight behind it. The air around the crowbar began to crack. The Sheriff let out a satisfied laugh. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

He gave another pull before handing it off to one of his larger deputies. Then after a couple more takes that troll handed it off to another deputy. After half a dozen deputies had given it a shot, the hole in space and time was nearly big enough for me to fit through. “Give it one more go,” the Sheriff said.

The deputy nodded and gave it another pull. There was a loud cracking sound and the crowbar was sucked right out of the troll’s hands.

“Uh-oh.”

Even Trolls Have Sheriffs

“All right,” the uniformed troll said. “What seems to be the problem here?”

“That’s a magician,” yelled one of the trolls who had chased me from the tavern, pointing down at me.

The uniformed troll eyeballed me. “A magician, you say?”

“That’s right and you know what we do to magicians, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do, Herbery. I’m the Sheriff.”

“I’m not a magician!” I cried, hoping that would save me.

“No?” the sheriff asked, skeptically.

“He appeared in the middle of the bar!” Herbery said.

“And he levitated!” the red troll added.

“They say you appeared in the middle of the bar and that you levitated.”

“I didn’t levitate.”

“And the other thing?”

I shrugged. “I may have, but that wasn’t my fault.”

“No?” the Sheriff asked. “Then whose fault was it?”

“I’m not really sure. They were wearing cloaks and appeared out of nowhere.”

“Cloaked figures?” one of the tavern trolls grumbled, thinking I was making it up.

“Are you really buying this, Gonsi?”

“He’s being mesmerized!” the red troll yelled. “Just like me! The Sheriff’s being mesmerized!”

The trolls began to start shouting, but the Sheriff waved them silent. He glared down at me. “Are you trying to mesmerize me, little man?”

“No!” I insisted. “Of course not. I don’t know how to mesmerize anyone! I’m not a magician!”

“But you teleported into the tavern?”

“I was teleported in their! By cloa…”

“Cloaked figures,” the Sheriff completed. “So you say. I think we’re going to need investigate this.

“Investigate?” one of the trolls grumbled.

“Yes. We need to figure out if this is a magician we’ve got here or just a wee man.” The sheriff reached down toward me. I started to back away from him, but then I looked around me. I was surrounded by trolls and the Sheriff seemed liked the most sane of the lot. Maybe the two of us could get me out of this. “Come with me, little man,” he said and I gave in. The Sheriff and his deputies led me to their station with the others following behind. The crowd had grown to more than just the ones that had been at the bar. All the townspeople were curious about me now.

The Sheriff slammed the door closed behind us, leaving them all outside. “So, you’re a magician, huh?”

“No,” I told him. “I’m not. Really!”

“Yeah. No kidding!”

“You know?”

“Boy, if you’re a magician, you are one of the worst magician’s I’ve ever met.”

“A little thing like you, popping into a troll bar, you could have been eaten alive. They almost threw you into the dunk tank! If they got their hands on you, enough to throw you, you can’t be much of a magician. Or at least not a very smart one.”

“Whether I’m smart or not could be up for debate, but I assure you that I am not a magician. Not even a little bit.”

“I believe you, little man, but that does leave me with the problem as to what to do with you.”

“You could always let me go.”

“I could, but that wouldn’t answer the question about what you are doing here.”

“I said I was sent here by…”

“Cloaked figures, but why here?”

“I have no idea. They didn’t exactly tell me when they sent me away.”

“No? Then what did they say?”

I thought about what they said to us or more accurately to Lu and took note of how the trolls had responded to magicians. Would they help me if they knew I had been helping one? Would they help me if they knew my friend was one? I had my doubts so I said, “Nothing. They didn’t say anything.”

“They didn’t say anything to you before they teleported you here?” the Sheriff asked skeptically.

“No. We were being chased by stormhorses and then suddenly these cloaked figures popped up and killed the horses, dispersed them. Then they raised their hands and sent us away.”

“Stormhorses?”

“Horses made of clouds.”

The Sheriff nodded now. “Oh, horseclouds. Yeah, those bastards are a pain.”

“And what about those cloaked figures?”

“No idea,” the Sheriff replied. “Could be anybody. But they definitely seem like magicians to me.”

“And you hate magicians.”

“I, personally, don’t hate anybody.”

“But the rest of your village…”

“Yeah, they hate magicians.”

“Then you’ll help me against these cloaked figures?”

“Do you think they’re coming for you?”

“Coming for me?” I didn’t like the sound of that. “What, do you mean? Like they separated us to make us easy pickings?”

“If that’s true, then they made a mistake sending you here. They’ll find the trolls of Durok Village no pushovers. Anyone comes here looking for a fight will find more of one than theyre looking for.”

“I appreciate the help, but I need to find my friends. I feel bad asking for help, but I have no idea how else I can find them.”

“The best we can do is track the magic.”

“Track the magic?”

The Sheriff smiled. “I’ll show you.” He walked toward the back and after a few seconds I followed him back there. When I found him, he was busy unlocking a door. He pulled the lock off and slid the door open. “Let me introduce you to Gnomenasher.”

to be continued…

Over a Literal Barrel

Even before the trolls stopped pulling the giant barrel into the bar, the rest of the trolls began chanting. “Throw him in! Throw him in!” The troll carrying me held me up above his head.

“No!” I protested, trying to wiggle free. “You don’t need to do this!”

But no one was listening to me. I doubt they could have even heard me over the chanting. Not even the red troll holding me seemed to be able to hear me. He was too taken with every chanting, as if they were chanting for him. He held me up as high as he could and everyone cheered. That was all the troll needed to hear. he thew me up into the air, so high I was nearly able to grab the rafters before I went tumbling down toward the barrel.

…And went flying right into the hard edge of the barrel, rolling over it and falling to the floor, smacking hard into the ground. “You idiot!” one of the trolls yelled, as I lay in pain on the ground. “You threw him too hard!”

“You missed on purpose!”

“No, I didn’t!”

“You did! I saw you! You’re working with him!”

“Nuh-uh,” the red troll replied. “I…I…I was mesmerized!”

“Get him!” another troll yelled. “He’s been mesmerized!”

“No!” I could hear the red troll yell as I picked myself up. “I’m not mesmerized! I’m not mesmerized!”

“That’s what a mesmerized person’d say.”

“I’m not mesmerized! It’s just…just…he levitated! Yeah! You saw him! He used his magic to levitate himself over the barrel!”

I got up and muttered to myself, “Levitated?” as I walked over toward the door. I glanced back at the trolls. They were all looking at the red troll, then slowly their eyes turned toward me. Uh-oh. Not wasting another second, I rushed through the door into the back. I could hear the trolls screaming, “Get him!” from behind me.

The back room was bigger than I had expected. It looked like the magician drowning barrel wasn’t the only horror device they had back here. Everywhere I looked was one strange device or another. I didn’t know what any of them did and I didn’t want to stick around to find out. I continued to run to the back of the room as the trolls came barging into it, turning the doors into firewood as they did.

“He’s getting away!” one of the trolls yelled. “Get him!” I did not turn around to see how close they were. I just lowered my shoulder and pushed my way through the back doors and out of the tavern. Unfortunately, there were trolls out here, too. Everywhere I looked there were trolls. Walking the street. Talking on the corner. Selling groceries. Buying groceries. Chatting with each other. Looking after their troll children. Carrying their little troll babies. They were everywhere! I hadn’t just appeared in the middle of a troll tavern, I’d been magically transported into the middle of an entire troll village!

I didn’t have time to think about that. I had to get away from here! I started running down the street. The trolls stared at me as I ran by them, but not a single one of them tried to stop me, even a few jumped back in fright. They were nearly twice my size but they seemed quite scared of me. I didn’t think about that, all I could worry about was getting out of here.

I could hear the doors of the Tavern bang open as I rushed down the road. I thought I might be able to get away, but then a child screamed at me. A lady troll shrieked and a man troll jumped back in fright. Everyone cleared away from me as I passed them. I glanced back. There was a clear path back to the tavern. I could see the trolls just fine and, more importantly, they could see me.

“There he is! There’s the magician!” one of the trolls yelled. “Get him!” But then the trolls around me all began to scream.

“Magician!” they shrieked.

“Run!” they yelled.

“He’s going to kill us all!”

“Keep him away from us!”

They all began to panic.

I rushed through the streets, hoping that the panicking and shrieking trolls would keep the trolls who were trying to kill me away. It seemed to be working as I neared the edge of the city when two trolls in uniform appeared in my path. I skidded to a stop and began to turn around, but the trolls from the tavern were coming up behind me. Where could I run?

My hesitation cost me and the trolls came up behind me. I was surrounded, the uniformed trolls in front, the tavern trolls behind. I thought I was going to die for sure. There was no getting away from the trolls now. The only question left for me was to wonder would they kill me quickly or would they do it slowly?

to be continued…

Mysterious Cloaked Figures and the Mysterious Things They Do

We all began to run, but the stormhorses were much quicker than us and, though they were still pretty high up in the air, they easily began to close the vast distance. “You have to stop them!” G’fon yelled.

“You don’t mean ‘stop them’,” Lu huffed back. “You mean ‘kill them’ and I will not do that. I cannot!”

“‘Cannot’? Like literally ‘cannot’?”

“All you need to know is that I won’t. Not while there’s still another way.”

“Another way, like what?” Kink asked. “Like running? If you hadn’t noticed, they’re catching up to us. Running might not be an option for very long.” Her wings flexed behind her. It became clear that she was preparing to take off. I began to wonder if she would take any of us with her. I couldn’t help but think the only reason she hadn’t taken off already was that Tam was still unconscious in her arms. If she hadn’t had the extra weight, she might have been gone already. I had to wonder how long Kink was going to let that slow her down.

“We run until its no longer an option.” It was obvious Lu was struggling with this decision. He, like the rest of us, knew that running wasn’t going to save us from stormhorses. “When we reach the point where we can no longer…” Lu interrupted himself with a scream as four cloaked figures popped out of the ground. We tried to stop ourselves and wound up falling to the ground in the process.

I glanced up behind us. The stormhorses were still closing in on us. These new figures hadn’t deterred them in the slightest. I could see the lightning flashes in their eyes, hear their thunderous hoof steps. They had every intention of trampling us.

I turned back to the cloaked figures in front of us. Maybe it was because I couldn’t see their faces, but they didn’t seem frightened in the least. They stepped forward, moving toward us, and reached out with their hands. Their hands began to start to to glow ominously, as the stormhorses drew ever nearer. We were caught between them. We couldn’t escape. I tried to get up, so maybe I could do something, so maybe I could help us escape, but I knew I was going to be too slow.

The stormhorses were nearly upon us. Behind us all I saw was their approaching darkness. We were only seconds away from being trampled. “Disperse,” the cloaked figures said, then suddenly the horses began to fade. The stormhorses hit us, but instead of stomping on our bones, they floated past us like ghosts. Their forms quickly because unstable and soon they were just like fog scattering amongst the wind.

We were safe from the stormhorses. They had been defeated. I almost breathed a sigh of relief, but we weren’t out of danger yet. We still had to deal with the four mysterious cloaked figures standing over us.

“Thank you for helping us,” Lu said, though I could see he was still conflicted about the need to destroy the stormhorses. That these cloaked figures had eliminated them so easily on their account did not sit well with him. And I imagine he was also uneasy about the true intent of these new figures because I certainly was. “My name is Lu Wu, guardian of the realms. I don’t believe I’m familiar with you.”

“No guardian,” one of them said. “I don’t believe you are. But we are familiar with you.” The figures raised their glowing hands and the ground erupted sending dirt and dust everywhere! I couldn’t see anything. I had to cover my eyes to keep from getting gunk in them.

When I uncovered my eyes, there was still muck in the air. I had to wait for the dirt to settle. When it finally did, I realized there had been more to the figures’ actions than mere distraction. I didn’t know if it had been an attack or not, but I could see that all my friends were gone. Or, based on the fact that I was no longer on that desolate hillside, maybe it was me who wasn’t there any more. There were a lot of question marks racing around in my head, but the one thing I knew for certain was that I had been teleported away.

Now that I could see again, I looked around. I appeared to be in the middle of a bar. Or maybe ‘tavern’ was a more accurate term for it since this place was giving off more of a ‘middle ages’ quality to it, though it’s patrons were most decidedly not human. A group of what could only be described as ‘trolls’ rose from their seats and approached me. They looked down at me with angry grimaces. “We don’t like your kind around here.”

“Oh,” I said, not sure exactly how to take that. It was hard to be optimistic, however, given the circumstances. “And what kind is that?”

“Magicians.”

That was a little bit of relief. Had they said ‘humans’ I knew I’d be dead. “Well, then we’re in luck because I am most certainly not a magician.”

The trolls weren’t buying that. “You just magically teleported into the middle of the room.”

They had me there. “That’s a good point, but I didn’t teleport out of my own free will so…”

“So what?” the lead troll said. “What are you trying to say? You telling me you ain’t no magician?”

“Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying.”

“I don’t believe him,” said a blue troll with dark green hair. “Throw him in the magician tank!”

“Magician tank?” But before I could wrap my head around that idea, a red troll with multiple piercings grabbed me and lifted me off the ground. “Hey!” I yelped. “You don’t need to do this. Trust me, I’m not a magician. I have no…”

“Shut it!” the troll snarled into my ear.

He carried me toward a door in the back. The door swung open and a pair of trolls came out tugging on ropes, pulling a large barrel nearly the size of a small swimming pool. Liquid sloshed over the sides. I hoped it was water.

to be continued…

The Flirting Before the Storm

We were walking for a little while before Kink finally woke. I didn’t realize it until she said, “Now, if you only treated me like this when we’re alone.”

“You’re awake,” I said, glancing back at her face.

“Are you sure? Because being in your arms, feels like a dream, Franky.”

I rolled my eyes and lowered her to the ground.

She pressed herself up close against me. “You don’t have to put me down so quickly. You can hold me longer if you want to.”

“You’re too heavy,” I said, stepping back away from her.

She pouted at me. “Well, that’s not a nice thing to say.”

I kind of felt bad for saying what I had, but I was no mode for her shenanigans. “Yeah, well, maybe next time you see me don’t have giant eagle wings, ok?”

“And ‘next time we meet’ what would you like me to be wearing?” She stepped closer to me. “Something skimpy and tight?”

But before I could say anything, Lu growled at us. “Would you two stop flirting?”

“I’m not flirting,” I told him. Had he not spoken I would have shut her down immediately.

“Well, whatever you’re doing, stop it. We have somewhere to be.”

“I can walk and flirt,” Kink said. “I can do most things and flirt. There’s not…”

“We get it, Kink,” I interrupted her. “You’re great at flirting.“

“Aw,” she said, rubbing my arm. “I didn’t know you liked it so much, Franky. Maybe…”

“Walk!” Lu shouted. “Start moving already!”

Kink closed her mouth and stared daggers at Lu as we walked on. We weren’t walking long before G’fon asked, “Anyone want to help me with this one?”

“Let me guess,” Kink grumbled. “They’re heavy.” She spared a glare for me. I guess she hadn’t forgotten what I said. I was surprised to see that it had effected her so much. She always seemed to let that sort of thing roll off of her.

“Well, yes. They are,” G’fon replied.

“Oh, are they? I thought you were supposed to be strong.”

G’fon didn’t react well to that slight. “Don’t give me that. It’s not as if anyone else here is doing any real work. Just me.”

“We’ve all done work, G’fon,” I told him, hoping I could bring this conversation to a close. “I was just carrying Kink…”

“And now you’ve put her down. I should be able to put Tam down, too. It’s only fair.”

“Oh, just give me them!” Kink snapped, taking Tam from G’fon’s arms. “You’re such a whiner.”

“I’m not…”

She stabbed a finger at his chest. “Whiner.”

“I’m not whining, I’m just…”

Kink snorted and spun around, holding Tam in her arms. She walked away and the rest of us were left with no choice but to follow behind her. “You got them?” I asked, catching up to her.

“You worried about me, Franky?” she asked with a sly smile.

“Do you two ever stop?” Lu groaned.

“I’m not flirting with her!” I snapped at him. I was getting tired of getting lumped in with her. Nothing I had said had been even the slightest bit flirtatious. “I was just making sure she was ok. She’s just woken up and Tam…”

“Quiet!”

“I’m trying to explain…”

“I said, ‘Quiet!’.”

“What?” G’fon asked, finally catching up to the rest of us.

Lu looked at him, then at the rest of us. “Don’t you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“That!”

By then I had heard it, too. It was the sound of horses galloping. Many big, loud horses galloping toward us. I looked ahead and saw nothing coming. I looked behind us and saw nothing. I looked to the left and the right. I looked all around and I saw nothing. “Where are they coming from?”

“Up there.” Lu pointed toward the sky.

I looked upward toward the horizon and there I could see over a dozen dark gray horses racing toward us down from the sky. But they weren’t just normal horses, clearly. I noticed they seemed a bit strange and not just because they were trotting on air. Despite not galloping on the ground, their steps were loud. It wasn’t until a bolt of light passed between them that I realized what that sound reminded me of. It was thunder. They were clouds. Those horses were clouds. There was lightning passing between them. And their hoof beats were thunder. They were stormhorses!

“Does anyone have an umbrella?” G’fon asked.

“An umbrella will not keep us from getting trampled on,” Lu replied, irritably.

“Then what will?”

“Running!”

“Always with the running,” G’fon complained. “I thought you were supposed to be a topflight magician.”

Lu was reaching the end of his rope. “And you want me to what? Kill them? They have done us no harm.”

“No, but I think they’re going to give it a try.”

Kink nudged them both with her wings because her hands were filled with Tam. “Just run, you idiots! Standing around’s going to get us all killed!”

to be continued…

Fighting the Forest

When I could use my eyes again, I could see that the branches blocking our way were gone, as were the ones that had been holding Kink in the air. She was now on the ground, having had fallen there, and was laying unconscious. The rest of the forest, however, was not taking her attack very well. The trees began to shake violently, all of them at once, shaking in one giant spasm. “We need to get out of here,” I said.

“Agreed,” Lu replied, before making signs with his hands. We all slowly began to rise from the ground, even Kink.

The trees immediately began to close in around us. Lu, in turn, began to raise us up higher, quicker, but the trees were no growing out from the ground. “Faster!” Tam yelled, nearly panicking. And she had good cause, the branches were closing in on us, reaching out for us.

“I’m trying!” Lu screamed.

The trees continued to rise higher and higher, closing on us like a bear trap. I could see whatever this forest really was freeing itself from the dirt. It was going to snap down on us, cage us, very soon, and then we’d be in serious trouble.

“That’s enough of this,” Tam decided. They jumped into the sky and their suit began to glow. Dagger’s of solid light shot from their suit, slicing the branches, shredding them. The daggers emerged seemingly at random several at a time. I covered my head as limbs flew all around us. The barrage of daggers of light finally came to an end when Tam’s suit stopped glowing. They collapsed into my arms.

“They did it!” G’fon exclaimed. “We’re saved!”

I looked all around us. The forest, or whatever it had been, looked like it had been decimated. Tree limbs were lying everywhere. It seemed, if it were even still alive, that it was no threat to us anymore. But then I noticed that we had another problem. “Uh-oh,” I said.

“What?” G’fon almost shrieked, he was filled with such residual terror.

“You know how the forest was holding back that giant cat thing?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, its not holding it back anymore.”

The giant cat monster raced toward us. Lu did his best to try to move us away from it, but his spell wasn’t fast enough. The cat was coming toward us much too quickly. “Lu!”

“I’m doing my best,” he said, “but there are a lot of bodies here.”

“A lot of dead bodies if you don’t do something quick!” G’fon screamed.

The giant cat monster raced toward us, its mouth wide open, its massive teeth glinting in the sun. It was nearly upon us when it pounced into the air. The giant cat monster was now flying toward us. There seemed like there was nothing we could to stop it. I knew there was nothing I could do. G’fon seemed as helpless as I was. Kink and Tam were unconscious and Lu seemed to have his hands full merely keeping afloat. We were in serious trouble.

And then what remained of the the broken forest rose up out of the ground and snapped closed on the cat, pulling it down into the dirt. The cat monster tried to fight it, but the forest was too strong and too hungry.

“Oh, god!” I shouted. I had enough of all of this. “Get us out of here, Lu! Get us out of here now!”

“Yes,” G’fon agreed. “Do it before whatever that is finishes with that giant hairy creature.”

“I’m doing my best,” Lu said, as he directed us away. We floated away until Lu couldn’t keep us aloft anymore. “I’m sorry, but teleporting us here took a lot out of me.”

“Levitation…” G’fon began to argue, before I cut him off. Whatever he had to say was nothing any of us needed to hear.

“No need to explain, Lu. You saved us. We’re safe now, so walking will be just fine.”

“Safe?” Lu snorted. “Don’t think just because you don’t see the threat means that we’re safe. The worlds of the omniverse can be very dangerous.”

“So what you’re saying is that if you put us down,” G’fon asked, “the ground could open up and eat us?”

“That’s not what I was saying. But yes, that is absolutely a thing that could possibly happen.”

“So, maybe you shouldn’t put us down.”

“Or maybe,” I suggested, “Lu could do some kind of check to make sure that nothing down there will eat us?”

“I can’t do that,” Lu said. “But I can send out feelers to see if there’s signs of life beneath us.”

“Fine,” G’fon said. “Do that.”

He waved his hands back and forth. “Everything seems to be clear.”

“‘Seems to be’?”

Lu sighed. “I’m putting you down.”

He lowered us to the ground and when we weren’t immediately attacked, I took that as a good sign. “Which way now?” G’fon asked.

“I believe the nearest city is that way,” Lu said.

G’fon looked out at the empty landscape. “Ok. How are we getting there?”

“Walking.”

G’fon pointed at Tam and Kink, who were still unconscious. “And what about these two?”

I bent over and hefted Kink onto my shoulder. “We carry them until they wake up.” G’fon looked at Lu, who stared back.

“Are you going to…”

“G’fon,” I warned.

“Fine,” he huffed and picked up Tam. The three of us began to walk across the strange and barren landscape.

to be continued…

Attack of the Forest

Tam was the first to run after Lu. Kink then grabbed me and took to the air, flying us both down the mountainside. G’fon was the last to follow. I looked back at him and he seemed like he wanted to stay. I don’t know if he wanted to fight or what, but eventually even he started running down the mountain. Unfortunately, so did the giant cat monster.

“This plan does not seem to be working,” Tam yelled. “The creature is still after us!”

“We just need to reach the forest up ahead!” Lu called back.

The two of them managed to reach the forest safely, but G’fon was having a harder time of it. Because he had hesitated, the cat monster was now right behind him. It seemed from my vantage point in the sky that the monster was almost about to catch him. It even swiped at him with its paw but G’fon dove head first into the forest out of its reach for the time being. Unfortunately that meant he was on the ground while the cat was still on its feet in pursuit. It seemed that he was going to be a goner, but surprisingly instead of jumping into the forest after him, the cat creature skidded to a halt just outside it. The large cat-like creature prowled back and forth outside the treeline but didn’t dare go any further. Watching that had me a bit worried.

Kink didn’t seem to be suffering from the same trepidation as she lowered us down to the ground through the jet black leafless trees right in the path of the others. “All right,” she called to them. “It stopped.”

“It stopped because it couldn’t get through the trees?” Tam asked suspiciously. At least I wasn’t he only one concerned about the cat creature’s actions. “Or because it seemed unwilling to try?”

It didn’t try. Clearly, it saw it wouldn’t be able to get through…”

“Did it? Is that what it saw?”

“What are you saying, Tam?”

“I’m just wondering why a giant feline-like creature wouldn’t even try to make its way through an obstacle to come and get us. Did it not care enough to put in the effort? Or was there some other reason?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m just wondering allowed, Frank. That is all.”

“Wondering what exactly?” I knew exactly what they meant, but I was hoping that I was wrong.

“Wondering that there might be some reason why that cat creature might not want to come in here? It came down the mountain after us, but it stopped at the edge of the forest? Why would it do that? The only reason I could think of is that maybe it knows that this forest is dangerous?”

“Dangerous?” G’fon asked, trying to hide his growing fear. “Why would you say that? Why would think this forest would be dangerous?”

“There is no reason to believe that this forest is dangerous,” Lu said.

“Except that that giant creature was afraid to follow us,” Tam said.

“There are many reasons why that creature wouldn’t pursue us besides this forest being dangerous.”

“Like what? That it’s not interested in us? If that were true, then why hasn’t it left yet? Why is it still out there waiting for us?”

“This is another dimension. Why its denizens do or do not do things do not have to make any sense to us. They are alien to us. Why that creature hasn’t come after us does not necessarily have to have anything to do with the forest.”

Then the trees began to move. The branches shook, but I could feel no breeze. It was as if the bare, leafless branches were moving on their own. “Are they supposed to be doing that?” I asked, staring at the tips on the branches. They looked quite sharp.

“I don’t plan on finding out!” Kink said, flapping her wings. I was surprised that she had been so spooked so easily. It made everything all the more frightening. It made me wish for a second that when she took off that she had taken me with her, but that was before one of the trees snatched her out of the air.

“Hey!” I yelled moving toward the tree, but the next tree over bent to block my path, turning its sharp branches on me. I took a step back. My bravery had reached its end.

“Now what are we supposed to do?” Tam asked. “Fight a forest of trees?”

“I don’t think these are trees,” Lu said, studying the ground.

“What gave it away? The fact that they’re moving around?”

“If they’re not trees,” I asked, “then what are they?”

“I don’t think they’re a ‘they’ either,” Lu said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” G’fon asked.

“It means, I think these aren’t individuals trees. I think they’re all one thing, that they’re all the same organism.”

“You mean it’s not a forest. It’s some kind of monster?”

“Yes. And we just stepped onto its back.”

“Now that you’ve figured that out,” Kink yelled at us, “maybe you can get me down from here? I don’t want to find out what this thing is planning on doing with me.”

“Don’t worry, Kink,” I said. “It probably won’t eat you.” I turned to Lu. “Right?”

He shrugged. “Ummm…”

“What!?” Kink yelled. “Well screw that! I’m not dying here!” Then she let out a loud scream and light burst forth from her skin, blinding us all.

to be continued…