Inside the Jungle on the Island in the Middle of the Ocean

The Sheriff turned to the well-pierced man. “Domoban, stay with Gnomenasher.”

“With your gerbil? Out here!? You mean I came here for nothing?”

The Sheriff didn’t let the other troll’s outrage rattle him. “I need someone to watch that gerbil. It’s the only way we’re getting back home.”

“Fine,” Domoban pouted. “But if I hear any screaming, I’m coming in to rescue you.”

The Sheriff chuckled. “Deal.”

“All right,” I said, impatiently. “Let’s go find my friends.”

“You heard him,” the Sheriff said. “Let’s go!” and into the forest we went.

As we walked, I paid especially close attention to the trees, keeping my eyes open for any possible suspicious movement or behavior. After the last forest I was in turned out to be a monster in hiding, I wasn’t going to chance it. No more forest-monsters for me thanks.

“So,” Toleuk said after we had been walking for a while. “How are we planning on finding these people?”

“I don’t know,” I told her honestly.

That was not she wanted to hear. “You don’t know? You don’t have any ideas?”

“I figured we’d just look around until something found us.”

“Found us?”

“I don’t tend to need to go out looking for trouble. Trouble usually just finds me.”

And as if on cue, that was when trouble found us.

Without warning, little creatures fell down from the canopy, dropping on us and immediately began to attack us, bite us, scratch us, grabbing and pulling. They were only the size of squirrels and looked even smaller on the massive bulk of the trolls, but they were everywhere! There were at least a half a dozen on me, maybe two dozen on the sheriff, and there was nothing we could do to shake them off.

I grabbed one on my shoulder and pulled him off, throwing him out into the forest and before he was out of my hand another had jumped down to replace him. “We need to do something!” I yelled.

“Any ideas?” the sheriff asked, trying to squish the creatures inside his massive hands

“I’d hoped you had some.”

I tried to bat them off. Toleuk dropped to the ground and began rolling around. Two deputies tried to pick the creatures off of each other. But nothing any of us did seemed to have any lasting effect. Suddenly, we heard a loud yell and we all turned to see a massive form coming racing toward us. It was Domoban, charging at us like a wild rhinoceros. “I’ll save you!” he roared, barreling into us.

The little squirrel creatures were fast enough to get out of the way. Unfortunately, I was not. Domoban came plowing into me, knocking me hard into a tree. He then tripped over Toleuk and went flying into the other two deputies.

The Sheriff went stomping over to his fallen form. “What the hell are you doing here?” “

I came to rescue you,” he said from the ground.

“Rescue us? I told you to stay with Gnomenasher!”

“But,” Domoban said, sitting up, “I heard screams.“

The Sheriff sighed. “Let’s go back and make sure Gnomenasher is still there.”

“Go back!?” one of the deputies repeated, aghast. “But we just got out here!”

“And if something happens to Gnomenasher, we’ll be stuck out here. Forever.”

And so we retreated back the way we came. It was disheartening how quickly we reached the end of the forest. How short we had traveled before getting assaulted became very clear. But even worse than that, when we reached the beach, it was empty. No one was there. We looked left and right, up and down the beach. And found nothing.

“Oh, no,” the sheriff said.

“Where is he?” Toleuk asked.

Domoban rushed to the edge of the island and looked down to the sea. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Gnomenasher!

“I hope he didn’t go down there,” I said.

“Me neither,” the Sheriff agreed. “Eitherwise, we might never be able to find him again. And if we can’t find him, we’ll be stuck here with no way to get home.”

“And it’ll be all your fault, Domoban,” one of the deputies said, harshly.

“Don’t do that, Crag,” the Sheriff said. “How many times have I warned you not to be mean to the people we’re supposed to be protecting?”

“I’m sorry, Sheriff,” Crag replied. “I didn’t mean it.”

“For that, I’m putting you and Domoban on a team. The two of you and Frank will head down that way. The rest will come with me down the other way. We’ll meet on the other side of the island.”

“What?” Domoban exclaimed. “You’re going to put me with just one deputy and a little human? I’m just a cobbler!”

“You’re a troll, Domoban. So act like it,” the Sheriff retorted harshly. “You’ll be fine. Now, hurry. Gnomenasher could be in danger.” The Sheriff led his team down the beach, leaving us behind.

“Don’t worry,” I told Domoban. “We’ll be all right. I’m sure there’s nothing here we can’t handle.”

“Really?” Crag asked. “We just got attacked by little squirrels and they almost had us beat.”

I glared up at him. “We’ll be fine.”

Crag looked away chastised. With nothing left to say, I began walking down the beach and the trolls followed after me.

to be continued…

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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…