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…

The Mysterious Floating Island

“We have to run!” one of the deputies exclaimed in a panic, as we stared at the large green object heading directly toward us. “Swim. Whatever. We have to go now before it gets us!”

“No,” the Sheriff told him in as calming a tone as he could manage while treading water in the middle of an ocean. “If it’s going to attack us, it’s going to attack us. We can’t out-swim whatever that is. There’s nowhere to swim to. Eventually, we’ll get tired and then it’ll be able to pick us off one by one. If we’re going to have to fight it, then we’re going to need to make our stand now, as one.”

“But we can’t stand,” Toleuk said. “We’re stuck in the ocean and the ground is far beneath us.”

The Sheriff gave her a side eye that would have been far more effective if we weren’t all being splashed by giant waves.

All attention turned to the strange green object. It continued to get closer and closer and as it did, it also continued to get bigger and bigger. Escaping this behemoth seemed more and more impossible. It wasn’t as if it were a single rowboat that we could have just spread out and stayed away from. It was a leviathan that could swallow us whole. It was like being chased by a whale or a city or a…a…island? “Is it me,” I began, “or does that look like a…”

“A floating island?” the Sheriff finished for me. “Yeah. It kind of does. It kind of really does.”

The green, we could see now, was a forest. There were trees with big green leaves. And in front of the forest was a beach, a long, sandy, dry beach. And before the beach was a small outcropping of rocks that looked like they would hurt quite a bit if they hit us, but they also looked like maybe, just maybe they could be climbed.

“Everyone just wait a second,” the Sheriff said and he began to swim toward the island. We watched with trepidation as he got closer and closer to the island. I think we were all waiting for something bad to happen, like natives coming out to attack him or maybe the island growing a mouth and eating him whole.

But neither of those happened. He reached the island safely and began to climb up the rocks. He quickly made his way to the top. When he reached the beach, he sat down and waved toward us. “Come on,” he beckoned. We needed no more encouragement. None of us could wait to get out of this water.

We all immediately began to swim as fast as we could toward the floating island, but the trolls were all bigger and stronger than me, their strokes were much longer. I had no chance at keeping pace with them, but worse than that, as I fell behind, I quickly got caught up in their wake. I was thrown violently back and forth. I could barely stay afloat against their wake. I almost drowned again as the swam past me.

Eventually, they got far enough ahead of me that I was able to regain control. And, as I started to swim again, I could see that the fastest of them had already begun to start climbing onto the floating island. They climbed up it with ease, just a few handholds and they were onto the island.

I finally reached the island as the last troll was climbing up. I looked up at the wall of rocks before me. From down here, it looked a lot higher than it had when I had started swimming. Those giant trolls had made the thing look like it was nothing. But I was much smaller than they were and I realized I was much more tired. After getting caught in their wake, I was gassed out. Not to mention, I had been out here longer than any of them. I could feel that I was low on energy and that my arms were already fatigued, but I started climbing anyway. What other choice did I have? Drowning? So I put one hand on top of the other and began to pull myself up as best I could. But I was tired and my feet couldn’t find any purchase, not with the waves crashing down on me. I didn’t think I was going to make it.

And then I saw a massive hand appear in my line of sight. I looked up at Toleuk leaning down above me. “Come on, little guy. Let me help.”

I reached out for her hand and her giant hand enveloped mine. It looked like a small child taking the hand of their parent. With relative ease, she pulled me up onto the land. When she put me down, I fell down right to my knees. I was so tired and so grateful. I kissed the ground. Then I looked up at here, with sand sticking to my face, and told her with great sincerity, “Thank you.”

She blushed. “Just part of the job.”

But before I could really catch my breath, one of the deputies asked, “Where are we?” I looked past the trolls and beyond the beach where we all sat. There was a dense jungle beyond it.

“I don’t know,” the Sheriff told his deputy, then turned to me. “Frank?”

I was a bit surprised that he had looked to me for answers. He was the one with the big hat and fancy badge, though he had lost the hat. It was presumably somewhere in the water right now. As I caught my breath, I looked at him, then the jungle, and then glanced back at the ocean. I then slowly rose to me feet and faced him again. “I guess we only really have one choice. We go into the jungle.”

“The jungle,” the Sheriff said with a sigh. “Trolls aren’t really made for jungle.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “You made any better for the ocean?”

The Sheriff snorted. “Jungle it is.”

to be continued…

So Many Holes to Choose

I was thrown out hard onto the ground. I bounced painfully onto a giant gerbil that snapped viciously at me. I started to get up when the Sheriff came flying out at me from seemingly thin air. I braced myself for the impact, preparing to be crushed, but fortunately his massive frame when bouncing past me. I looked up to see where we were and found I was surrounded by trolls, everyone who had been sucked through the hole. At least, it appeared we had all ended up together.

Toleuk walked over to her boss and helped him up. “What happened to us, Sheriff?”

“Looks like we all got sucked up and spit out, Deputy. Now, we’ve just got to figure out where we’ve got sucked to.”

I surveyed the empty landscape around us and spotted a hill not too far away. “I think I know where we are,” I said. “I think we’re back where I started.”

“Are you sure?” the sheriff asked.

I shrugged. “Looks like it. But then again, one desolate hillside looks like every other desolate hillside.”

“Who cares where we are?” one of the trolls yelled. Judging by her dress, she was no deputy, but instead a barmaid. “I want to know how we can get back home.”

“Yeah!” the others joined in.

“The only way to get home would be back through the portal,” the sheriff told them. They were slightly less enthused about that.

“I don’t see the portal, sheriff,” Toleuk said.

“Well that’s easy to solve.” The sheriff turned to his giant gerbil. “All right, Gnomenasher, find the magic!”

The gerbil moved slightly then pointed up. Then he moved again and pointed. Then moved again and pointed. Then moved again and pointed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, confused by this action. “He can’t find it?”

The sheriff dipped his crowbar in at each spot. It shimmered each time. “There appears to be more than one portal.”

“More than one!?” a farmer exclaimed. “How will we know which one will take us home?”

“There’s really only one way to find out,” the Sheriff replied, twirling his crowbar.

“We’ve got to try them all?” Toleuk asked.

“No,” I said. “I’ve got to try them all. My friends are at the ends of the others. The rest of you don’t have to worry about them, you just have to wait for me to come back. Either I’ll have returned to the bar and I’ll come back immediately or I won’t have and I won’t have.”

“And I’m just supposed to let you do all of that all by yourself?” the Sheriff asked. “You could be jumping off to your death.”

“Maybe, but you’ve got more than a dozen people to worry about here, Sheriff. You can’t abandon them.”

“That’s why Darmuk invented deputies.”

“And we’re just supposed to let you go all by yourself without us?” Toleuk said. “We’re your deputies, sir. It’s our job to protect you.”

“No, Toleuk. It’s your job to do what I say and, yes, a lot of times that’s doing the dangerous stuff. But more often, it’s doing the stuff I don’t want to do. But when it’s something that needs to be done, well, that’s when I have to do it.”

“Sheriff,” said another of the deputies, “we can’t just let you go alone.”

“Don’t worry I’ll be going with this human. And I’ll be taking Gnomenasher with me.”

“No offense to anyone, but neither of them are trained to help you out. You need a deputy.”

“Or two,” Toleuk added.

“Fine,” the Sheriff conceded, “whoever wants to come with us can come with us, but at least two deputies have to stay behind to watch the civilians.“ After three deputies volunteered to stay, the sheriff said, “Any more questions or are we finally ready to get moving?”

“Let’s get moving,” I said, impatiently. “Every second we wait…”

“Agreed. You want to take the lead or should I?”

“I think it should be me. Because if the first thing whoever’s on the other end sees is you suddenly appearing…”

“Fair enough,” the Sheriff admitted. “Then go on ahead. We’ll be right behind you,” the sheriff said. “Do your best not to die before we get there.”

“I’ll do my best.” I jumped randomly through a portal because it didn’t really matter which one I chose at that point. I just hoped it led me to my friends.

to be continued…

There’s a Hole in the Middle of the Bar

“Move, Cr…” the Sheriff began to say, but he was too late the suction of the portal had taken hold of his deputy. He couldn’t escape from it. The deputy was pulled violently backwards into the portal and was gone just like that.

But he wasn’t the first or the last to be caught in the portal’s suction. We were all beginning to feel its pull. “Run!” the Sheriff screamed. “Everyone get out of here!” The trolls that weren’t already running, ran. Or at least the ones that could did. Many of them were finding it difficult to get away. The Sheriff among them. And so was I.

Toleuk was the next to be sucked through. And then two of the trolls I recalled from the bar, who cheered to have me dunked, were pulled in. I was smaller than all of them, so my chances of escape were looking slim. I had been pulled off my feet almost immediately and was being pulled in toward the hole. The Sheriff reached out and grabbed a hold of me. “I lost Gnomegnasher. I’m not going to lose you.”

I held his hand as tight as I could. But it didn’t seem to be doing much good. The room was mostly empty now, just the two of us remained in the tavern. Everyone else had either escaped or been sucked into the portal. It was looking like I was going to be joining that latter group very soon. Every second, I slipped closer and closer to portal’s event horizon. “You’ve to get out of here, Sheriff. If you don’t the portal will pull you in, too.”

But the Sheriff stayed right where he was. “I’m going to get us out of here. I’m not going to give up on you, boy, so you don’t you give up on me!”

“I’m not giving up,” I told him, holding his large hand with both of mind, but I could feel the pull on my feet, the portal tugging me closer. I knew about pulling out wins from the jaws of defeat at the last second, but it was starting to feel like this wasn’t one of those times.

Then the Sheriff began to slide forward. He reached out with his free hand and grabbed one of the pillars holding up the roof. I could hear it creak under his weight. “Then neither am I!”

The portal was showing no sign of closing. We couldn’t just wait it out. The only way to keep from being pulled in was to get away. If I didn’t do something soon fatigue would start to set in. Unfortunately since my feet were up in the air, I had very choices. I saw only one real option. I had to climb up the Sheriff’s arm. So, I slid one hand up his hand to his wrist. Then I freed the other hand from his grip and slid that one up just above my other hand. I continued that way, sliding my hands inch by inch up his forearm. It wasn’t easy, but at least I seemed to be getting somewhere. When I reached his elbow, I started to fell like maybe this would work, that maybe we had a chance at getting out of here.

But then I heard a crack.

I looked up at the Sheriff and by the look in his eyes, he had heard it, too. We both looked at the pillar. It was buckling under our weight. The Sheriff began to pull against the pillar, trying to get us past it. Obviously he was hoping we would be able to find something else to grab a hold of and work our way out the back door. It was best plan we had. Unfortunately, the pillar couldn’t take the pressure any more and it snapped in half. Without the pillar to hold us, we were both sent flying backwards into the cracked hole in the world.

It was like being stuffed violently down a very thin pipe. I didn’t fit, but the portal didn’t care. It just kept pulling me and stretching me out until I was through. I would have let out a pained scream, but I didn’t have the breath to make a sound. It must have been even worse for the Sheriff, but I didn’t have the awareness to think about anything else except my own agonizing pain.

And then I was through, sliding down a psychedelic kaleidoscope of terror. I was bumped up and down and all around. I plummeted and rose and was spun over and over and turned inside out. It felt like it’d never end and had been going forever. It was the worst thing I’d ever experienced and I’d experienced quite a bit. And then, just like that, it was over.

to be continued…

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…