The Source Revealed

I continued crawling onward, closer and closer to the red light. Warm became hot, bright became searing, the itch became a burn. But I was getting closer. I was nearly there!

But then a tendril curved down toward me! I didn’t see it coming until it was too late. It grabbed me and wrapped itself around me. I reached out toward the figure at the center of it all, the source of the light, but I was being pulled up by the tendril, away from the source. I yelled at it in desperation and, to my surprise, the figure turned its head and looked directly at me. I gasped. I knew who it was. I think I did. It was hard to see. But I think, I’m pretty sure – I think that the figure was Tam!

“Tam!” I yelled as the tendril pulled me away.

The figure raised their hand to reach out toward me, but I was much too far away. I couldn’t reach them and they couldn’t reach me. They disappeared beneath the bright light, but I swear I heard them say, “Frank. Help me.” I swear I did.

“I’m coming back!” I yelled, hoping they could hear me. “I’m going to save you. I promise!” But the tendril had me and it was pulling me up and further away. I could feel it leeching energy from my body. I was going to have to escape soon or I’d never be able to escape at all.

Then I heard a voice. It was soft at first, but it got louder. I could tell they were calling my name. “Frank!”

“Tam!?” I yelled back.

“Frank!” I heard again, louder this time. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but it didn’t seem to be coming from below me. There were echoes and reverberations in this large cavern, but it seemed like the yelling was coming from above me. I looked up and saw Crag waving his hands and yelling. He was still alive and he was free! The tendrils hadn’t captured him again! It looked like my attempts to free myself hadn’t been for nothing. Yes, I was captured again, but at least he was still free. Someone could still save us.

“Crag! The source of the light, it’s my friend. They’re down there! You have to go down there and save them!”

“Ok.” He looked down from the cliff he was standing on, then back at me. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know,” I told him, “but do it quickly! I don’t know how much longer the rest of us can survive like this.”

“Oh, great,” he muttered loud enough so I could hear, which may have been a volume that disqualified it from being a mutter. “No pressure.”

Crag began climbing down the side of the cave. I wanted to hurry him on, but I didn’t dare rush. I knew how hard it was what he was doing. Still the tendrils were draining my energy, I could feel it being pulled out of me. And I knew the others were even worse off than I was. Crag was our only hope and I knew that he knew that. I didn’t want to make an incredibly difficult task even harder.

I watched impotently as he climbed down the cave wall. As he started to slip out of view, I began to look for ways that I could help. I quickly found there weren’t many options. I was really only left with the same choice I had been left with before: using my teeth. So I opened my mouth wide and I prepared to bite down, but, to my great surprise, a small tendril grabbing the back of my head stopped me. Even smaller tendrils shot out of it across the rest of the back of my head, taking full control of my ability to bite down. Then the largest tendril let go of me and I was left hanging in the air by the tendril holding the back of my head. It was not fun.

I grabbed at the tendril with both of my hands and tried to pull it off, but it held on too tightly. I tried to pull the tiny tendrils off individually, trying to dig my fingers beneath them, but I couldn’t get them to pull free. But, too my shock, I realized I was going down anyway. The tendril was slowly lowering back down to the bottom of the cave. Why was it doing that? I couldn’t comprehend why it would. Was it bringing me to Tam? Why would it do that? It couldn’t want me to free them. Then why? Was I to join Tam on the ground to have my lifeforce drained from me? Why’d it need me down there to do what it was already doing?

As I got closer, I saw Tam begin to rise. They were being held up by tendrils, too, but they looked like a different kind of tendril, different than the ones holding the rest of us. Their color was darker and they were much thinner. Liquid dripped from them. I saw more of them rise from beneath Tam. As I was brought closer, I could see that they were indeed a different kind of tendril. They were covered in a saliva-like moisture. I could feel the moisture as they grabbed onto my legs, seeping into my pants legs. The sensation was pretty stomach churning. They wrapped around my legs and began working their way upward. The tendrils on my head let go. I now belonged to these new ones.

These lower tendrils coiled their way up my legs to my waist to my chest. I tried to struggle against them, to fight them, to pull them off. But they wouldn’t come off. I couldn’t get myself free. I was stuck. I was trapped. They began to pull me down.

to be continued…

All Wrapped Up with Nowhere to Go

I followed the tunnel at the bottom of the cave, moving slowly as I covered my eyes from the light streaming in from ahead, careful not to trip over anything. I ran my hand along the wall to better follow the path. It was warm and I could definitely feel some kind of vibration coming through it. Then to my great surprise, the wall moved. It almost…shivered. The light suddenly got dimmer, almost as if something were now…blocking…the…tunnel.

Oh no!

I froze as large tendrils came slithering out the tunnel toward me. As they came nearer, I swung around and ran awayy as fast I could. But it turned out, I was too slow. The tendrils had already caught me, snaking around me, tangling me, binding me. I tried to fight it, tried to slip free. I tried to climb out, to punch my way out, to push my way out, but it was no use. I couldn’t escape their grip.

Bound tight, the tendrils pulled me back down the tunnel. The tendrils carried me quickly deeper toward the reddish light. The tunnel came to an end at a massive cave. It had to be at least a quarter of the width of the entire island, if not more, and it went down…

Beneath me was the red glow. It was so bright it took me a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust, all while the tendrils brought me further into the room. Even as my eyes were getting used to the bright light, I could see there were other thick tendrils moving about in the massive cave. Slowly, I began to be able to see that the closest one to me was holding onto something. Holding onto…someone! It was Domoban! I could tell those piercings from anywhere! He, too had had been caught in the grip of the tendrils.

But where was Crag? I turned my head so I could see the other tendrils undulating in the air. Some of them were just writhing unencumbered, but some of them weren’t. Some of them were holding people. My eyes were adjusted enough that I could see it was the other trolls! They were all here! There was Crag and Toleuk! And there was the Sheriff! It was all of them! But we were all ensnared by these tendrils and it seemed no one could get out. Some of us were down lower than others. I had to imagine that that was not a good, that the closer they got to the bottom of the pit the worse things were for them. At the bottom of the pit was the source of the bright red light and I couldn’t imagine it would go for anyone.

“Sheriff!” I yelled at the top of lungs so I could be heard over the vast distance. I could hear my voice echo back. “Do you know where we are? What has us? What’s going on?”

The Sheriff’s head moved slowly toward me, but he said nothing.

“They’re out of it!” Crag yelled to me. “None of them will say…anything. And I’m feeling a bit…a bit drained as well.”

“It’s the tendrils,” I told him, though he must’ve realized that himself. “They must be draining our energy, feeding off of us! We have to get free of them!”

“Yeah? But how?”

That was an excellent question, I thought. Struggling against the tendrils had given me no results. Not to mention that the Trolls were much stronger than I was, if any of us were going to muscle our way out it wasn’t going to be me. “Do you have any weapons?” I asked him.

“On me?”

“Of course on you.”

“No.“

“Nothing you can use to free yourself?”

Crag took a second to look. “No,” he said.

I had no weapons on me either. Things have been too chaotic lately to gear up. But maybe I still had something that could be used. Maybe in a shoe or in a pocket, if only I could get to them. Not that I had anything in there that I thought could be much help, nothing sharp. No knives, no blades, not even a pin. I almost laughed at the thought of stabbing these thick tendrils with a tiny pin. But of course a pin, I conceded, might actually be something I could get to as it most likely wouldn’t be trapped in one of my pockets, but instead it would probably be attached to my shirt…just like…“Your badge!” I yelled.

“Huh?”

“Your badge! You can use it to get yourself free!”

“How’m I gonna do that?”

“By stabbing it with it!”

Crag looked at his badge and grasped it as if it were precious, then, looking around at our predicament, he must have realized we had no other choice. Crag pulled the metal badge off of his shirt and stabbed down hard with it into the flesh of the tendril. It responded immediately. The thing began to shake violently. Crag tried to hold on, but he couldn’t fight it as it threw him across the cavern.

“Crag!” I yelled, my voice echoing across the chasm. I heard the thud of him slamming into the far wall and watched as he slid down. “Crag!” I called as loudly as I could. “Crag! Can you hear me? Are you all right? Crag!”

But there was no answer. He wasn’t moving.

to be continued…

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…