Robert journeys into the forest, where monsters await him. (word count: 2828)
THE BEASTS OF THE FOREST
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 03
Hunger woke me; I sniffed the air and lumbered into my forest. Scratching old wounds and scars I followed my nose, how fortunate must I have been to happen upon such a smell.
Approaching a clearing in the woods, I found my prey, a group of two humans, with an elf amongst them. The closest human wore clean armour that made the light seemingly dance off of him, in one hand was a large shield that could easily cover his entire torso, while in his left hand was a morning star made from an inferior metal to his armour and shield. The two behind him wore cloaks; the elf even had a staff readied in his hands. They meant to kill me, what insolence.
I gave a roar; the enormous sound hit the surrounding trees and greenery like a gust of wind. The two behind seemed shaken by me, so the metal man appeared to be the strongest. I charged forward at full speed and was upon them faster than any deer or rabbit could react. Yet they were not normal prey, the two cloaked men had already left my line of sight, my nose and ears informed me that they were to my left and right respectively, I even heard an unintelligible babble from the elf, and his words seemed to flow into a visible light that embraced the metal man. The metal man was the most impressive, he did not run, he stood tall, braced his shield and took the brunt of my charge, like a tree he resisted all attempts to move him. That's not to say that I, with all my might couldn’t push him just that he didn’t immediately fall as I expected. By some miracle he received my charge and would have held me had the ground beneath his feet not surrendered. With his left hand the metal man raised his morning star and bludgeoned my side with disappointing strength. Was he mocking me? I would not allow that, I raised my paws and brought them to his side, I would have crushed him then and there had the elf not spoken, with a word the elf shook my limbs without even touching them. I stumbled to the ground, unable to feel my legs. The metal man's shoulders fell, and a sigh escaped his lips, he had relaxed, did he think I was so easily defeated. How insulting, I would not allow this, Pushing past the numbness and forcing my limbs to work.
With a roar I leapt towards the elf. This elf would die in my jaws. But the other cloaked individual had other thoughts, He ran, until he was adjacent with myself, then turning and in a perfect arc, fully utilising every muscle and all his momentum, raised his arm. His blade followed, and in a perfect arc, preying upon my throat.
Screaming, my dream passed, I sat up in a cold sweat, and then looked about me. I was in the forest, my feet were numb, my legs ached and heart was pounding. I sighed, that dream had seemed so real.
Standing up, I tried to get my bearings, and failed. The trees and foliage made it impossible to differentiate where I had been and where I hadn’t. If I stayed still I was bound to be found out. But by whom, as a troll I had certain instincts, I didn’t fear combat, in fact, I relished every moment of it, yet, if I lost and d-
I recalled Mother's contorted face when I ran. Make no mistake, when I fought, it was for my own life, and I ran for my own life. I was reborn a coward. I wept in the open air. My cries seemed to reach out deeper into the woods.
I found that my cries did not go unheard. The bushes rustled and for the moment the thought of fighting or running again made my muscles ache. First, there was a slight hiss. Then naked little green men sprang from the bushes, with sharpened sticks, they chuckled like madmen as they sprinted for me. They would kill me, crying, I ignored my pain and turned to run, only to face more of them, chuckling in their high pitched voices. My heart pounded, sweat flowing from my brow, I dropped to my knees and begged for my life.
“Please, please let me live,” I cried, they chuckled, slowing down with the confidence that I wouldn’t run. On my knees, with my hands flat on the ground, I continued to beg and cry: they chuckled.
“HOW DARE YOU INSULT ME!” I roared into the dirt, the enormous sound hit the surrounding trees and greenery like a gust of wind. The chuckling stopped. I looked up ready to fight, ready to destroy these weak fools. But they had already ran away, leaving their weapons and sacks with them. I sighed in relief and took the food from their stolen bags. They had filled it with berries and half eaten raw meat.
As a troll, raw meat wasn’t disagreeable while the berries seemed quite tasty; I guess I’ll find out soon enough if they’re poisonous.
In the end this whole episode had revealed something about me. My life as a human was not my first. In time I might be able to recall all of my past lives, and channel them the way I did today. With this power, I won’t have to be a coward; I could save Mother, if only I knew how to get out of this forest.
With that realization, I continued moving in the hope of finding somewhere safe to rest. I even managed to find berries similar to the ones picked out by the green men and had climbed a tree by nightfall; the ground was far too hazardous.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 04
Today I grew hungry. The berries I had found were not enough to sustain me. But I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t kill.
On my journey for food I found a small mammal, its back was covered in a hard shell and its head poked forward gingerly. It spotted me as soon as I became aware of it, using its odd claws to dig down under the cover of some bushes. A large red snake lashed out from the shadows and, pushing the creature onto its back, dug its fangs into its prey. The small mammal spasmed as the snake held it still. I guess the red snakes were poisonous. It regarded me with a hiss, and I retreated.
Like yesterday I climbed a tree and slept on a branch. This time, I was awfully irritable and hungry.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 09
Over the course of the last few days I was ravaged by hunger. I drank water from a flowing stream I had happened across. Yet at times, a whole day would go by without me feeling thirsty. With only a bag of berries a day, I found that every movement consumed more effort than it should have, I was slow to run and spent more and more of my time resting.
In these trying days, I have developed several rashes, they iche profoundly enough to keep me up at night, while my shit has become considerably fluid. I stank, unwashed, and unchanged.
Any day now I would be discovered by a foe I wouldn’t be able to run from.
This morning it took a while before I could compel myself to get out of the bushed; I had given up on climbing trees four days ago. I took to a slow walk, Picking up the berries I knew were good to eat. It wasn’t long before I found an odd rabbit in the greenery; it had a horn protruding its forehead. The moment it saw me, it did not flee, but readied itself to attack. Tears rolled down my cheeks while my stomach demanded blood. I just needed to eat a little, it wouldn’t have to die, and surely a leg would do fine. My mouth had already watered at the thought of this rabbit before me.
A slight noise rang in my ear. Then I realised I had stayed too long, the rabbit had grown impatient. It leapt forward at me, in an attempt to skewer me. Blood rushed from my gut to my limbs, the rush of combat hit me like a jolt, and with every fibre of my being I grabbed the horn of the beast in the air, while I lacked the strength to stop it, I did push it out of its deadly path. My fingers fixed around the horn as it landed on the ground, I refused to release my grip and it briefly fought me for freedom, I let it drag me into its soft body, bringing my teeth closer to it. I couldn’t wait, I was so hungry. So I sank my teeth into its back. The poor creature shrieked as my teeth pierced its flesh, but once I had gotten a taste of its blood, I couldn’t stop. My arms wrapped around it and my fingers planted into its flesh, I inhaled the rabbit one bite at a time. Tears gushing from my face, I revelled in its blood as I consumed it alive.
“I’m sorry,” I wept, “I’m SO SORRY,”
“He he,” a little girl's voice seemed to escape the shadows behind me. Looking back through the tears, my mouth full of blood and meat, I watched for movement. And she obliged me.
Walking out of the shadows was a little green girl, covered entirely with various furs and donned an overly large skull over her head. For a second I thought I saw something, something in her eyes. The taste of meat had given me new vigour, or maybe it was just the rush of combat, in either case, should it come to a fight, I would surely win.
“Who are you? What are you?” I asked more out of loneliness than any real hope of being answered.
“haI aam -me,” Me said with outstanding giddy,
“What are you?” I asked, now Me had my attention,
“trul -lik you.” she said, was she only capable of small sentences, she spoke with such little confidence, wait she was a troll, then the other green men must have been trolls too, but they were so different from me. She giggled again.
But I ignored that and pressed on, “Where are the other,” remembering the group I had been attacked by, “green men?” she stared at me for a second, and then turned and walked back into the shadows,
“Gone,” she whimpered as she left,
“Wait,” I tried to reach out and ask what she meant. She broke into a run and I followed suit.
Into the shadows, trudging through bushes, hopping past a stream and leaping over several large rocks. The whole time she never stopped, never moved fast enough to lose me or slow enough to be caught by me. She wanted me to follow, that much was clear, and the whole time the word “gone” rattled through my head, I was possessed by the idea of helping this troll. For what felt like hours we ran until we came to a clearing in the forest.
A hole, large enough for a child to enter, had been excavated in the middle of the clearing. This must have been the green men’s home. It was only then that she let me catch up. The run had exhausted me, yet the girl wasn’t even breathing heavily. She turned around to face me, the animal skull on her head shifting unevenly as she did so. The grin on her face said it all. I had fallen for a trap. And that’s when everything went blank.
Year 1665 Month 06 Week 01 Day 10
I woke up, with a terrible ache from the back of my head. Me, the little troll girl, was watching me intently. Not that it mattered I was bound and tied by a series of vines and even if I wasn’t my light headedness threaten to drag me back into unconsciousness should I try anything too strenuous.
I took a look around; we were alone in the dark damp cave. The small troll girl had a knife in hand. She giggled, this was check mate.
“Hello big boy,” the grin on her face slowly died as she held eye contact, she was serious, “How do you like my magic?” the confused look on my face was apparently enough of an answer. She laughed openly, “Why, how do you think you came by that rabbit? Or the sudden burst in strength that allowed you to beat it. How do you think you even managed to follow me in the condition you're in?” I recoiled at the memory and she grabbed my chin with her free hand, forcing me to look her in the eye. Her strength was incredible -no- it was unnatural.
“What do you want with me?” I asked, resistance at this point was pointless the best I could hope for was an opening,
“Why, dearie, you're a troll like us,” she gestured to herself and then outside, why would the rest be waiting outside,
“You want me to join you?” I inquired still puzzling over the absence of the green men.
Where they afraid of me?
“No, I don’t need you to join me; I just need you to serve me.” She said and then proceeded to mutter under her breath, the words slithered from between her lips, and wormed into my ears, these words seared themselves into my brain. Like cattle I was branded by her magic: I screamed, she chuckled.
Suddenly, I wasn’t in the cave anymore. I was in a study, a grand Library. Looking down at my hands I found them to be pale and wrinkled; shocked, I stood up, there was a window not fair from my desk and in the night sky my reflection would be clear enough see properly and examine. The room was oddly circular, bordered not by walls but with bookshelves. With several workbenches in the middle each with vague plans and drawings, after giving them a quick glance, I had to look back. They were amazing: medieval flying machines based on birds; armoured tanks; four legged carriages; humanoid androids, all relying on the resources available in this medieval world. It was like someone had taken a page from Mother Nature and redesigned everything she had made from scratch. Shifting through these drawings I found war machines, and pictures. One such picture was of a portrait of a young man. A person I recognised as yet another version of me, the me from earth. The drawing was titled in code, yet I naturally seemed to know its meaning: “The Original from another world, James.”
I approached the window and looked at my reflection. I found a bearded old man looking back at me. With his elaborate robes and flowing white hair, he looked very much like a sage.
Surprise hit my face, yet my reflection seemed calm. “Greetings,” it said.
“Hello,” I said puzzled by this enchanted reflection.
“Our name was once Cosmo. We were something of a polymath,” sensing my confusion it adjusted its stance into something more comfortable and continued “forgive me, and a polymath is an individual who studies a number of subjects; Magic and Science take on many forms. We once intended to tame them all,” he regarded my puzzled face again and smiled, “In my day we realised that we had lived several lives before, So I was created as a means of storing this version of us, that could give future versions of us,” nodding towards me as he said so, “proper guidance.” I suppose it would make sense that I would have lived countless lives.
And if one version of me was aware of it, then so would others. The reflection of Cosmo continued “For now it seems a forest troll has you under her spell, do not fear, it is easy to undo. However our current body lacks the magical talent we once possessed. It will take time for the spell to be undone.”
With this I started to worry, “How long?” I asked,
“Two years.” it remarked without blinking.
I gripped my head, this was too much. Mother could be dead in two years’ time, or worse.
Ignoring my tears the reflection continued in its speech, “In the meantime, your consciousness may remain here, where I can teach you how to combat such antagonists, and hopefully how to track and rescue your Mother.” With that this reflection had instilled in me new conviction. I stared at it through my tears.
“Then let's get started.”