This is the 14th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.
Warning for violence: This episode starts with a quite gruesome scene, so be warned.
On another note, my muse has showed her teeth last week and kept me awake to put on paper the outline for this series. This means that I finally have a concrete grasp of where the story is going and how long it'll take to get there. If you're curious, it should take around 52 episodes to wrap things up. There's a long way to go!
Well, you must have noticed that the tone of the series has darkened since Kratan's change. Things will get darker, I'm afraid. Although there will still be humor in this series, it will not be a central aspect of the story anymore, so from this episode on I'm taking the tag "humor" off the posts.
Update: I think John Wiswell makes a good point (see his comment below), so I've decided to keep the humor tag and make sure the story is always balanced. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, John!
*“I am the prince of the whole High France!” said petit Maurice, puffing his chest and pounding his knuckles on it.
“Then I am the king of the whole High France,” said his brother.
“You can’t be king, stupid. You’re younger than me.”
“Yes, I can!” Mathieu stuck his tongue out, pressing his eyes in a deep frown while doing so. When he opened them he saw Kratan snatching his brother by the neck, covering his mouth with his large hand and digging his sharp nails on the back of the boy's head and shoulders. He saw Kratan's wicked smile surveying him and the slight flick of his tongue behind his brother’s head.
Petit Maurice wept on the last few seconds of his life. Kratan turned the child to face him and grinned side to side. The kid’s eyes widened with the sight of the troll’s blurred teeth. Kratan ripped the boy’s head with a single bite, humming with the salty taste of his tears and his crunchy little skull. Boy, how tasty children are! he thought.
“Is the pie ready yet?” asked the Mayor from the living room.
“It needs cooling down,” yelled Madam Daussy from the kitchen. “We don’t want to burn the prince’s mouth, do we?”
“I’m hungry,” mumbled the Mayor.
His wife appeared at the door, startling him. “Why don’t you be a darling and go fetch Aimee and the prince?” She turned her back not waiting for a reply, put the pie on the window and set to tidy up the kitchen.
The Mayor put the thoughts of his rumbling stomach aside and left, thinking on why they were taking so long on their walk. His reverie was interrupted by petit Mathieu bumping against his leg and falling to the ground. The Mayor was about to give a few words on politeness to the boy when he saw the horrified look on his face. He kneeled down and grabbed the kid’s shoulder, shaking him gently, “What happened, son? Tell me.”
Mathieu mouthed soundlessly, his eyes trapped in father Pélerin’s hell.
“What? What is it?” asked the Mayor.
“T-t…” babbled the boy. “T-tr…”
“Troll? Did you see a troll near the village?”
The boy nodded, tears filling his eyes.
Mathieu pointed, sobbing.
The Mayor grabbed the child and mumbled a few soothing words in his ear. He put Mathieu down at his house's door. “Now, my dear boy,” he said in his gentler tone, “you must be strong for the sake of the village. I need you to go inside and tell your father what you saw. Tell him to meet me at the bell tower, okay?” The boy nodded, whipping his tears with the back of his hand. “Good boy.” The Mayor smiled his proud smile, making Mathieu’s lips twitch upward, and ran to sound the alarm himself.
Kratan twisted his nose. He couldn’t enjoy his meal with that stench coming his way. It would be better to get going anyway. Soon the brat would be able to speak and the villagers would know of his presence. He was at the first safe clearing when he heard the bell. He noticed a horse’s track, but there was no time to investigate further. Mentally crossing out the clearing as not safe he trotted merrily to his new hiding place.
Aimee and De Faumont watched the stars in silence. They had barely spoken since they left the village. Both knew that words would come out awkward, so they simply enjoyed each other’s company, straining to feel the warmth of each other's body. They sat at a small slope at the edge of the outer forest, past the farming fields, when the bell rang.
De Faumont was on his feet before she had looked down towards the village. They could see the movement at the square, the men and women gathered around the Mayor, a man and a little boy. Not having to hide himself anymore, De Faumont cracked his voice to summon a crow. They spoke briefly and the bird flew away, disappearing in the night. When he looked back, Aimee was standing at his side with her skirt tied up to her knee’s high and her jaw set in determination. Without a word, they ran.
Mid-way to the town they heard petit Maurice’s mother’s howl. The bird came back and crowed something to De Faumont, who gave it further orders. He took Aimee’s hand and sped up.
Kutril and Kreptus went straight to the back of the Mayor's house. As to Kutril's description of the village, he was certain that De Faumont would be there if he hadn't already headed back to the castle or gone somewhere else. He dreaded the last possibility.
Kratan hid behind a large tree, just as Kreptus and Kutril passed by him. He noticed the intense look on their faces, their concentrating frown, and got curious. He put aside his food, below a rock close to the clearing for easy reference. He strained his ears to hear them conferencing.
"This is weird, uncle."
"Psst," he whispered. "I'm trying to hear what they're saying."
"Can you hear them from this distance?" Kutril whispered back, his eyebrows shooting up.
Kreptus dropped his ears and faced Kutril. "You haven't learned how to use your ears?"
"Err, what do you mean?"
Kreptus's knuckles met Kutril's skull once again. He grabbed the younger troll's flattened ears, opened them wide, leaned closed and shushed loud.
"I said shush, you idiot," he whispered fervently at regular distance.
"Loud..." moaned Kutril, massaging the left side of his head.
Kreptus motioned him to quiet again, and they both turned to the square, broad ears spread out in that direction.
Before they could grasp any information, Kratan slipped silently behind them, and with two swift movements of his club, knocked them out.