“What is it?”
“Is it human?”
“I think it’s an ogre!”
“Ogres are bigger.”
“And a little uglier.”
“Wait! Did it move?”
“I don’t think so.”
Loriana could tell the voices around her were high and child-like. There were a lot of them, hidden in the darkness. Something was strange about the way they spoke, but in her confused state she could not quite figure out what it was.
Her body felt numb and she could barely tell which direction was down. Breathing was difficult and all she could smell was the damp musty stench of wet earth, suggesting she was still in the dark chamber.
“Uraaaagh! Kill it! Kill it!”
A deep, growling voice muttered something indiscernible somewhere a bit further off.
“But Uragh, it’s alive! I don’t want big, furry, black thingies with lots of limbs living in our forest!” one of the children whined.
“Queen said nothing of killing anything. Just check,” the low voice replied as something heavy moved in the direction from which it came, probably the owner.
“But, Uragh-” the same child began to argue.
“Quit it, Lyn. You know how them trolls are. ‘Specially Uragh,” a new child’s voice cut it off. It seemed to have their respect, for the other voices quieted down to whispering amongst themselves. “‘Sides, it’s just two humans all tangled up in each other. If you’d spent less time playing around, you’d know that.”
“Heeey! What’s the point in not having fun?” one of the others interjected, before they all burst into laughter at something.
“Beats me,” the apparent leader replied. Loriana could feel her poking around a bit in the darkness.
A sliver of light managed to get through a hole somewhere, informing Loriana that the reason everything was so dark was not, as she had first thought, that she remained in the dark chamber. It was that she was tangled into Merala’s robe, with Merala herself on top of her and cold earth beneath. While relieved she was out of the chamber and in natural surroundings, Loriana was too fearful of those around her to do more than listen.
Whatever that Uragh person was, he had a distinctly non-human voice. If he was indeed a troll, Loriana was sure she and Merala would not live long enough to find out what had happened to Sethian.
“We’ll just have to dust them so we can move them safely,” the leader said. “Any volunteers?”
“I don’t want to touch a human.”
“You do it!”
“No, you do it!”
“Lyn can do it.”
“Yeah, Lyn touches anything.”
“I do not!”
“Lyn’s in love with a human!”
“Are too! So dust them,” the leader said, merrily joining the mocking of poor Lyn.
“She’s touching it!”
“Don’t get near me!”
“Get it off! Get it off!”
The screaming and the giggling and the general merriment seemed to calm her, because little by little Loriana felt her eyelids grow heavy and her body relax as if she was falling asleep. She tried to stay awake, wondering why she was suddenly so tired, why she felt it safe to fall asleep in a situation like this. Although Merala did a good job sleeping. In fact, she hadn’t moved at all since Loriana had woken.
The thought brought Loriana a little clarity of mind. She had been assuming that Merala’s lack of motion meant that she was unconscious, but the other woman’s face was right next to her own and still she could not feel any breath against her skin. Moving as subtly as she could she attempted to find a way of making sure Merala was alive.
Unfortunately she was not in a position where she could easily check the woman’s pulse without alerting those voices that she was awake and before she could find her answer she suddenly felt weightless, almost as if she was flying. The feeling lasted less time than it took for her to recognize the feeling for what it was, however, and was intermingled with sudden and bright light in her eyes.
A very large, very muscular shape was hoisting her onto its right shoulder and moving Merala onto its left, but that and quick glances of a lush forest was all she could see before a strange face appeared an inch away from her own.
It was similar to that of a small girl, but its gaunt features were sharper and her skin was a rich blue shade that reminded Loriana of pale flower petals. The eyes locked Loriana’s gaze before she could see any more. Marbles of pure violet with crescent pupils, they were sparkling with mischief despite the annoyed pout on the creature’s face.
“Bad girl! You shouldn’t be awake!” The girl poked Loriana hard in the shoulder. “Now sleep!” The girl threw some sparkling dust in Loriana’s face, and immediately that sleepy feeling washed over her again. Only this time, she couldn’t find a way to stay awake.