Gorg and the MagesGorg Trollheim stood at the window at the top of the tower and studied the Valley of Baleful Stones. He tried not to notice the scattering of stone trolls. He would bring them back to life if he could. He just had to find Duke Bale, kill him yet again, and force his sorcerer to undo the petrifying spell.
Bale wasn’t in his tower. Gorg had found only three empty grey robes, like the one that had failed to stop him from entering. These didn’t speak to him, but they did stand in their corners unsupported, which gave him a creepy feeling. Were they watching him?
Probably they were. He couldn’t help that. What he had to do, and do fast, was figure out where Bale and the actual sorcerer had gone. A strange idea was starting to tickle his stone mind, and Gorg didn’t like ideas, especially strange ones. To distract himself he broke a bit of stone off the windowsill and put it in his mouth.
He spat out the stone after the first crunch. This was no fine sandstone or foamy granite! The tower was built of the stinking, sulfurous stone for which the valley was named. Gorg tried to tell himself that was only right, but he knew better. The tower he had pulled down a few months ago, crushing Bale under a pile of stone, had been built of a fine granite. Something about this tower was completely wrong.
With a sigh of resignation, Gorg took a sip of his magic potion. The ghastly stuff had been meant to render a man incapable of intelligent speech, and it did. But it made a troll think faster and speak more wisely. Gorg needed to think just now.
When the potion took effect, Gorg stopped staring out the window, and descended the tower stairs faster than he’d gone up. The smell of burning sulfur penetrated his consciousness and now made sense, giving him the motivation to accelerate his usual deliberate troll’s pace.
He made it out the door as the tower burst into flames behind him, and vanished.
It had been an illusion. Only the mocking echo of the sorcerer’s laugh was real. Gorg turned his attention to the valley. If he could not find Bale, could he reanimate his petrified friends and relations?
Gorg approached the first statue, salt tears etching lines down his face as he recognized his friend Pulgrum Stonelump. He laid a hand on the stone head, and said, his voice the rough sound of stone rasping over stone, “I will save you, my friend.” Then, thinking hard, he uncapped his flask of Confusion Cocktail, the magic potion that had unintentionally given him such quick wits, and let a single drop fall on Pulgrum’s head.
The drop left a wet line as it ran down the stone, but, to Gorg’s disappointment, the stone remained stone. He corked the bottle and sat down, for the moment too discouraged to go one.
“I think you need our help,” said a voice behind him.
Gorg stood and whirled, faster than one would have thought a creature of stone could, and prepared to do battle with the three mages who stood a dozen feet off. He didn’t know when or from where they had materialized, but he knew that none of his dealings with mages had been positive. Well, except when the Earl of Beetroot had given him the Confusion Cocktail, but that hadn’t been meant as a favor.
“Easy, there, Trollheim,” the lead mage said. “We’ve come to help.”
“Why?” Gorg didn’t even try to sound polite.
“Because Duke Bale the Artichoke Hearted threatens this entire kingdom with his greedy, hateful ways. We have sworn to stop him.”
“I no longer care what he does to humans,” Gorg said, his eyes still fixed on the field of statues.
“I understand,” said the second mage, a female. Gorg thought he recognized that voice, and looked closer. He had last seen her at Bale’s tower.
“Have you changed your allegiance, Katerina of the Vale of Kale? You were Bale’s pet when last I saw you.”
“I have changed much, including my allegiance, Gorg Trollheim. You persuaded me to leave. I went to the City of Celestial Celery, and there I learned the extent of Bale’s plans. That included not only eliminating Trolls from the kingdom, but eliminating sorcerers, once we had done his bidding.” She made a face. “I didn’t care for his attitude.”
“He wishes to make all living beings his slaves.” The deep, calm voice came from the third mage. “We can stop him, but only if all his enemies work together. We will awaken your kindred, and you will lead us in the hunt.”
Gorg nodded. He might never fully trust a mage, but he could see their argument. “Where has Bale gone? And what sorcerer left his empty robes to defend the tower?”
They all turned to look at the smoldering remains of the tower. Katerina scowled. “I don’t know,” she said. “Do you, boys?” She looked at Gorg. “I should introduce my friends. This,” she gestured at the first speaker, “is Brendren, of Mosternestine City. And our leader,” she indicated the deep-voice mage, “is Hort, master of all sorcery in the Vegetative Kingdoms.”
Gorg bowed. “I have heard of your power,” he lied. It was always good to make sorcerers feel important. The truth was that Gorg paid too little attention to human affairs to know the names of their leaders. He made a decision. “You can find Bale?”
“We can. But we are too few to stop him. There are some humans who will follow us, but most without magic are too afraid.”
“So you need the trolls, who are too stupid to fear?” If Gorg sounded bitter, he felt he had reason.
“We need the trolls, who have already lost too much to fear more.”
Gorg thought, took a sip of his potion, and thought some more while the mages waited.
“Awaken them. We will stop Bale.”
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
The Valley of Baleful Stones, with an army of petrified trolls.
|Okay, actually this is Goblin Valley State Park, Utah :)|