Gorg at Midwinter, Part 2Gorg stood by the base of the tower from which he’d just escaped, and let the wind batter icy snow crystals against his stone face. He was cold to his stone core, and far from home, but he was back on the ground and he was free.
And he had a job to do.
Gorg looked back up at the tower. Had Duke Bale the Artichoke Hearted really believed that prison could hold him? Or was it a trick? Gorg pulled a small flask from his belt and took a swig of the Tongue-Knotter. It had been devised to render a person incapable of coherent speech or thought, and it did. It had the opposite effect on trolls.
Gorg felt his thought processes accelerating as he moved away from the tower and into the blinding, swirling snow. If Bale was as smart as Gorg had to believe he was, the latest pet sorcerer would be waiting for him. This sorcerer had been powerful enough to magically lift the stone-fleshed Gorg and imprison him in a sealed tower room.
Mind whirling under the influence of the potion, Gorg ducked his head, turned, and plowed through the storm back toward the castle. The sorcerer would be waiting just beyond the buildings, where the rocks formed a natural shelter. That was the obvious place for Gorg to go when he escaped, so he didn’t go there.
A minute later, in the lee of the castle, Gorg decided he should have taken an extra swig from the flask. There, waiting for him with a look of business-like determination, was the sorcerer.
“I though this would be the night,” the wizard said. “You didn’t really think we failed to notice how you were enlarging the window, did you?”
Gorg looked at the sorcerer. This one was different from Bale’s last two henchmen, with whom Gorg had dealt rather permanently. This one—how had he failed to see it before?—was a henchwoman.
“You can’t stop me,” Gorg said as bluntly as if it were true.
“I could turn you into stone without even lifting a finger,” she said. “As it happens, Bale has merely asked me to relocate you. To one of the sulfur vents.” It would be warm there. Warm enough to melt even a troll.
“But you won’t,” he said.
“Why not? It’s what Bale paid me to do. He seems to be rather fed up with you.”
“As am I with him. I have prevented him from taking over the country, and put the fear of trolls into his soul. And you are willing to let him make you a murderer for a few bits precious metals?”
“Is there a better reason?”
Gorg thought about that. One part of his mind was working on the basic goal of keeping her talking, which would keep her from dunking him into the steam vents. Another part of his mind was working on a good reason why she shouldn’t do Bale’s bidding.
“Are you aware of what happened to Bale’s last two pet sorcerers?”
“Well, yes. And I know that you were responsible for that. So that would give me an extra reason to take care of you, wouldn’t it?”
“Why? Were they kin of yours? The way most of Bale’s victims in the troll world were kin of mine? Why avenge those fellows? They were lousy people and worse sorcerers.”
His words seemed to be making some inroads into her mind, which unlike his was not stone, though it might have been near to ice by this time. That would even matters a bit. Gorg eased a little closer to the castle wall, where it felt almost warm by comparison with the wind-swept valley beyond.
“Don’t come any closer, Gorg.”
“Just getting warmer,” Gorg answered, trying to read her face. That was asking too much. Trolls’ stone faces gave very little away, and that meant a troll wasn’t really equipped to read human faces. “Do you have a name?”
“I am Katerina of The Vale of Kale. What’s it to you?”
Gorg sighed. “Just trying to keep things friendly. Are you going to try to take me, Katerina of Kale? That might force me to do something we would both regret.”
It was a mostly empty threat, but he would certainly make the effort. Could a reverted troll—one who had been returned to the stone from which they all sprung—regret anything? Idly, he let his fingers explore the stones beside him. If he could just get one loose…
All Gorg was thinking of was pulling out a stone to throw at the sorceress, as he had no other weapon. But as his fingers insinuated themselves into the gaps between the hastily-laid stones, he began to smile.
As the smile grew on Gorg’s face, one faded from Katerina’s. She looked long and hard at the hand which seemed to have become a part of the castle wall, and turned pale. If she moved him now, a big chunk of the castle would go along.
“I can still turn you to stone,” she pointed out.
“And when I fall over, because I’m holding myself up with living muscles, not stone, I will take the castle with me.” Gorg didn’t know if it was true, but it felt right. His fingers had insinuated themselves deep into the structure of the wall. “Is there anyone inside besides Bale?” Gorg needed to know.
“No. No one will work for him anymore. He is supposed to be dead.”
“No one but you,” Gorg pointed out.
“Not any more,” said Katarina of Kale, and vanished. Gorg hoped she had relocated herself to the Vale of Kale, and that the wind there was not blowing ice in anyone’s face.
Gorg looked thoughtfully at the wall, where his fingers twined in and through the stones. Then he began to lumber away, letting go of nothing.
©Rebecca M. Douglass
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