“We’re going to die. This monster is going to kill us, and eat us, and kill us,” Dianna moaned.
“I’d rather die than be wrapped in this thing’s armpit,” Athena retorted, struggling to keep herself from puking at the stench.
“We’re not going to die. Somehow we’re going to get out of this,” Annelise encouraged them.
Hearing that, the troll glared down at them and growled homicidally. The message was clear: shut up!
And, not wanting to anger the monster, that’s just what they did.
The troll lumbered away from the clearing until even the bridge was hidden by the trees. Athena and Dianna weren’t able to see much from the positions they were being carried in, but even if they could have it wouldn’t have mattered. Athena was barely able to think due to the noxious stench of the troll’s armpit, and Dianna was still crying, sure that they weren’t going to get out of their predicament alive. Only Annelise managed to keep her head. She knew they were headed east away from the clearing, and by her estimation, had traveled only half of a mile thus far. But while she was doing her best to keep their bearings, she felt absolutely horrible for not being able to do more. For Annelise blamed herself for the situation they found themselves in. She was the one who had turned right back at the crossroads, thinking that path was correct and safe, after all. Whatever happened to them next was on her, and her alone. At least that was how it was in her mind.
Still, they weren’t dead yet. She’d gotten them captured, yes, but captured was a completely different thing than dead. Dead was something that she vowed she’d do everything in her power to prevent, no matter the cost. So, refusing to give up, she kept looking around and thinking, desperately trying to figure out a way for them to escape.
A few minutes later they came to a tall, abandoned concrete building. All of the windows were broken, and had been for decades, and the structure was little more than an empty shell. It appeared to have once been some kind of factory, but what it might have once produced was beyond any of their guesses.
The troll headed to the western side of the building, the side that was closest to the road, and ducked under an ancient, loading bay door. Inside, they found themselves in a huge room that must have once been the loading bay. The only light came from the moonlight shining through the line of windows that ran along the outer wall of the room, about thirty feet up. The downside to even that little bit of light was that it revealed the hundreds of bones, some animal, some clearly human, that littered the floor.
The troll walked into the middle of the dark room and grunted loudly, as if calling for someone. The three girls had no idea why it was doing that, until a second troll, slightly smaller than the first, stepped into sight.
This troll was clearly a female. Her features and frame was nearly identical to her male counterpart’s, the only differences being wider set hips, and two huge, lumpy breasts on her chest. Both of those areas, thankfully, were covered in the same sort of garment the male was wearing.
The male troll put the girls on the ground one by one, and the female tied them up by their hands and feet. When they were finished, they backed up to review their handiwork.
The female grunted complimentary at the male as her mouth contorted into a grotesque smile, revealing her crooked, brown teeth, where there even were teeth. The male grunted back, also smiling widely, and then chuckled deeply. In response, the female smacked him on the chest hard, her face showing her offense at whatever he had just said to her. Then, after another grunt from the female, the male knelt down by Athena, about to pick her up and take her away.
Annelise was horrified, and desperately tried to think of some way to save Athena. There was no way for them to escape, but trolls weren’t exactly the brightest monsters in the forest. Her thoughts immediately turned to the Roast Mutton chapter of The Hobbit, when Bilbo and the dwarves were in a similar predicament. And like that, she had a plan.
“No, don’t!” Annelise yelled at the troll. “Take me instead! I’m much tastier than she is!”
Athena looked over at her friend in shock, wondering what on earth she was trying to do. And then, it dawned on her. Smiling slightly, she joined in.
“No, she’s lying!” Athena yelled. “I taste the best! Take me!”
“I don’t want to watch you guys die! Take me first!” Dianna told the troll, glancing at a skull on the floor a few feet away from her uneasily. Unlike her friends, she hadn’t caught on to the plan. She genuinely thought they were about to die, and didn’t want to have to witness whatever the trolls intended to do to her friends.
“And don’t eat us raw! Roast us! Fill us full of herbs, put apples in our mouths, and roast us over spits!” Annelise suggested.
“No, sit on us and smash us into jelly!” Athena suggested, reminded of The Hobbit just like her friend was.
“No! That sounds awful! Just bite our heads off and eat us raw! I don’t want to be cooked!” Dianna moaned, tears streaming from her eyes. She still hadn’t caught on.
By then the trolls were thoroughly confused. The male troll stood up, pointed at Athena, and grunted to its mate. The female, however, had something different in mind. She shook her head, pointed at Dianna, and growled.
“I change my mind! Please don’t kill or eat any of us! Just let us go, please, please, please,” Dianna begged.
The male ogre shook his head and pointed at Annelise with a grunt. The female, again, shook her head, though this time she also growled at her partner, before punching him on the chest. Instead of just taking it that time, the male hit her back, on the arm.
The female growled homicidally and pointed outside, as if she was a thoughtful mother who didn’t want to argue in front of the children she was about to devour. The male troll nodded, and the two stepped outside. As soon as they were out of sight, the sounds of a bare knuckle brawl shook the building.
“Well that worked,” Annelise said with a relieved sigh.
“Yeah. Good thinking,” Athena complimented her.
“Wait, what?” Dianna asked. “What worked?”
“I thought I might be able to confuse them,” Annelise answered.
“And I caught on,” Athena added.
“Thanks for telling me!” Dianna said sarcastically.
“There was no need. You were perfect without even knowing it,” Annelise said.
“Well what else would you expect from me?” Dianna said, eating up the flattery. “Now how do we get out of here?”
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Annelise admitted.
“It’s alright. I have a knife in my pocket,” Athena revealed. “I think I can still reach it.”
She was barely able to get her right hand in her pocket, but it was enough. She grabbed her knife, unfolded the blade, and started cutting Annelise’s hands free.
“Guys, I have a confession to make in case this doesn’t turn out like we want,” Annelise began.
“What? What on earth could you have done? You never do anything,” Dianna said.
“Whatever it is, I’m sure it can wait,” Athena said, making good progress through the ropes.
“It kind of can’t, because it’s about why we’re here in the first place,” Annelise said.
Dianna’s head snapped over to look at her friend. Athena, not stopping her cutting, looked Annelise in the face as well.
“What is it?” Athena asked.
In that moment Annelise wasn’t sure if she was scared of the trolls more, or the way Athena was looking at her while holding a knife. Despite that, she continued.
“Remember when I said that the right way was the right way at the crossroads?” She asked.
“Yeah,” Athena answered.
“Why?” Dianna asked.
“I thought that because, well, I had a dream last night, and in it I went right instead of left,” Annelise admitted.
“Are you kidding me?” Athena said, seething, yet finally making it through the rope binding Annelise’s hands. She turned and started cutting Dianna’s hands free while Annelise tried to untie her feet. “So you’re telling me that we’re in this position not because you remembered what the map said, but because you had a dream?” She nearly shouted.
“Yeah. I thought it had to do with the situation we were in,” Annelise said.
“I had a dream last night that I was lying naked in a field of tacos! Maybe when we get out of here we should go look for it!” Dianna commented.
“Nice, coming from the person who lost the map in the first place!” Annelise shot back.
“That was an accident!”
“So was this! This is not all my fault!” Annelise argued.
“It’s not all my fault either!” Dianna replied.
“You’re both right. It’s both of your faults,” Athena said as she freed Dianna’s hands, and Annelise, now fully free, started cutting Athena’s hands free while Dianna untied her feet.
“And you’re completely innocent, miss let’s-go-look-at-at-this-stupid-old-bridge,” Dianna fired at Athena.
“Considering that I’m the one getting us free, I’d shut up it I were you!” Athena said.
“Right, because I had nothing to do with it,” Annelise said, shaking her head in disbelief.
The arguing would have continued had not another voice chimed in from the darkest part of the room.
“Whenever you three are done arguing, we could really use your help too,” the voice said.
The three friends immediately froze, and looked at each other.
“Who’s there?” Dianna asked.
“I’m Xander. My friends are Percy and Tyler. They gagged us, but I managed to get mine off.”
“You’re people?” Dianna asked.
“Well we’re not fauna,” Xander replied.
“I just finished Athena’s hands. How are you doing Dianna?” Annelise asked as Athena worked on her feet.
“I’m about done,” Dianna answered.
“Good. I’ll go help our new friends,” Annelise said, taking the knife and heading over to where Xander’s voice came from. That part of the room was too dark for her to see anything, though working by touch she was able to take off Percy and Tyler’s gags.
The moment she was done, moans and groans coming from outside met their ears. It was clear to everyone there that the trolls had ended their fight and were now in the process of making it up to each other.
“Please don’t tell me they’re doing what I think they’re doing,” Tyler said.
“Fine. I won’t tell you,” Percy responded.
“How long does troll sex usually last?” Dianna asked.
“I’m happy to say that we didn’t have to learn about that in school,” Annelise answered.
“It doesn’t matter, though, because I’m free at last!” Athena said excitedly, leaping to her feet.
“Good. Now come help me get them free!” Annelise called over to her friends.
“Yes, please do us now!” Xander said.
“That’s what she said,” Tyler commented, though his voice was quaking with fear.
“Idiot,” Percy remarked.
“I don’t know,” Dianna said, shaking her head. “They might not come after us if they’re still here.”
“Because they stopped hunting after they captured us, right?” Percy retorted smartly.
“Don’t be a dick to her! You’re not helping your case,” Athena told him.
“There is no case! You’re going to either help me free them, or I’ll try to do it all by myself and hope to finish in time. But I’m not leaving them.” Annelise said.
Knowing that Annelise meant every word she said, Athena let out a growl of frustration.
“Fine,” she said through gritted teeth, walking over to them, followed closely by Dianna.
“If we die because of this, I’ll never forgive you,” Dianna told Annelise.
“Deal,” Annelise replied.
Everyone fell silent as the three girls worked to free the three guys. The sounds of the troll lovemaking were still ringing through the building, though their growing intensity made them all worried that they didn’t have much time left.
A few minutes later, after what felt more like five hours, the girls succeeded in freeing the guys, and they all stepped into the moonlight.
Tyler was tall, with long, blonde hair that was swept away from his eyes. He was well built, with a wide chest, and had well developed muscles. He could have been the model for a new King David sculpture, he was so good looking.
Xander, meanwhile, was of moderate height and build, with more of a runner’s physique. He had short, dark hair, and a handsome face.
Percy was slightly taller than Xander, and wasn’t as fit as his friends, though he wasn’t exactly sporting a beer gut either. He had short, brown hair, and a pleasant face.
“Now can we go?” Dianna asked.
“Yeah. Let’s get the hell out of here,” Annelise replied.
From the crescendoeing sounds coming from the trolls, it was clear that they were quickly headed towards climax. And as none of the humans knew whether or not trolls were fond of post action cuddles, they ran out of the door and away from the x-rated troll activity as fast as they could.
“The bridge is back this way. Come on,” Annelise said, leading them away to the west.
They hurried through the dark forest, tripping over roots and getting smacked by branches, desperate to escape. While Percy, Xander, and Tyler didn’t know what the bridge was, or why they were headed for it, they were smart enough to just keep their mouths shut and follow the girls.
But then, after they’d been running for only about five minutes, they heard angry roars from back at the factory. The trolls had finished their lovemaking, and had just discovered that their dinner had escaped.
The group of fugitives, knowing that pursuit was imminent, quickened their pace, throwing all caution to the wind.
Then, finally, to their relief, they saw the bridge looming up ahead. Encouraged, they all felt fresh surges of energy. Every step they took brought them closer to the bridge, the dryad tree, the van, and freedom.
Just as they entered the clearing, when they started to feel like they really were going to escape after all, they heard heavy footsteps coming from behind them. It sounded like a stampede of elephants was approaching, but they all knew that they weren’t so lucky as to be dealing with a herd of rampaging pacaderms.
“Come on, our van isn’t too far now,” Annelise encouraged the group, even though she could barely speak through her panting.
If they’d had even another minute or two they would have successfully escaped. But they didn’t have a minute or two. For at the very moment they were about to leave the clearing and head back to the road, the trolls came upon them.
The six escapees scattered as the trolls caught sight of them and let loose angry, earsplitting roars. Annelise felt sure that that was the end, that they were all mere seconds away from being seized and literally having their heads bitten off, when something none of them expected happened.
“Get down!” A deep voice ordered from just beyond the tree line.
All six of them, more out of instinct than actually comprehending what was about to happen, obeyed and fell flat on the ground.
A second later, from where the mysterious voice had come from, a barrage of gunfire roared out, directed at the trolls.
Annelise, despite being absolutely terrified and covering her head and ears with her arms and hands, glanced over at the trolls, to see them being peppered with bullets. They took a remarkable amount of punishment, but even they couldn’t survive dozens of gunshot wounds. Soon they’d taken all they could, and collapsed to the ground. A second later, the gunshots stopped.
In the first few moments after the gunfire ended, the only sounds Annelise could make out through the ringing in her ears was the labored breathing of the trolls. A few seconds later, the trolls breathed their last.
“It’s alright. You can get up now,” the deep voice called out to them.
The six young people tentatively got back to their feet as their rescuers made themselves known.
Eight men and women stepped into the clearing, all of them wearing black t-shirts, body armor, cargo pants, and army boots. They had M-4 rifles slung over their shoulders, and pistols and knives hanging from their belts. With grim visages and scarred limbs, they looked like the last people on earth that anyone would want to mess with.
“Everyone alright?” Their leader, a tall man with a bald head, and black mustache asked.
“Yeah,” Tyler said.
“We’re all fine,” Athena said with a nod.
“Who are you people?” Xander dared to ask.
“We’re people who kick ass, and save people like you,” the leader responded. “We heard about a couple of hostiles in the area eating people, and came to check it out. And it’s a good thing we did. You were in quite a pickle.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Xander said.
“No need to thank us. Can you find your way back to safety yourselves?”
“Yeah,” Athena answered.
“Then I suggest you do that ASAP. Come on crew, let’s move,” he ordered his people with a quick hand motion.
With that, they headed off in the direction the trolls came from, and disappeared from sight.
“What the hell just happened?” Dianna asked, struggling to process it all.
“I wish I knew,” Tyler replied.
“We’re alive. That’s all that matters,” Athena said.
That wasn’t quite true for Annelise, though. Her mind turned back to when the troll first appeared, and she dropped her camera. Had that survived too? Man, she hoped it had.
After a quick search, she found her camera a few feet from the male troll’s body. Tentatively, she approached and picked it up, thanking God when it turned on without any problems. Then, her eyes drifted over to the dead trolls.
“I hate to ask,” Xander began to Athena, “but our car is a few miles up the road from here. Could we get a lift?”
“I guess,” Athena said. “We should get going, then,” she added to the others.
Annelise, however, was still standing there staring at the dead trolls, oblivious to everything happening around her.
“Annie, are you coming?” Dianna asked as the others began to move away, back towards the van.
“I’ll catch up in a minute,” she replied.
“I don’t think it’s safe to stay here,” Dianna said concernedly.
“I’m sure those people have already taken care of every other dangerous thing in the area,” she said. “Please, just give me a minute.”
“Alright,” Dianna nodded, following the others out of the clearing.
When Annelise was sure that they were gone, she took a step closer to the male troll’s body. His head was turned so he was facing his mate. A trickle of blood was running out of his open mouth, and his eyes were still open, though devoid of any spark or intelligence. Both of their bodies were riddled with bullet wounds, and covered in blood. She could barely stand the sight of their gory wounds.
Then, not entirely sure why, Annelise raised her camera and took a picture of the male troll’s face. Then she did the same with the female.
Just when she was about to rejoin the others, though, something between their bodies caught her attention. It was the male troll’s left hand, and the female troll’s right hand, clasped together. In their dying breaths, they had taken each others hands.
As Annelise raised her camera again to take a picture of their hands, tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew that the trolls had wanted to kill and eat her and her friends, and she was glad that they’d been stopped from doing that. But that didn’t mean she was glad that they were dead. And seeing their hands clasped together in that final expression of love, she couldn’t help but regret that their situation hadn’t ended with everyone and everything walking away alive.
Wiping the tears away from her eyes, she turned to leave, when she noticed something else on the other side of the clearing. It was the dryad, standing there, looking at her. She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like there were tears in the dryad’s eyes as well.
Annelise and the dryad stood there for a few seconds, just looking at each other, until the dryad raised a hand and waved at Annelise. Annelise couldn’t help but smile slightly as she returned the gesture. Then she turned, and trudged after her friends.
The van was crowded with all six of them inside, but as Xander had said, Tyler’s car was only a few miles up the road, so the trip didn’t take very long.
“So where are you guys headed?” Athena asked awkwardly.
“We’re going home, to New San Francisco,” Xander answered.
“Well to be precise, before we were captured we were going to Alexandria to spend the night,” Percy added.
“So it is down this way?” Annelise asked, surprised that her dream had been right after all.
“Yeah, just down this road a ways,” Percy answered. “You would have gotten there just fine if you hadn’t stopped.”
“But we’re thankful you did,” Xander added.
A few minutes later, they got to the guys’ car.
“Would you mind if we follow you to town?” Athena asked them.
“No. Go right ahead,” Xander said.
The guys then climbed into their car, and they all set off again.
The hour and a half long drive to Alexandria passed mostly in silence. After everything they’d been through, none of them was in much of a talking mood.
They made it to Alexandria without any more mishaps, and were even able to follow the guys to the small motel that both groups would be staying in for the night. The six of them were so tired, however, that they only exchanged a few waves and goodnights before retreating into their respective rooms to catch some sleep.
The girls’ room was small. Most of the floor space was taken up by two purple covered twin beds, and an old, box TV that was on a stand a couple feet from the foot of the beds. The carpet was maroon, and the walls were beige and covered in cheap art prints. One was of a tempestuous ocean, and another depicted a green, rolling field. The bathroom was barely big enough for the shower and the toilet, but it was more than good enough in their eyes. After spending the last couple days in the van just about any bathroom would have satisfied them.
“Do you guys think anything’s on?” Dianna asked, turning on the TV and flipping through the channels.
“Not at this time,” Annelise answered.
“Turn that thing off and let’s go to bed,” Athena said.
After confirming that nothing good was on, Dianna flipped the TV off and they changed into their pajamas. When they were finished brushing their teeth, they wasted no more time before crawling into bed.
Dianna and Annelise, from past experience, knew that Athena was not only a covers hog, but also a night kicker, so they decided to let Athena have her own bed, and share the other.
“Hey, Annie?” Dianna whispered to her, quiet enough so as not to bother Athena.
“Yeah?” Annelise replied.
“Do you think there could be a Taco Bell here?”
“It’s possible. We haven’t seen much of the town yet.”
To that, Annelise smiled.
A few minutes later, all three of the girls were soundly asleep.