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  • Writer's pictureDolly Nightmare

A Troll's Hunger [Chapters 1-3] PREVIEW

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Chapter I: What Comes With Darkness


Ever since I was a child, I've been told stories about evil Trolls lurking in the mountains and forests come nightfall. The scariest of all is that these stories are true and reflect our history.

The Trolls have always brought much destruction to the outlying villages. It is why most choose to live in the inner cities—for safety.

These things are large in height, with sinewy muscles and jutting tusks like teeth. Their entire demeanor is terrifying. They have been known to eat us, the humans, if we are out and about during the twenty-four hours that our night lasts here. So, most of us hide away and seek shelter.

The fatter we are, the higher are our chances of getting eaten. That is what everyone in the village says. So, I better watch out and not linger outside so close to sundown. Because it is said that the Trolls have a preference for young girls like me, tender and not lacking any meat on the bones.

The villagers, for once, are right in that aspect—I can't deny it any longer. I used to lie to myself about my size and assure my mind that I was 'normal' or just 'big-boned,' all the while trying to hide my belly by wearing tight corsets—that was until all the corsets broke a few years back.

But the truth is, since I was a little girl, I've been bigger in size than the other children due to my love for food. Even now, I'm larger than most of the adults. It is sad and probably the only reason why I haven't found a husband yet, as most men are deterred from loving me by my size and stay away.

That or perhaps I'm just ugly. Maybe both.

I stare at my reflection in the pond water and pull at my braids, annoyed with my appearance—more so today—wanting to look like a ‘normal’ woman like Everly or Anna. Or at least what my village decides is ‘normal.’ This need increases with each passing day.

I want to be desired and held by a man at least once. It has always been a secret wish of mine. All my friends are now wives, and I want to be like them. But none of the village men would accept me even if I were the last woman alive. They’re somehow frightened of me as if I’m some sort of Night Dweller.

I sigh heavily and turn around when I hear the village bells ring in the distance. It means night is approaching fast, and it is time to get inside. I can see the shadows getting longer as darkness begins to encroach on the space around me. I can see the forest getting shrouded in darkness, and the daylight is almost gone, barring a few streaks. The late afternoon skies are getting dimmer by the second, giving way to the inky black night.

I think I can almost hear a screech echoing from the already darkened forests. I think I best hurry since the village is still far away, and I have quite a distance to travel. I start to move faster, pulling the cart behind me, something that would have normally been Grandfather’s job, but these days he is getting too ill and weak to even move out of bed. Now this job falls to me.

I hate to think such morbid thoughts, but once he is gone, I will have no one to talk to. It will really be lonely without him. Every morning and night, we share a meal together and talk about our day. But soon all those will be memories.

He is all I have.

The only one I have known since childhood. I didn't know my mother or father. The information I have about them is whatever little Grandfather has told me. He said they were good people and very good parents. And they were killed and eaten by Trolls, and their belongings were found scattered throughout the Northeast Gorge but not their bodies. My parents’ graves are empty.

It makes me sad and angry at these things that have taken so much from me, but thankfully enough, I have never encountered them so far. If it weren’t for them, I would still have my parents around me, and I wouldn't have been so lonely. I would have grown up normally, without being picked on by the other village children for being an orphan.

Which Troll tribe was responsible for my parents’ deaths is unknown. There are many of them scattered throughout the forest and the twin mountains together called the Troll Valley. If only I knew which tribe did it, I would gladly attempt to hunt every single one of them down—that is if I could.

It is suspected it was either the Snowfire tribe, which can be found on the peaks of Lasher Mountain, or the Vonkill tribe found at the base of that mountain.

Regardless, neither tribe is to be messed with. They are highly territorial, meaning they are very dangerous and do not take kindly to trespassers. Rumors from those brave enough to go out at night, despite multiple warnings in every village, say the Trolls fight and even kill each other.

These valiant yet dumb people are always at risk of ending up like my parents. Maybe my parents too were not so intelligent to roam in the forest at night, and that is why they were killed in the first place. I won't ever know. Grandfather wants to keep the reason a secret. He will probably take it to his grave.

It is a bittersweet reminder of what Trolls can do, and it makes me move faster along the beaten-down path. Sweat glistens on my forehead and makes the strands of hair that have long since escaped from my braids stick to my skin. Wiping this sweat, I realize I am filthy and probably stink too.

I can’t wait to go home and bathe, eat a warm meal, and get some rest. It sounds like a dream, especially to someone who has been out all day in this horrible summer heat. I am not exactly used to this much of exercise either, so I feel more tired than usual. I hope I am not coming down with something, or it could just be the weight I have put on.

I hear a squeak from somewhere behind me, but I ignore it. I just want to go home, so I hurry forward. I hear it again, this time louder. It is a recurring screech coming from the right wheel at the back, and it grows worse with every bump on the road as my cart traverses the uneven surface. I try my best to ignore it as I pull faster, hoping it will go away or just wait until I reach home, but one large bump in the road causes the wheel to loosen just enough for it to fall off.

The stuff in my cart lurches to one side, and the corner from where the wheel is missing collides harshly with the ground. A loud crack then resonates in the still air. The runaway wheel spins and tumbles down a steep hill. It gains momentum, its speed increasing as it rolls out of control. I let go of my cart, my eyes widening as the wheel finally disappears from my view.

I look back at my cart and see the crack in the old wooden body. It is just a small one and will not affect the goods it carries. However, looking at the axel, I realize I will be unable to pull the cart back to the village without it.

I pinch my lips tightly as I think of the solutions to the problem, but none of them are good.

I can’t abandon all my grandfather’s things here. I need that wheel in order to continue further… but it will be dark soon. I don’t want to encounter any Trolls and invite the possibility of getting killed or, much worse, eaten.

"Shit," I curse out loud as I lean my hand on the rough bark of the tree and peer down to where the wheel has disappeared.

If I'm fast enough at retrieving the wheel and getting it back on the cart, I can save both myself and all of Grandfather's stuff.

I can do this. I think of words of encouragement in my mind as I lift my skirt and slip and carefully make my way down the hill. Each tree I find, I hold on to it for dear life, fearing I would fall and, much like the wheel, end up somewhere at the bottom hurt.

I don't have anyone to save me either if things get bad. Grandfather will notice me gone if I don’t return, but he is too frail and will not be able to rouse a search party until daybreak. It is almost dark, and I'm all by myself. A bad combination.

I really should lose some weight and find a husband, so I will always have a backup if things go badly, but these are just wishes. Not real. Besides, I'm not changing anytime soon, so that means I have to find a man who loves me for who I am. Not possible from my village.

The bark of the frail tree crumbles away under my grip, making me almost fall forward. I suck in my breath and grasp the tree in one quick, single motion before I can fall.

When my balance is stabilized, I sigh deeply.

I really should be holding on to the entire tree instead of its bark.

I continue forward, reaching more than halfway until eventually, I find it hard to stand on the slope, the incline too sharp. I decide it will be easier to slide down carefully. I sit carefully down and dig my nails into the soft earth. Very slowly, I nudge closer to the bottom of the hill with each slide.

I use the roots sticking out to keep myself from skidding forward quickly. The dirt I sink my fingers in will not catch me. It gives away easily. I must be careful. One bad move and I will twist my ankle or worse. I continue to search for the wheel, praying it has been snagged by the bushes or roots or anything at all.

Though I suppose it must have rolled all the way to the bottom. I do not see it, but it is dark here. It must be hiding in the bushes at the bottom.

Almost there… Come on.

A couple more scoots down and I finally reach the bottom of the hill. The first thing I do is search the bushes frantically. I finally find it and grab one cog of the wheel, pulling it out of the bushes. I am relieved to finally have it back in my grasp.

Judging from the way the wheel isn’t broken, I guess it was just loose, which is an extremely good thing. I would have had no choice but to leave most of Grandfather’s stuff behind. I might have been able to save a couple of things by making a sling out of my skirt and carrying them in it, but it still would have been a major loss. If I had to tell my Grandfather I had abandoned most of the things from the shop midway on the road just because of a broken wheel that I couldn’t figure out how to repair, he would have definitely been upset with me, if not angry.

Good, now the trouble is over. I just need to find my way back up. That, I believe, will be more difficult than getting down, especially with this wheel in tow.

Holding firm to the tree roots, I begin to pull myself up one foothold at a time. My eyes stay focused on the next footing with each climb up. Nothing else matters right now more than getting myself to my cart and fixing this wheel.

But that is easier said than done. I pant heavily, and my throat feels parched. Wetting my lips, I motivate myself to think that with each steep step up the hill, I am closer to going home. That is my only mantra.

By the time I can see the top of the hill, I am drenched in sweat, and my clothes are dirty, as if I have spent the day rolling in mud. It is much darker too, the sun almost gone from my view. It seems I have spent more time than I realize in retrieving the wheel. I still have to fix it too before I can drag my cart home. I grasp at the long grass and start to lift myself up to stable ground. It is just the last couple of meters. But suddenly, the root on which I had placed my entire weight breaks, and I begin to fall backward.

No!

Even when I slide down, I still hold on tightly to the wheel and try my best to grab onto anything that might stop the fall. My palm is scratched, and blood oozes from the cuts. But I don’t give up. I latch onto a root, but the force of my fall and the gravity rips it from the earth. It becomes a rope that swings me to the left. I can’t hold on any longer, and it slips from my fingers. There is nothing I can do. The other trees and their branches are too far away. And I keep sliding down, tossed like a leaf in the wind.

My heart clenches, expecting pain from the brutal fall. I roll back, and much like the wheel when it got detached from the cart, I too tumble down the hill, increasingly gaining speed, until I don’t even know where I am and how far I am away from my cart.

The world around me is spinning, and every stone or bump on the hill, even the roots, bruises my body until everything hurts, and my tight grip on the wheel loosens, and it too is lost in the darkness.

On my way to the bottom of this valley, a large rock hits my head sharply. And spots begin to dance in front of my eyes along with flashes of light intermittently, blurring the colors, until I finally succumb to complete and utter darkness.

Darkness, no matter what, is never good.

Never...

Especially when I know what comes with darkness.


Chapter II: Night Dwellers


When I wake up, I am groggy and have trouble opening my eyes. I squeeze them once, twice, thrice, my eyelids fluttering, and even that pains me. Each time I open my eyes, even a little, I find the world in front of me blurry. My head hurts, throbbing with each breath, until I can’t seem to think anymore.

Gradually, my eyes adjust to the darkness around me. I see the vague outlines of trees, their branches swaying back and forth. A soft summer breeze blows by, and it is almost lulling as I lie there on the ground. This sound has always been soothing to me, but not so much today.

Dark. The night is inky black. I process this information slowly.

I feel my heart drop to my stomach, and I sit up as quickly as I can. I am dizzy, and everything around me is spinning.

Shit. This isn’t good. I bite my lip harshly, waiting for the stab of pain to wake me up further. A few slow breaths, and I wait until everything stops moving then force myself off the ground. I still feel a little off-kilter even now.

Where exactly am I?

Everything looks so different at night. I feel kind of lost here, having never been out this late. Usually, I am always back home by the time the second warning bell tolls in my village.

The last thing I remember is going down the hill to find the wheel of my cart and falling. I am drawing a complete blank of what happened after that. Everything is dark. I must have hit my head and passed out unconscious. Looking at the night that has settled around me, I think a lot of time must have gone by.

I feel panic settling deep in my bones, and my frown deepens.

At this moment, all I can think about is my parents and visions of their being torn apart and eaten by Trolls. I assume their screams must have pierced the stillness of the night. Of course, I never saw them dying, but I can only imagine something like this happening that night.

This is not good.

I begin to move forward, trying to be as quiet as I possibly can, with the trees being my only guide. I think I am going North, in the direction of my home, or at least I think I am. My compass is back in my cart, but by now I’m sure all the stuff in the cart has been raided by the Night Dwellers. Everything is lost.

I swallow painfully, my throat constricting in fear. I’m lucky they didn't follow my scent down the hill and I didn't wake up to something gnawing at my bones or dragging me back to one of their caves.

Maybe I am lucky.

I’ve heard horrifying stories from animal hunters who have stayed out past evening. That sometimes happens when they happen to run behind. They swore that each time, they felt they were followed and stalked by Night Dwellers the second the sun disappeared. And they barely managed to survive that ordeal.

At the end of their stories, they always said when they reached the safety of their cellars, the screams of the Night Dwellers shook the walls of their cabins, going right down to their very souls. The breaths of these beings were so rancid that the smell of it crawled through the walls and down to the floors to the place where they were holed up, turning their stomachs sour for the rest of the night.

But what haunted them the most come morning were the furrows that were left by the claws of these Night Dwellers outside their homes, the grooves so deep that it looked as if a scythe had done it.

Maybe these Night Dwellers were still lurking on the trails, looking for straggling humans more than hunting for things in the woods. Hopefully, for my sake. But in all my life, I’ve never been that lucky. Never.

Each step I take, I think of it to be my last as I peer into the darkness. I see nothing moving, but I can’t be sure. My heart drops deeper into my stomach with its every beat. I feel ill with fear; my breaths have hastened in panic, even though I’ve not heard or seen anything so far. I continue forward, having no other option. Just the anticipation of something bad waiting to happen is killing me. Something really bad.

My mouth becomes dry as I smell the scent of smoke carried toward me by the breeze. Someone has lit a fire, and they are close by. Maybe they aren’t humans but something else.

I think of Trolls and other things—things with sharp teeth that would want to eat me in different ways.

One wrong move and I am dead.

I can feel the dread slowly seeping into me as sweat begins to roll down my forehead. Suddenly, I hear the shuffling of feet and laughter coming from somewhere around me. My body trembles, and I rush to hide behind a tree, away from the trail I was walking on, despite my better judgment.

I pray I have not spotted. I cover my mouth with my hand, hoping to conceal my breaths as these voices grow louder, and they seem to be moving nearer. I hear a language not of my own and swallow hard.

Night Dwellers.

Trolls or Daemons, maybe.

Their treads grow louder, leading me to believe they are bigger than I have imagined them to be, not smaller. I watch as two tall and large bodies move along the trail. Their silhouettes constantly waver as the trees between us don’t allow a direct vision.

To me, it looks like they are carrying weapons, just as huge as their bodies, and I wonder how many humans have been pummeled to death by them. One suddenly stops walking and becomes still, making the other one halt too. I push my palm tight against my mouth, nearly suffocating myself.

The one who stopped first lifts his nose as if sniffing the air and says some words not understood by me, but I can surmise them. “Do you smell that?”

The other one too takes a big whiff of the air and nods. I am sure of his response. “Yes. A human.”

They look at each other and start shuffling and grinning manically. “A female human.”

I hear a grunt followed by a growl as their eyes dart in different directions. “She’s close.”

I am nearly one with the tree bark as I don’t want even my shadow to fall on the path they are on. I can hear them moving, and to my shock, instead of moving away, they are growing closer to where I am hiding. The branches snap, and the leaves rustle as the foliage is moved to allow their passage. Now I know they are no longer walking on the trail but are on the course to hunt me directly in the forest. I can see the shadows of their bodies getting bigger, the closer they get to me. My heart thuds loudly in my chest, I hope they can’t hear that. Even my lungs seem to have stopped breathing completely.

Run or stay…run or stay…run or stay…

What do I do? I fight against my instincts to remain hiding and lift my foot to run, but it is right at the very moment that I am grabbed by the scruff of my neck not by them, but by another. A giggle rings through the dark night, but I can understand the words spoken by this one just fine, unlike the talks of the other two presumably male Trolls. “She’s mine. I found her first!”

I can’t make out if this being is male or female or what species it is other than its thin, small, and bony body—not something I would associate with a Troll. But with such a diminutive body, I wouldn’t think that it would challenge a Troll. But it did. Maybe the intelligence of this Night Dweller is low.

I don’t want to die! What do I do? I am surrounded by three of the Night Dwellers, and one of them has me. I can’t fight either. I don’t know how.

And if I scream, no one will hear me. It will only attract more of these things, and the situation will only worsen. I breathe heavily through my mouth. One of the bigger Trolls laughs heartily and steps forward, now directly in my view. “Not only are you puny, but you’re a dumb Skeller. Go back to your cave and leave us the woman. What use will you have for her?”

I can understand the Troll now; although, his face is still in the shadows, and I cannot get a good look. His eyes, however, shine golden in this darkness, unlike the tales that said their eyes were dull and scary dark red.

I had no idea that these beings, the Night Dwellers or even the Trolls, could speak our language. That is even more frightening.

And a Skeller…what is a Skeller? I have never heard of their kind. No stories or anything. Has anyone, even the hunters, ever encountered them?

“And you! What use would you have for this fat cow other than using her for your main dish? You’re just a dumb Troll from the Vonkill tribe!” hisses the thing behind me, its claws pressing against my neck.

“I’m just a dumb Troll from the Vonkill tribe, huh?” the man…no, Troll…grumbles.

The other Troll beside him, with the same golden eyes, narrows his gaze. “We’re the twin chieftains...not just any Trolls, thing. Give us the girl now, and you won’t be killed.”

The Skeller cackles behind me, seeming to not believe they are the chieftains of the Vonkill tribe. “Then I’m the Queen of caves and mines. Get lost, damn petty Trolls! This one’s bones are mine.”

One of the Trolls sighs deeply while glancing at the other. “Kill her?”

A weapon shifts off the taller Troll’s shoulder as their eyes focus dangerously on the Skeller behind me. “Couldn’t agree more.”

My heart sinks, as without regard for my safety and uncaring about my standing in front of them, they swing their weapon toward us. I barely manage to duck, and when I do, the Skeller’s claws scratch my neck. Luckily, they are surface wounds and not deep enough to cause me terrible pain.

A resounding crack followed by a smash echo throughout the night air, and the body behind me collapses to the ground.

One of the Trolls sighs again. “The females are a lot weaker and easier to kill. Maybe we should use her bones for decorating. It’s not every day a Skeller emerges from their caves. What do you think?”

The other laughs evilly. “No, perhaps we can use her insides. Her cunt…I think...would make a good pouch to carry around and show off to the others.”

They both snigger in agreement as they think of ways they can use the Skeller’s body. I am still shocked at the sight of what I am facing. Two Trolls standing in front of me. One Skeller dead behind me. My eyes round in fear as my legs refuse to move. I take a deep breath in, hoping it will help me collect myself.

I need to run now! Or else my ‘cunt’ will be used as some pouch too.

My feet start shuffling forward before my mind can agree with me or make any other cohesive plans. I hear the two laugh louder, now making fun of me after they are done mocking the dead Skeller. I sprint ahead, trying to put as much distance between us, their voices muffled with each step. Yet I can still hear them.

“I wonder how fast she can run with those plump, little legs.”

“Not far. Humans can’t see well in the dark like we can.”

“Should we chase her now?”

“Yes, but let's give her a head start. It’s only fair. And it will make the hunt interesting.”

“A game. I like it already.”

That is the last I hear from the two chieftains as I continue running aimlessly deep into the forest, my eyes constantly darting in all directions and keeping a lookout for the Night Dwellers or Trolls that I may run into.

I see a flicker of light in between the trees, and from an instinct born out of my need to survive, I run toward that light. I can smell it now. A campfire. I know that smell very well.

It is small, but I am hopeful it belongs to a human dwelling as it is in the North. I hope it is a human hunter who can help me escape these beings and get back to my village.

Please…just please…let me get to the humans in time before either of these Trolls find me.

Branches slap my face, and I trip over my own two feet as I continue to run in the dark. My mind is focused on my escape, and nothing else matters. My body aches from all the bruises and scrapes that batter it, but no matter what, I keep pushing forward to increase the distance between me and the Trolls.

The light in the distance grows brighter as I near it, and I begin to feel happy, my feet rushing forward with inner speed. My joy wanes when my eyes take in the bones and a half-eaten carcass lying around it. I try to slow down and change directions, but by then I am already at the campsite. Great. Now I am out in the open, as if inviting the Trolls to eat me.

I should have known. I’m so stupid!

I feel tears running down my face when I hear one of the Trolls from earlier call out to me from my left, “Where’d ya go, fatty?”

The other screeches from the right, “The fatty has surprised me, though. She managed to run faster than I imagined.”

They have surrounded me.

They begin to cackle as the first one counters, “But not as fast as she hoped.”

“Unlucky she is.”

I swallow hard again and am about to start running, when I hear a gruff voice stop me in my tracks. “I wouldn’t run if I were you.”

I don’t even have time to gasp as something comes barreling from the trees in the direction I came running from. It drops down behind me with a loud thud, dirt kicking up in the air, but I don’t dare to move.

A large hand falls roughly on my shoulder, and the man or the being says, “You run to the twins, and they will strip you down to the bone, alive and all. Stay here, and I will not do anything like that to you. You have my word, lassie.”

His fingers sink into my flesh, the dull nails marking my skin, and I am struck by a second wave of fear. And indecisiveness.

What should I do?

I stand rooted to my spot, unable to see his face, but chills traverse down my spine on listening to his next words.

“You came just in time for dinner. I’m hungry.”

My heart drops right down to my feet, wanting to escape my body, as chains of cold dread wrap around me. Because of my selfish reasons for not wanting to leave my stuff behind, I seem to have encountered a set of hungry Night Dwellers, many or all of whom are set on eating me, including the one I have just run into.

What the hell, Journee!

Chapter III: Rabbit


Silent tremors shake my body, but not a single sound manages to find its way out of my throat, struck close by panic. A Night Dweller is behind me, its presence looming over me. He is waiting for something, the muscles of his arm still tense as I can see from the corner of my eye. He too is still in the same position.

But what is he waiting for?

I want him to let go of me. I want to fight, do something. But I know this will only anger him. He is, after all, a Night Dweller, and they're all the same. Terrible, cruel, hideous monsters. And I’m just a human.

A dark thought flashes through my mind. Will I end up like my mom and dad? With pieces of me scattered through the Troll lands.

My eyes widen when I hear the voices of the twins from the depths of the forest in front of me. They are still searching for me.

Are they the ones who this Troll or being is waiting for? Are these his friends? What have I done?

I have led them directly to me, making my situation much worse.

Eventually, the twins find us. They come from the dark woods and into the orange glow of the fire. Their steps vibrate the ground they walk on, and fear continues to quicken my pulse.

They scowl at me and then at the man behind me. I shudder when I see them in the light. The twins are huge, with muscular bodies, almost seven feet in height. I know that any human who dares to confront them would be dead with one swing from their fists.

They're even scarier in the light.

Staring at them, they’re almost identical. They have the same golden eyes and blond hair. Even their skin tone and body structure are similar. The only difference is one of them is slightly smaller, with a double set of tusks and missing an eye, but his hair covers the sunken orbit. The other is just a tad bigger with his hair styled in a flashy ponytail, and unlike his twin, he is missing a tusk.

I can only wonder in these moments which Night Dweller had caused those injuries. They look to be old wounds… It had to be something bigger and stronger than a Troll. Or maybe one of their own had done it.

Do they fight amongst themselves?

Golden tattoos dot their skin, the same color as their eyes and hair, but the markings seem to glow, especially in the flames of the fire.

The larger one is more daring and gets closer, but the smaller twin pushes his brother back with his arm. "Don't. He is not from our clan. Look at his markings. Orange. Take in the fact that we are also at our land’s border and the beginning of the Snowfire's territory."

The larger Troll doesn’t give up. He squints his eyes, examining the man or Troll behind me, while growling the words, "But we found her first. She is ours."

“She is on my land, so this woman is mine. She is no longer what you can deem as yours,” the Troll behind me states sternly. “Come any closer, and I will have every right to kill you, Vonkill or not.” The man then fists my hair and roughly pulls my head back so much that I am staring up at his dark red eyes. "And she is staying for dinner."

The twin with a missing tusk scoffs, "Fine. Keep her, but you're only causing more shit between our turfs. If we ever find you on our land, you're dead, Snowfire fuck. I mean it!"

“Likewise,” the man says, letting go of my hair. “But I am curious. Why start another war over just one simple, overfed human woman? She is not even that pretty or eye-catching.”

Overfed woman...? Not pretty? So, that is how they're labeling me now. I'd rather be just called fat and plain.

“The same can be asked about you,” the immature, hot-headed twin growls. “Why do you want this overfed villager? Why fuck with us and our hunt?”

“She is on my land,” the Troll behind me retorts. “Anything, even a rabbit, is mine if it crosses over to the Snowfire territory. And she, like a rabbit, just so happened to fall into the arms of another one hunting her.”

The twins both sneer before the older one turns around, leaving behind his parting words. “If she's still alive the next time we see her, she's ours for sure. Whether she is on our or your land.”

The other shortly follows, having a nastier temper. “And we're ripping your tongue out. Fuckhead.”

“Good luck with that,” the man hums nonchalantly, watching the twins slowly slink off into the darkness, their bodies disappearing into the thick greenery surrounding us.

The Troll behind me loosens his grip as he ponders, “Now, what to do with you, lassie? It's not every day a human girl comes running to me. Not in a long time anyway.”

A long time? Another human girl has run to him before? Or did he mean he has captured or hunted another human girl in the past?

He grips my face squishing my cheeks as he turns my face toward him. This time, I get a direct view of him, now that he is not yanking my head back.

His eyes remind me of the rich summer wines served at the autumn equinox banquets, and his hair is long and white but not due to age like the elders of the village, but more silvery. He, like the twins, has markings, but his are of burnt orange.

Three of these tattoos are lines, and they run vertically over one eye. And the more I stare at him, the greater I begin to realize something is wrong with the eye. Its color is somewhat duller, and the light of fire doesn't reflect well off it either. He is probably blind on his right side.

All the trolls I have seen so far have some terrible injuries.

Was there a great battle fought that we humans were unaware of, or was something attacking them?

They did mention a war because of turfs, but it is scary to think of other Night Dwellers bigger than a Troll or something with equal strength. I doubt we humans would have been the ones to cause these injuries if we had attacked them.

I swallow hard, the longer I stare at him. His eyes are unkind and dark, as if he was having a very bad night. There is no mercy or remorse in them for me or for anything around him.

He will probably kill me. Eat me, more likely.

I look down at his tusks, large and jutting upward. They are as sharp as the sickles human hunters use. He is not as tall as the twin Trolls, slightly smaller in height. I find it surprising he is only a few inches taller than me. Six feet, if I were to guess.

“I am curious about something, lassie,” he says seriously. Though, it is to be admitted that never has his mood wavered to anything else so far. "You humans all scurry into your homes when night falls, but here you are, running like a lost rabbit with wolves on your tail. What are you doing? Are you one of those foolish hunters? You don't look the part."

His eyebrows furrow, trying to figure me out. I can see he refers to me as a rabbit quite a bit. I am nothing like one. Rabbits are cute, but I suppose he thinks of them as nothing but food like how he currently sees me.

He loosens his grip on my cheeks in order for me to speak, and I reply, my voice wavering, "I was injured from a fall, and when I woke up, it was night. I am no hunter. I'm just a villager. I travel to deliver goods, and that is how I ended up here. That’s all I am. I promise!"

He narrows his eyes at me, his face scrunching up as if trying to determine whether I am lying or not. I would be foolish to lie to him in my current situation.

The Troll finally lets go of me, but I do not run away from him, as I know the twins are lingering in the woods elsewhere, angry about losing me to him.

"So just a merchant then. You have a nasty head wound," he informs me. “But, for a second, I thought you were a hunter and that maybe you were with the other guys.”

Other guys?

From the throbbing in my head, I think I know I have a head injury. The adrenaline from my run has blocked out the pain mostly, but I am sure it will eventually hurt me. And if I live till the morning, I will have quite a headache, that is if the other injuries scattered all over my body don’t kill me until then.

I am quiet as I watch him back away, snatching a bag off the ground, and he throws it toward me.

I automatically flinch, covering my face, expecting heavy rocks to crash against me, but it lands just a few inches away from my shoes with a clattering noise.

"Use whatever you see fit for your wound. The bag belonged to the corpse over there—one of your people, a hunter. I'm sure he had stuff for injuries." He curls his lip to reveal not sharp teeth but normal human ones, except for his bottom tusks. "He was stupid to think I wouldn't notice him cross into our land. But he just ended up as another dinner."

I look at the bag in confusion and then at the nameless troll.

Is he...helping me?

My eyes glance back at the corpse he was talking about. The man's leg is missing, and his belly is opened. His insides have also been removed. My stomach lurches and threatens to throw its contents through my mouth.

This Troll was eating him! Had to be. Something that could eat a human like this would not help me without wanting to take something from me. What does he want? Does he not want his food to be injured unless he is the one who has caused the injury? Or is there something I'm missing?

I turn my head and bring my attention back to the bag he threw at me. I kneel down, shuffling through it. There is nothing useful besides a tin of ointment. I take it out, and recognize it to be the one from my village, just by looking at it.

"Why are you helping me?" I ask him hesitantly.

What will he say? Night Dwellers can't be trusted.

He walks around me to stand on the other side of me. "I can't help a woman in need?" He then stops upon reaching the fire a few feet away from the corpse. "You are my guest for dinner. Did I not tell you this already? Or were you not listening?"

Guest.

I slide my finger into the tin and rub the ointment where my head throbs the most, and also all over my gashes. I wince as I dab at all my wounds but continue to speak, "I am a human. Trolls do not help humans."

"You're right. We do not help humans." He sits down on a large log, placing his elbows on his knees. "But who says I'm helping you?"

"You gave me something for my wound, and you're calling me a guest," I murmur. "Why aren't you trying to attack me or eat me?"

"I have food." He reaches for a chunk of unidentifiable meat that was placed around a stick over the fire and grins at me. "I am not that much of a glutton like yourself to want to eat two things in one night. So, you're a guest for tonight, not on my menu."

He tears into the stretchy meat with his teeth, and I pale as I cross my arms over my middle, pushing the tin into my apron.

I feel sick to my stomach to think he is eating that poor man. The human was a hunter who was only trying to do us villagers some good.

Tomorrow or the day after that would be me over that fire. The Hunter’s body will not last the Troll forever. He will be hungry again, perhaps sooner than later. I don’t even know if Trolls eat anything other than meat.

He licks his fingers when he finishes the cooked meat, and his eyes narrow darkly at me once he is done. "A guest shouldn't be so rude to stare at me like that. You act as if I'm disgusting. It's only a rabbit, you know, something you eat. It…she…trespassed here onto my land."

Rabbit?

I cast my gaze down to the ground and murmur an apology, "I'm sorry." I sound wimpy right now, but my death will come faster if I say anything other than that.

"Come here," he orders suddenly.

My eyes return to him, and I do not want to move, so I don't. Instead, I only stare. I like being this far away from him. I feel safer this way even though it is a false sense of security.

"I'm not going to ask again," he warns. "Do you want me coming to you?"

I shake my head before slowly stepping forward but keeping him at arm's length.

"Sit." That is his next order. And when I start to sit on the ground, he 'tsks' and growls, "Not on the ground."

"T-there is nowhere else to sit." I stumble over my words, my heart pounding, as I do not want him angry. That is the last thing I need.

My eyes look around, finding nowhere but the ground.

"I was right to call you simple. You're a dumb thing, lass. When a man asks you to sit, you sit on his fucking lap." He grabs my wrist and violently pulls me toward him, forcing me to sit on him.

I immediately stiffen as now he has a hold around my waist, and I can feel the heat of his legs under my thighs and also the fanning of his breath on my nape.

"It's going to be a dull night if you just sit here," he hums as his fingers trace the seam of my lips before pulling the lower one down. My heart clenches as my mind wonders about what he is going to do to me.

Is he going to…? No, not that, of all things. When I prayed for a man's embrace, I did not want this!

He then reaches over to the fire, shifting my body with his but still having a firm grip on me, and he plucks another strip of meat from the fire before he pushes it to my lips, ultimately surprising me.

"Eat with me." His words are more like a command than a suggestion.

I am not even given time to nod or reply when he pushes the meat forcefully past my lips. It's hot, burning my tongue.

So, this is his torture for now. A glimpse of what is to come.

I breathe in sharply, chewing just a little and swallowing the rest, but he doesn't seem to believe I have swallowed everything as he forcefully shoves his fingers past my lips and into my mouth, checking every last crevice of it.

"You have a soft mouth," he comments. "But I'm sure the only thing that's been in here is food. Right?" He laughs at his own comment, belittling and torturing me.

Damn Troll…if you were a human.

"Do you want to try something different?" he asks suddenly, interrupting my thoughts.

I vigorously shake my head in a “No,” my eyes watering as he pushes his fingers all the way to the back of my throat, making me choke after a while.

"Not bad," he says next, commenting on something I don't understand at the moment. "And that is a shame...we could have had some unusual excitement tonight." He takes his fingers out of my mouth, shaking the salvia from them and wiping the rest on my clothes. "Perhaps another time then."

Another time?

He shoves me off his lap forcefully, and I fall onto the ground with a thud.

"Now we go home," he grunts as he stands, and before I can even fix myself, he lifts me off the ground and throws me over his shoulder.

I am surprised he could lift me in one movement as he has. I am no small woman, as everyone is well aware, and not many have ever attempted to lift me. But to be carried like this with ease, I know he has to be strong, possibly ten times stronger than a human man.

He walks forward, and hanging from his back, I can see the campsite getting smaller with each of his strides. I have no choice but to remain slumped over his shoulder.

What is next to come for me?

I'm unsure of my fate. But I know one thing is certainly on my mind. And that is an escape.

I will find my way out.


TO BE CONTINUED IN A TROLL'S HUNGER (DARK TASTE 1)


DECEMBER 10, 2023


















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