Chapter IV: Trolled
"You have no clue where we're going, do you?" Minerva has been following the hyperactive faun since midday. She couldn't see the sun, but from the light yellow orange in the sky, Minerva could tell that it was getting close to dark. "We've been walking forever; I recall that you knew the way back to Athenia." Minerva complained. Pick was hopping to and fro, up and down, observing the trees and various paths.
"I know where Athenia is—I just need to refresh my memory." She said. Pick climbed to the top of the trees, leaving Minerva with her hands on her hips and an irritated look. She jumped back to the princess with the face of good news. "I found out—that I have no clue where I am." She said, her smile becoming dull.
"Well that's just perfect!" today couldn't get any worse for the Athenian princess. Getting stranded in Enchantrass, being chased by a Stitcher, and now lost with a clueless faun is exactly how Minerva pictured her Coming of Age. "Is there anyone in this god forsaken forest that can help me get out of here?!" she shouted into the vastness. Pick grew concerned.
"What are you doing?" Pick flew in front of Minerva. The princess shoved Pick aside and continued to shout. "Anyone? I'll take a horse, a badger, anything that can get me back to Athenia!" Pick began to chew her nails and moaned. "Please stop shouting. This is dusk time! The worse things come out during the night!" Again, Minerva didn't listen. She still yelled out demands that no creature will answer.
Anxiety overtook Pick as she began to excrete cold sweat. She found a large gap under a tree and retreated into the gap. She watched Minerva, only praying that what finds her isn't bad than a Stitcher.
The sun had finally set behind the trees and the slight gleam of stars began to appear. It was dark enough for the trees in the background to fade away, which is no different from the day. It gives it a grimmer ambience. It was perfect hunting environment for the big and bad beasties of Enchantrass. And unfortunate for the lavishing princess, something big found her.
Feeling something tap her right shoulder, Minerva thought it was the inane Pick trying her to silence her pleas. Turning quickly, Minerva was truly silenced by what she saw. A humungous, grey skinned troll with one good horn and the other askew, long nails, and hair covering his entire waist stood before her. She looked aimlessly at the troll and the troll stared back at her.
Her legs became weak from shaking. Her palms were wet from sweat. Minerva's adrenaline finally kicked into high gear. After a scream of ear shattering octaves, Minerva slipped by the troll by running under its legs. The troll began the chase.
"Why is everything chasing me today!?" Minerva cried. "This isn't the attention I wanted!" She looked back to see the length of distance between her and the troll. The troll had some lassitude to him, but he took great strides in his steps, keeping up with her. "Go away!" she demanded the monster, as if she thought her demands meant anything anymore.
Loud thuds could be heard from the troll's heavy stepping. The ground, Minerva could almost feel the ground shake as she ran. He was finally in reaching distance and he lengthened his arm. Minerva felt the touch of his claws touching her worn out garb. Then, his great grasp surrounded Minerva's waist.
"No! No!" she screamed horrifically. "Let me go!" Minerva hit the troll's finger with the bottom of her fists. That was doing so well…
The troll brought Minerva up to his face to get a better look at her. Minerva saw the troll close up; his face was greasy and oleaginous and one of his teeth was out of his mouth. It was enough to make her squint. Then she saw the troll open his mouth. A foul aromatic stench escaped his mouth and she smelled it. The smell made Minerva's stomach churn and cough.
Once the troll's mouth was open, Minerva expected the worse. She was going to be the next meal he'll have. Fate decided to smile upon Minerva once more. An arrow pierced the troll's shoulder. There was no pain in the troll for he had very thick skin; however he dropped Minerva to inspect the arrow in his shoulder.
Released, Minerva fell to the ground, landing on her bottom. She let out a yelp of pain before she saw her previous rescuer Graner running at her. He reached for her, grabbing her by the arm, and dragged her away. Minerva got to her feet just in time. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Saving your life again!" Graner pulled Minerva along the tortuous path of trees. The troll, after pulling the insignificant arrow from his shoulder, gave chase again. His heavy feet were getting closer to them. Graner's years of survival taught him that in some cases it's smart to hide. He found a rotting tree with a hollow base. He ran over to it and shoved Minerva into the base.
The hollow was covered in moss, dust, and the bugs scattered when Minerva was shoved into it. "Stay here!" he ordered. Minerva stayed put, not because of Graner's order, because she was struck with fright from the grubby, close space. Oh…my… She cried to herself.
Hiding behind a jumble of trees, Graner placed his bow back and pulled out his blade. He stood, sword at the ready. He took a peek behind his hiding place, seeing that the troll was looking behind every tree, even taking trees out from the root and looking under it and placing it back in its place. All Graner could think of was that this troll wasn't very smart, which is the basic description of a troll.
The troll continued his search for Graner and Minerva. Alas, he found nothing. A snap of a twig caught his attention. The troll moved in the direction of the twig, and behind the tree he thought was where it came from. Looking around the tree, the troll found nothing. He gave a confused look. Then he felt something crawling up his back. It was Graner. He fooled the troll in luring him closer to take advantage of the situation.
Graner climbed up the eroded skin of the troll's back. He reached up to the troll's neck. The troll roared as he tried to reach backwards to grab the young hermit. His were so massive however that he couldn't reach further than his forehead. Perfect for what Graner had in mind.
With his blade, Graner grabbed the askew horn of the troll and held on tightly. He brought his blade up and had all the power to strike. A flash of light interrupted him and got in his line of sight. To his surprise, it was Pick. She had flown over with all haste, not for their assistance though.
"Quit! Stop!" Pick galloped in front of the troll. The grizzly young man gazed angrily at Pick. "Out of the way, Pick!" he demanded. Pick stood her ground. "You don't understand. This troll is harmless!" he didn't listen. Then they heard, "I was only trying to help…" it was the troll. He said something!
Graner's stiffened arm started to loosen. Pick explained, "This is Gartrell!" she jumped onto the troll's shoulder and meet the face of the troll, who had a smile once he saw Pick. "This guy's harmless. He's one big pot of happiness and kindness." Graner still had a frown and he was serious about ending the troll, Gartrell's life for good. More so, if Pick said that Gartrell was a friend then he lowered his weapon.
He jumped off from Gartrell's back. "What brings you so far from the meadow?" he curiously asked Pick. Pick, after she examined Gartrell's injury on his shoulder, answered, "I was helping an Athenian princess get back to her kingdom. Her name is Minerva." Graner found not so surprising that Minerva managed upon Pick. "Where is she anyway?"
They heard a scream. It was Minerva, running from the hollow of the tree, with dirt and bugs crawling up her dress. "So gross! Ew!" she whimpered. She shook the bugs from her dress and jumped around in a frantic motion. After she stopped, she spotted Gartrell and looked at him with fright. Gartrell managed to explain before she could run away.
"Miss, I only chased after you because you were calling for help." Minerva stopped dead in her tracks. Why would a filthy monster aid my rescue? She thought. Pick walked over to Minerva to further explain. "Gartrell here is the sweetest troll among all the countless trolls in Enchantrass." A smile was across her face. "He'll be loads of help to us. Can he come along?" Minerva shivered at her request to bring Gartrell with them. Then an idea came to mind; if Gartrell is with them, then he'll scare off any other beast that wants to make her their dinner.
A grin came to Minerva. "Alright, he can come along." Pick and Gartrell cheered. "IF and only IF he stays five feet away from me." The stench still lingered in Minerva's nose. Nodding their heads in agreement, Pick and Gartrell were ready to head off. There was still the question on why Graner was there. Minerva glared at him. "First you abandon me, and then you decide to save me again. What brought about this change?" she asked. Graner grunted, and then explained, "I couldn't have let a prima diva out here with no experience of anything whatsoever." Pick noticed something in his voice; he never said anything nice to anyone before.
Accepting his "apology," Minerva announced, "If you want to be with my group, you will be my body guard." Graner grunted again and gazed away. With her group of Enchantrass escorts complete, Minerva could finally leave this labyrinth of trees and monsters. They wouldn't be able to go very far though for Pick said to the group, "We can't stay out. It's getting dark."
The sun had set, only leaving the faint glow it gives off in the dark sky. "C'mon! We have to stay somewhere for the night. The meadow it a perfect place for us!" Pick stepped in front of Minerva and gestured to way to this meadow. "Wait," Minerva stopped. "What's the meadow?"
"Oh, right," Pick forgot to explain. "The meadow is the sanctuary of the fairies. We live there without a worry. It's a perfect haven for a princess." Minerva was having second thoughts however Pick mentioned, "They'll pamper you and rejuvenate you and fulfill your every need." That was enough for her. "Lead the way, Pick." Minerva smiled gleefully. Pick jogged playfully ahead and Minerva followed close behind, the desire to fix her hair fixated in her mind. When they left, Graner and Gartrell looked at each other. While Gartrell smiled at Graner, Graner responded with a sneer and walked off.
Darkness had finally fallen on Enchantrass. The forest was completely blackened and one's sight was distanced. If it weren't for Pick leading the way, Minerva, Graner, and Gartrell wouldn't have seen where they were going. Since Pick was a faun, the sound of her hoofs was easy to hear. It was easy to track her.
Pick had led the group into a path where the trees had curved around to form a tunnel. "Alright, right around this corner is the meadow!" Pick announced. Around the turn, a light gleamed. This signaled a cleanup for Minerva, making her smile widely.
She rushed after the light, zooming by Pick causing her to twirl in the air. Turning the corner, Minerva was awestruck by the sight before her. A large environment closed off by the trees, forming a protective barrier, filled with flowers and lighted by glowing fungi. Fairies either rested on the ground, in the bushes, or furnished beds nestled in the trees or flying around.
Most of all, it was clean of anything dirty. Minerva waltzed into the meadow as she would into any of the rooms back at the castle. She thought she would be welcomed. She was greeted with force. Several male fairies dressed in armor carved from the bark of trees drew out tiny lethal spears at Minerva. Minerva was stopped.
"What is the meaning of this?" she asked.
A male fairy flew up from a tree hole and towards Minerva. He was dressed in green moss that resembled a robe. "I am King Orion. What brings you to the meadow of fairies and how did you know of this place?" he asked. Orion saw Graner follow Minerva in. Another batch of fairies pointed spears at him, but Orion ordered them to lower their weapons. Graner nodded his head in respect. "Your Majesty."
"Graner," said the king. "Perhaps it is you who brought this interloper to our home."
He shook his head. "You have Pick to thank for that." He reached behind him and grabbed Pick, who had hid behind Graner before coming in. Graner presented Pick to Orion by holding her by the cloth around her chest. With nothing to say, Pick only responded to the king with a regretful smile. Orion frowned at her but his calm expression never changed. "Why'd you bring her to the meadow?"
Pick fidgeted her fingers in anxiety. "Uh—well, you see—she was lost and I thought I could find her home." Orion became confused. "This is the princess of Athenia." She continued. All the fairies gasped in awe and delight. However Orion's confusion grew. He flew over and faced Minerva, "If the princess of Athenia is only bound to her kingdom, why trek here?" he asked.
Before answering, Minerva pushed away the spears from her neck and face. "It's not my fault!" she bellowed. "If it weren't for my aunt, I would have never come here in the first place!"
"Yes," Minerva responded. "An aunt I never knew until today. Someone named Lexicon." Suddenly, the fairies screamed in terror, shouting Lexicon's name in horror. They dashed into hiding places as quickly as they can. Even the flowers and lambent fungi shrunk into the ground to hide. The meadow was completely devoid of life. Only Orion, Minerva, Graner, and Pick were left in the dark. "That's one way to clear a room." Pick commented.
"Come out, my children." Orion reassured them. "The evil sorceress has moved onto different pastures. She is no longer a threat to us." The fairies slowly emerged from their hiding places and resumed their regular doings in the meadow. The flowers came back out and the fungi shined again, lighting the meadow.
"Lexicon is an evil being in this forest. None dared stand in her way while she walked among the trees." Orion explained. It sounded as if Lexicon operated this forest before she overtook Athenia. It didn't matter to Minerva. "I don't care who she is. She took my kingdom, and I want it back!" she strongly said, standing tall.
Dim as a troll. "If you are to face Lexicon, first you will have to find the way out of Enchantrass." Orion stated. Minerva made a mocking face. "What do you think I've been looking for all day!?" as rude as it sounded, Orion kept his calm stature. "Beyond where the trees build bridges is Grimm Castle. The wizard inside knows the way to Athenia. You must find him to find the way out."
"Then we must be off." Minerva knew where she needed to go and she wanted to get there post haste. Orion stopped her though. "In the morning," He said. "Tonight, you will rest. Judging by the looks of you, you've had an eventful day." Minerva observed her dress and her hair. In her mind, she desperately needed to rest.
Orion clapped his hands and to the sound came three female fairies. "These Field Prancers will tend to your every whim. You are our guest for the night." Minerva smiled as the thoughts of every order, every demand, everything she wanted was about to come true. The Prancers showed Minerva to a large bed of smooth grass blades and flower petals. Minerva laid her aching body down on the bed and the Prancers took her orders.
"As for you Graner, seeing how you are her escort to this quest, you may sleep wherever you desire here." Orion instructed. Graner bowed his head and walked off into the meadow.
Pick crossed her arms and had an angry expression. "Sure, let the Prancers take Minerva to the VIP section. All because they can dance around and leave Circles in the ground…" she whispered. "I can dance around in a circle…" she began to walk over into the meadow to partake in the activities, however Orion stopped her. "I have a task for you to do." He looked at the entrance, so did Pick. They saw Gartrell trying to budge his way into the meadow, but his massive size prevented him from getting in.
Pick looked at Orion and she didn't even need to hear him say what he wanted her to do. That calm look on his face told her everything. "But—I—you—he…" she stuttered. Orion explained, "We let you live here, which means you're in my debt." He did have a point. Pick was only little when the fairies took her in and raised her into the grown faun she is now. "Yes, your majesty." She said.
"This is so unfair!" Pick sat on a rock next to Gartrell outside the meadow. Pick's task: company Gartrell outside the meadow for the night. "If King Orion is powerful, why didn't he just make the entrance bigger for you so you could get in?" Gartrell was lost in thought, happy that he had someone outside with him, but he shrugged at Pick's question.