The Ogre's Seven Daughters
The wind whipped through Jett's shirt and branches raked his head as he stumbled through the dark forest. An owl hooted, making him jump. Jett wished he could get his bearings, but the thick tangle of branches above obscured the sky…
And then he staggered into a clearing. He looked up at the starry sky. He knew it was supposed to be possible to tell which was north by looking at the stars, but he couldn't work it out.
Then his heart sank as he spotted a pair of red eyes gleaming in the darkness. A bear was watching him from across the clearing and just to his left. It growled and the sound had an almost human quality. Jett thought it sounded like it was saying: "fire!"
Then through the trees he could hear a dry rustling and a snake came slithering into view on the far side of the clearing directly opposite him. It hissed. Jett stood very still, his heart thudding in his chest.
Then there was a below from the woods across the clearing, this time to his right. There was a crashing, a tree splintered and a monstrous creature thundering into view. It was a massive, obese, green humanoid with a grotesque face and legs as thick as tree trunks, wrapped in animal skins and waving a huge club. An ogre! Jett had hoped they were a myth.
The snake slithered out of sight but the bear came bounding into view. The ogre swung his club down and crushed its skull, killing it outright. Then he sniffed the air. "I smell yooman!" bellowed the ogre.
Jett felt an icy surge of terror and turned to flee, but now the ogre had his huge green hands around him, with fingers like cucumbers. "Come liddle man. I'll take yoo home with me."
"I-I…" stammered Jett.
The ogre laughed, making the ground shake. "I-I-" he mocked. "Come, I won't take no fer an answer! My beautiful daughters are visiting and would love your company."
Jett didn't believe a word, but he wasn't in any position to argue. The ogre put him in a sling around his waist and then he grabbed the carcass of the bear and dumped it in a sack. Then he dragged the sack and the club through the woods.
The terrible creature would eat him! Jett felt sure of it. The trees thinned and they reached a hill with the entrance to a cave in the side. The cave had a sandy floor and was lit with guttering blubber lamps that gave off a foul smell. The whole place stank.
"Going to have yoo for dinner," said the ogre.
This was it. Jett's time was up. His goose was cooked.
Then he blinked. The cave widened out in a stone cavern with rough walls, but this one was attractively well lit with wooden torches. There was a long, stone table and sitting in carved wooden chairs were seven girls, all about Jett's age. Compared to everything else Jett had seen that night they looked so pretty. Like normal girls, except that they all had bright green skin like the ogre. The torchlight played on their shiny green faces as they gazed wide-eyed and the ogre and Jett.
"I've brought a guest fer dinner, my seven wonders of the world!" said the ogre.
The green girls murmured. One of them, a pretty girl with long brown hair and wireframed glasses, looked steadily at the ogre. "Did he want to come, father? You sent him an invitation I hope."
The ogre gave a rumbling chuckle. "I had ter insist! But yer want to come, don't yer boy?"
Jett didn't think it safe to disagree. "I… yes."
The girl peered up at Jett. "He looks frightened," she said sharply.
"He looks dopey!" said a blond green-skinned girl.
"Don't be mean," snapped the girl with glasses.
"Yeah, he looks cute," giggled a black-haired girl. "Wish I had freckles."
The girl with glasses spoke to Jett. "I'm Carly. What's your name? Want to sit by me?"
"Oh yes!" said Jett.
The ogre plumped him down beside Carly.
Carly pushed her glasses up her shiny green nose and gazed at Jett with bright brown eyes. "Please tell me your name?" Her lips were a very dark green. Almost black.
"Jett," said Jett.
The other green girls began to give their names.
"An I'm Blarsh!" boomed the ogre. "Blarsh the ogre. I'm their father."
"Yeah. By blood," said Mia the blond girl.
Jett was trembling in fear of Blarsh the ogre. "Don't be frightened," said Carly softly. She gently brushed the back of Jett's hand with her green fingertips. Jett felt somewhat reassured and began to breathe more steadily.
"Yeah. Scaredy cat!" said Caitlin, a beautiful girl with her green skin, long silky black hair and an aquiline face.
"Hush!" said Carly, glaring at her.
There was a whole deer on the spit. Blarsh dumped the carcass of the bear onto the sandy floor. "Were-bear," he rumbled.
"That's awful!" said red headed Letty. "Those things are dangerous."
"You're half-ogre! Why're you so scared," said Caitlin, sticking out her black tongue.
"Girls, girls…" said Carly. "We all have to take were-creatures seriously."
"Want to tell us why you were snooping around the forest at night, Jett?" asked Caitlin.
"I'd like to know that too."
"Just tell us if you're ready to," said Carly.
"Um… it's kind of difficult."
"Sounds juicy!" said Letty.
"Only share if you feel comfortable," said Carly, gazing at him through her glasses.
"Enough yackin'" exclaimed Blarsh. "Dinner!"
He served them each a piece of deer with turnips, while he sank his teeth into the werebear. An awful sight, watching the ogre disembowel the monster bear with his fangs. Jett would have lost his appetite if he had not been so hungry.
"Ooh! You were hungry," said Carly grinning at him. "Here…" she wiped a piece of gristle off his front with a cloth.
"He's a rapid eater. Doesn't care about mess. Like our dear dad," said Bea. "Doesn't hesitate when sitting down to eat a meal."
"Isn't that right?" said Blarsh. "I've got a soft spot for him. A special place just for Jett. He smacked his lips."
Carly watched Blarsh, her expression unreadable.
Blarsh was still going strong when Jett and the girls had eaten all they could.
"Haven't you got like, marzipan, dad?" asked Caitlin. "I'm only used to the best."
"No. Get ter bed all of yer!" boomed Blarsh. "Boy gets the spare bed."
There was another large cavern off the main cavern. This one had a bubbling pool of water in the corner and a large bed with animal skins. There was a small bed in the corner."
Carly took Jett's hand in hers. Her grip was pleasantly firm.
Caitlin smirked at him. "Tell us why you're snooping around the forest, Jett. Explain yourself."
"Only if you feel ready," said Carly.
"I had to leave home," Jett blurted out. "I lived with my aunt and uncle. There was a famine and my aunt said there wasn't any point feeding me and I had to go away."
Carly's brown eyes widened with shock. "That's awful! I'm so sorry." The corners of her mouth turned down.
"That's not OK," said Caitlin shaking her head so that her long black hair rippled and bounced.
The other girls murmured in agreement.
"It's sad," said Mia. "So wanna know our story? We're ogrillas. Half-ogres. Our mums are human. Ages ago it was like the fashion for girls to have a baby with an ogre before getting married. Blarsh the ogre knocked them all up. We visit him occasionally, but he didn't raise us. Our mums and stepdads raised us. I've only visited Blarsh like three times."
"A bunch of us crash here for a few days once in a while," said Letty. "Don't think ogres make great dads."
"Blarsh was good at babymaking, but not at being a dad," said Bea. "Having a green baby was a cute accessory once. It was like, all the rage."
"There was supposed to be a health benefit or something," said Bessie. "For women who had had a half-ogre baby."
Sam stroked her green cheek pensively. "Ogrilla babies actually have low birth weights, so it was supposed to make it easier for the mother to give birth and make subsequent births easier."
"This has not really been proven," said Carly. "And it didn't justify it. My mother was fifteen! Imagine telling a fifteen year old girl that her first experience of intimacy must be with an ogre!"
Caitlin stuck out her blackish green tongue. "Ooh look, but that's how Blarsh and your mum made you! You're not complaining about being born."
"That's not the point," said Carly.
Bea began to pull off her jacket. "Never mind the bickering. Let's hurry up and get washed." She pointed at Jett. "Don't stick around watching us, boy. This isn't a peep show."
"There's a smaller pool in the other cavern," said Carly, and she led Jett down a side tunnel. There was indeed a cavern with a sandy floor and a pool of bubbling water. Carly handed Jett a towel and pyjamas. "Come straight back to the main cave, OK? Call when you want to come in. I'll tell you when my sisters are all finished and dressed."
Jett bathed in the hot, bubbling water, and when he was dry he went back to the cavern. He hung back at the entrance and announced he was ready to come back in.
"Keep out!" squealed a few of the girls when they heard his voice.
"We're not all ready. Sorry," came Carly's voice.
"Caitlin's takes ages!" said Mia.
But eventually Carly came to him in the tunnel. She was wearing a pink nightdress and her long brown hair hung loose and damp about her. Her wireframed classes adorned her green face. She did look weird with her bright green skin and pink gown. Jett was aware of the bulges of her rounded bosom beneath the gown and he felt himself blushing.
"We're all done!
They entered the large bedroom cavern. The other green girls were in the big bed, talking and giggling amongst themselves. Carly led Jett to the bed in the corner. There was an armchair stuffed with straw dumped beside it. She sat on the armchair and Jett slipped into the bed.
Carly gazed at him with her soft brown eyes. The light of the lamps glinted off her glasses and shone off her green nose and cheeks. "So, tell me Jett, in your own words, how did you get here? Did Blarsh find you lost in the woods?"
"I was lost in the woods and the werebear was after me," said Jett. "Then Blarsh came and killed it. Then he insisted on bringing me here for dinner. Um… I really didn't think he meant it in a kind way. But he did just want me to be a guest."
Carly sighed. "You know something, Jett? Blarsh may be my biological father, but my stepdad will always be my daddy. I don't really trust Blarsh. That's why I've gotta keep an eye on you, got it?"
Jett felt a prickle of unease. Did Blarsh intend to eat him after all?
Carly flicked a strand of hair away from her face. "You've had such a hard time already. I can't imagine how your aunt and your uncle could be so cruel. Family is important. I came here to be with my sisters. Now they're my family. They're important to me. That's why I'm here."
"That's great," said Jett.
"You turning up here is a nice surprise," said Carly smiling at him. "You're different. In a good way. I want to help you. You don't have to fend for yourself."
Jett felt a mix of warm fuzzy feelings and embarrassment.
"T-Thank you," he said.
She held up a copy of a paperback book. "This is one of my favourites. Perhaps it'll help take your mind off things."
"I can't read," Jett admitted.
"Then let me read it to you," said Carly. "It's The Haunting of Mountain Manor. A story of dark romance."
Carly pushed her glasses up her green nose and began to read. It was comforting having her close by. Jett felt relaxed as the words washed over him and he fell into a slumber.
Jett dreamed he was running through the woods with the werebear after him, but now Blarsh was after him too, a great green bloated monstrosity reaching after him…
Jett awoke and sat up. The lamps had burned low and cast a glimmering light over the cave. Carly had fallen asleep on the armchair. Her glasses had slid off her green face and the book was on her lap. She was leaning back in the armchair with her mouth open, snoring gently.
The other girls were all asleep together in the big bed.
There was a thumping of very heavy footfalls. Jett's heart began to flutter and he tugged on Carly's arm. "Carly!"
Carly's eyelids fluttered and she awoke. She gazed at him with bleary eyes. "Wha…? What time is it? Where are my glasses? Can't see a thing without them." She sniffed the air. "You OK Jett?" She reached out and took his hand.
Then Blarsh emerged into the cavern carrying a large sack and Carly turned her head towards him as he loomed over the bed. "Father, is it time to get up?"
Blarsh paused. "Wot's this? One of mine sitting here?"
"Yes I'm Carly. Your daughter," said Carly tersely.
"Why're you still up?" demanded Blarsh.
"Jett has had a hard time, OK? I'm here in case he has a nightmare."
"What's the sack for," Jett asked nervously.
"For breakfast," said Blarsh. "Get ter sleep, both of yer."
Jett had a horrible suspicion that the ogre had intended to put him in the sack and take him away for a meal. Just like the werebear.
"You woke us up father," said Carly. "But we're going to sleep right now."
Blarsh left the cavern.
"I'd feel better if you slept on the bed, Carly," said Jett. "I've been so afraid and lonely since Aunt and Uncle sent me away… Not under the covers. Just on top. Um, your glasses are on the arm of the chair."
"Aw. If it makes you feel better I'll sleep on your bed," said Carly.
She clambered awkwardly on top of his covers and he moved to one side to make room as he lay under the covers.
"Kind of uncomfortable. Dunno if I can sleep like this," said Carly. She lay back and fell asleep almost immediately. Jett lay back. Their cheeks were almost touching. Blarsh wouldn't be able to take him out of the bed without waking Carly. Jett listened to the sound of her snoring and didn't fall asleep for another hour.