Chapter Twenty: Bait
Makas sniffed the air, catching the faerie scent again, causing his mouth to drool. He tried to keep invisible but its charm cloak kept slipping. As he inched forward, tracing the scent, his nose twisted and warped, together with a significant portion of its face. His elfin features were briefly lost as his nose became wide and warty and his skin lost the leaf green for the murky green of pond water but he did not even notice it.
There it was again. That scent!
Makas felt the hunger pangs hit him with even greater ferocity. It didn’t matter that his stomach was filled with deer and rabbit. The hunger was so intense and gut-wrenching that he wanted to howl from the pain. However, that wouldn’t help either. His bestial mind figured out long ago that the feeling of hunger wasn’t even hunger, wasn’t even thirst. Nothing he ate helped, nothing except the things that carried that scent.
But it had been so long since he had any. Primal fear filled his mind. What if there wasn’t anymore? What if he’d eaten them all? Right then, the scent came again, nearly causing him to lurch forward. The slender looking arm with which he braced against the tree warped, growing large, muscled and clawed, tearing and crushing the bark it rested on.
Makas wanted to run ahead after the scent but he had to take care of this first. His features were slipping and with that came even more pain. His face was twisting further and he was growing in size with each moment. Curling himself into a ball, he tried to calm the turbulent energies with himself. They always fought when he was hungry and their fighting ripped at him from the inside.
The sweet scent in him rode the other and it didn’t like that. Whenever it grew weak, the brown-green one would fight back. The only one who ever lost in the exchange was Makas himself. He could calm them for now but it would only get worse if he didn’t get more of the sweet scent. The little wings! They were the best. Eating them was better than eating anything else bar that old tree. He had to catch up with the scent before it disappeared again. He just hoped there would be little wings this time.
Bluecap was having a hard time coming to grips with what she was doing. This was hard to do with every bone in her body screaming that she was being suicidal. Who in their right minds lured a troll home by acting as bait? Her only comfort was that she was not alone. Shooting a glance at a nearby tree, she caught a glimpse of Echo. He turned around and gave her a quick wave before doubling back and shooting forwards again.
‘How is he so brave?’ she asked herself.
Once, she had believed herself brave as well. All around her, people were dying and it seemed like nothing could be done. Not knowing what else to do, she stepped up and before she knew it, she was the best scout they had. She was the one in charge of making sure the way was clear, of scouting out potential hideouts before moves. She was even the one who found the dungeon.
All of that, everything she did, was about staying away from the big scary things. Plotting a route for them to escape, she could do. She had become good at that. Going around to talk to the local animals? She could that too. Hide in the leaves and take notes on what she saw? She was your girl. But this? She wanted to do her part, she really did, but this was insane. However, she and Echo had been handpicked for this task and she hadn’t had the courage to say no. They were the ones to display the greatest mastery of the [Blitzwing Technique].
Closing her eyes, she tried not think about what would happen if the troll caught them. It didn’t work. Images of numerous attacks; it chewing after putting her sister in its mouth, the crunching of bones as it devoured sprite after sprite while she hid. All her nightmares, filled her mind, pounding at her skull. Before she knew it, she began hyperventilating.
A hand clamped on her shoulder, eliciting a sharp shriek. Quickly, another clamped over her mouth to muffle her voice as Echo moved fully into view.
Holding her while she quivered, he asked softly, “Are you okay?”
Bluecap didn’t know what to say. She was about to break into tears from the fear and embarrassment. Wiping at her face hurriedly, she turned away imagining what he must think of her now. The hand landed on her shoulder again. Looking at him from the corner of her eyes, she was surprised to see a look of understanding on his face.
“It’s alright!” he said, drawing her into a hug. They stayed that way for several seconds before he pulled away.
“We need to get moving”, he said quietly. “You go on ahead. I’ll take the rear from now on.”
Face flushed a dark green, she nodded vigorously.
His hand lingered on hers for a moment. “Don’t worry!” he said in parting. “After today, we’ll never have to be afraid again.”
His voice was resolute and strong but as she left, Bluecap couldn’t help but feel that the words were as much a comfort to himself as they were to her.
Slowly, the two sprites led the troll towards the dungeon. Echo made sure to hang back and let the troll catch sight of him, something they had strictly avoided. They hadn’t even seen the troll themselves the entire time they were out, relying instead on forest animals to find and guess his position. It took some waiting but eventually, the last part of the trap fell into place.
Echo barely saw it coming in time. The creature burst out of the bushes with so unexpectedly he stared at it in stunned shock for a second before the fear and adrenaline kicked in. Turning away from its grossly misshapen features, Echo shot into the dungeon, becoming a blur before the troll’s hands could reach him.
Just like they had hoped, it gave chase. Echo raced ahead of it, the speed of his wings superseding its lumbering gait. Seeing his prey get away, Makes roared, ironically creating numerous echoes of the sound down the narrow passageway.
He rounded a corner, reaching out to the wall with a clawed hand to steady himself and that’s when the snake struck, delivering its deadly dose into his heel.
The first trap had been sprung!