The adventure’s back =) Readers voted to explore the top of the steeple for the black stone… while in the company of three child trolls! Here we go…
Black Stone Option Aa. Top
“Top,” you say, “show us to the top of the steeple.”
“You sure,” one child troll asks, “it’s really high up there!”
Your sister gulps but then nods. “Yes, we’re sure.”
“Okay,” they say in unison.
Moments later, teeth brushed and grinning with pride, the three child trolls lead you farther into the cave system. At the end of a narrow hall that made the group walk single file, the trolls open a door to a steep, winding staircase lit by small lanterns hung at even intervals along the wall.
Your sister gulps again but when the green children look back, she smiles in encouragement. You see the apprehension in her eyes but it’s only because of how well you know her.
If these overgrown children decide you’re a better snack then entertainment, they could easily overwhelm you in the narrow space. That’s where your own apprehension resides. Your sister’s however, is more due to her lack of endurance.
Stairs like this could be more than she can handle and passing out, a clear show of weakness, could also change the child trolls’ minds in how helpful they’re being.
The staircase goes up and up and up without any sort of break in the close walls. A faint, cool breeze wafts down the corridor. Without that sign, you might yourself hyperventilate but the fresh air tells you the staircase opens somewhere, so you keep going.
One of the trolls giggles.
“Shhhh,” the one behind you says.
“I can’t help it,” the giggly one says.
“What’s funny?” your sister stops on the stairs, using the excuse to catch her breath. She leans her back against the wall as she gasps.
“We’re being bad,” the third troll says in a conspiratorial voice, not apparently noticing your sister’s distress.
“You’re not supposed to be in here?” you guess.
“Nope,” all three say.
“The bells will addle our brains,” the giggly troll says. “Never go up the steeple, those bells will turn you to mush.” This last part is said in a deeper voice like the troll’s echoing a parent’s caution.
Your sister looks at you with concern. Leave it to her to care whether the child trolls hurt themselves while helping you.
“When do the bells toll?” you ask.
“What?” your sister exclaims. “That’s moments away.”
“It is?” the children ask, clearly unaware of the time of day.
“We’ve got to help them,” she says.
You hold in a groan but then, looking at three sets of terrified, yellow eyes, you can’t help but share your sister’s concern.
“Here,” you tear your sleeves from your shirt and motion for your sister to do the same. The troll’s shirts don’t have sleeves, so they just stare at you in confusion.
“Stuff this in your ears,” you tell the one behind you.
The troll gives an “Oh, how cool” and shoves the fabric deep into his, or her, you can’t really tell, ears.
You sister shares her sleeves with the giggly troll but the one in front looks at you with scared eyes, realizing there are no sleeves for him.
“Carry me,” your sister tells the troll, “on your back. I’ll cover your ears for you.”
“Fun!” the troll grasps your sister’s waist in large hands and throws her, none too gently, over his shoulder. She gives a surprised ‘eek’ but then scrambles around to sit on the troll’s shoulders.
Then, without hesitation despite the troll’s hairy ears, she stuffs her hands into his ear canals.
You keep from shuddering, just barely, but then the hall fills with a deep, ringing bell toll. It vibrates the walls and you cover your ears as well as the sound reverberates against your ear drums. Your sister hunches her shoulders but doesn’t pull her hands from the troll to cover her own ears.
The ringing continues in varied tones for some time and you all hunch down to simply endure.
When it finally fades, you find yourself covered in a fine sheen of sweat and your hands shake from the prolonged tension.
“Everyone okay?” you ask.
The three trolls take stock and then grin. It’s rather eerie.
The troll with your sister swings her around and hugs her. Then he swings her back up on his shoulders and starts up the stairs again. The young trolls chatter in excitement the rest of the way up the stairs, thrilled by their survival of the bells.
At the top of the stairs, they swing a door open and there the giant bells hang.
“Wow,” they say in unison.
“Wow indeed,” says a new, raspy voice.
You all spin to find an old, hunched troll leaning against the wall. Chains on his ankles, wrists and throat hold the troll within a few feet of the stone.
Just beyond him stands a man of medium build. He’s in the process of winding up the length of a long whip.
“You should not be up here,” the man says and lets the whip fall loose again.
“No,” the child trolls place themselves between you and the man, protecting you.
The old, gnarled troll snorts.
The man hesitates. “You protect the humans?”
The child trolls stand a bit taller as way of answer.
“You vouch for these trolls?” the man asks your sister, who still sits on the troll’s shoulders. “Keep in mind, you’ll bear their fate if you throw in with them.”
She glances at you but you, just like her, have no idea what ‘fate’ the man speaks of.
Troll fates are never good in stories and you hesitate to condemn your sister to something horrible. At the same time, these young trolls have been perfect hosts and you’re the one who got them into this situation. You could tell them all to run and hope they’re faster than the man with the whip.
Vote in the comments of how you’d like to continue. Thursday we’ll see how this adventure ends!