The Lord of the Socks
Episode 5: Fair Maiden Stew
As the quill touched the paper, Nonac stopped and looked at me. “Vhat vas dat, Mah-reek?”
I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t even move my eyeballs as I felt myself slowly suffocating under Lord Korac’s spell.
Nonac’s face grew concerned when I didn’t answer. “Mah-reek?”
“Please, sign,” Korac said. “Myrick is just overjoyed that you are joining us. He’s speechless. And think of what you can do with a hundred golds.”
“Vhy Mah-reek not answer?” Nonac’s bushy brow furrowed as he looked from me back to Korac. He stood up straight and dropped the quill. “Vizard? You hurt Nonac’s friend.” A beefy hand went up toward Korac’s throat.
Bum-stabber and one of the other guards brought their spears up and thrust them at Nonac. Nonac swept his other arm around, knocking both spears and men aside. He grabbed the front of Korac’s robe and lifted him off the ground, pushing him up against the trunk of a tree.
I felt light-headed due to lack of air. If Nonac killed Korac, would I be released from the spell? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I only had a few more seconds before I lost consciousness.
“Let Mah-reek go!” Nonac boomed.
Korac’s eyes grew wide as he raised a trembling hand and snapped his fingers.
I had control of my body again, but all I could do was collapse to my knees and gasp.
When Nonac saw me moving, he dropped Korac, sending him sprawling to the ground. By this time, the other guards had grabbed their weapons and were closing in on Nonac. Nonac drew his sword from the sheath at his back and spun around to face them.
“Stop!” Korac ordered the guards. “He’ll kill you all.”
Bum-stabber sneered as he wiped a dribble of blood from his nose before putting a two-handed grip on his spear shaft. “No stupid barbarian is goin’ to get the best of me.”
“Sergeant, I order you, stand down.” Korac stood back up and stared hard at Nonac. “You, barbarian, leave us. We don’t need your help.”
Nonac stared down each of the guards before facing me. “Mah-reek okay?”
“Myrick fine…I mean, I’m fine,” I answered.
“Mah-reek come vith Nonac. Nonac keep safe from vizard.”
I stood back up and put my hand on Nonac’s sword arm. “I can’t. But I’ll be fine. You better leave for now.” I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment.
Nonac hesitated as he looked around again. Finally, he nodded and said, “Nonac go.” He pointed at Korac and said, “But I vatch you, vizard. Don’t hurt Mah-reek or Broo-tus or Prin-cease.” He sheathed his sword and patted me on the shoulder before turning and tromping into the trees.
I rotated my shoulder to dissipate the pain before helping Nut-boy back to his feet. He had been affected by the spell, too.
“Told you it wouldn’t work,” Nut-boy muttered.
“Shut up,” I said.
Korac came up to me with Bum-stabber right behind him. “Myrick, if you do something like that again, I won’t release you from the spell. Understood?”
I stared back at the wizard. I so wanted to spit in his face or stomp on his toe, but instead I said under my breath, “Understood.”
“Come,” Korac said to the rest of the party. “We’ll go another mile out of town and camp for the night. We’ll continue our journey to the monastery in the morning.”
We marched down the road further and found a camping spot next to a stream. I wasn’t in a mood to talk much as I set up the tents. Of course, with Fil shadowing my every move, I couldn’t have talked to anyone if I’d wanted to.
It took another three days for us to reach the top of a hill overlooking a heavily forested valley. A small trail wound down into it and toward some ragged hills beyond. My travels as a message carrier never went to this part of the kingdom due to all the troglyn tribes that roamed the area.
Korac walked up to me and said, “Okay, Myrick, this is where we need your services.”
“Eat boiled cabbage,” I said. I hadn’t been in the mood to talk to him for the last few days.
Korac shook his head. “Be defiant all you want, but you know it won’t do you any good. You might as well smile and get to it. Now, I need you and those magnificent anklets you have to run down there and scout out the valley. Find out where the troglyns are camped and see if you can find a way around them. We need to get to those other hills over there to where the Monastery of Montat is. I’ll give you two hours to get back here or else…” He pointed at Nut-boy. “Do I make myself clear?”
I didn’t answer, I just took off down the hill and into the trees.
It did feel good to finally be away and running again. There’s an exhilarating freedom when gliding across the ground with the wind in your hair. For the first couple of miles, I didn’t see anything but a nice clear trail winding through the thick forest. It felt spooky, though, because those trees could be hiding a small tribe of troglyns waiting for their next meal of human flesh. I tried to force that thought out of my mind as I continued on.
I came across the first sign of the beasts when I found some tracks in the mud along a stream bank. They appeared to be fresh, too. As I examined them, I listened carefully for any sounds nearby but all I heard were the usual bird calls and insects.
As I started to stand up, something caught my eye. Amidst the large paw prints I saw two distinct shoe prints. They belonged to either a child or small woman judging by the size. What was a human doing amongst troglyn savages?
Unfortunately, there was only one answer. The hairy beasts loved to capture humans, cook them, and eat them. They consider us a delicacy. I figured they must have raided a nearby village and grabbed one of the smaller peasants to bring back for dinner. But was their captive still alive? More importantly, should I get involved?
The idea of chasing after a tribe of troglyns didn’t appeal to me, but the thought of an innocent human becoming their next supper felt worse. I had to at least follow the tracks and find out if the prisoner was still alive. If not, then I’d leave and have accomplished my mission of finding out where the troglyns were. If their victim was still alive, I’d race back to Korac and company and enlist their help to mount a rescue.
All I had with me for a weapon was my little two-inch knife, but I felt confident in my ability to use my socks to avoid trouble. After all, I’d outrun a hoard of bloodthirsty tumbleweeds once, and they had to be faster than troglyns. All I had to do was zip back out of there if they saw me.
I sprinted off after the tracks and along the stream bank. A few times I lost their trail, but I continued along the stream until I found it again. I almost missed the spot where the tracks curved off and into the forest. The dark path led into the trees and was covered with a canopy so thick as to make the path almost cave-like. Upon closer inspection, I saw the boughs overhead were purposely woven together in such a way as to cut out almost all light. It was still enough to help me avoid bumping into things, so I headed in. I wondered why the troglyns would go to so much work to create a cave environment in the middle of the forest. Did it make them feel more at home?
After five minutes of creeping through the near dark, I had about decided to turn back. I feared at any second a bunch of troglyns would come up from behind and capture me. I didn’t think my socks would save me if the troglyns got me in their furry grasp. About the time I decided to turn around, I noticed the flicker of firelight ahead. Were they already cooking their hapless victim?
I crept forward until I reached the end of the tunnel. It opened into a wide circular area of trampled dirt. A dome woven of logs, branches, and antlers covered the area. In the middle of the circle roared a large fire in a pit. Several hairy, naked beasts hunched around it. They had two arms and two legs like humans, but were tall and slim. I’d heard that they also have powerful jaws and like to use clubs and bones as weapons.
I almost gasped when I saw what was in the midst of them. A girl, a little shorter than me, sat next to the pit with her back to me. She wore a torn brown robe with blood spots showing through.
On either side of her sat the two largest troglyns. They were swaying back and forth and chanting something in their primitive language. Did they pray to their savage god before eating their meal? I didn’t know, but I knew if I didn’t get the girl out of there soon, she’d be dead.
Of course, I’m not a large person, and the girl was almost as big as I was. Could I dash in there, pick her up, and do a sock enhanced burst of speed out of there? There was the time I had to carry Nut-boy away from a charging bull after he strayed into its pasture. This wasn’t too much different, other than that the troglyns were faster, smarter, meaner, and armed.
I held my breath and watched for my best chance. When the two troglyn chanters were swaying away from the girl, I darted forward and up to the circle. I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her away with all my strength. She let out a gasp. At least she was still alive.
The troglyns stopped chanting and turned to look at me. One of them let out a ferocious grunt.
“I’m here to save you!” I yelled as I scooped the girl over my shoulder and went into a magically heightened sprint. I don’t know how I managed to navigate back up the tunnel without running into anything. The afternoon sunlight blinded me as I emerged out of the tunnel but I didn’t stop. I continued along the stream and back to the main trail.
The last of my strength gave out and I tried to gently lay the girl down. What happened instead was we ended up tumbling hard to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. I just hoped we were far enough away from any pursuit to allow enough time to catch my breath.
I rolled off of her and pushed myself into a sitting position in order to get a good look at the girl I’d saved.
She was gorgeous, or at least I thought so. She had a few pimples and a scar on her chin, but her braided blond hair and piercing blue eyes had me mesmerized. She was about my age, too.
Now, not only could I cross off rescuing a princess from my list of life’s goals, but I could add saving a fair maiden as well. This adventure wasn’t turning out so bad after all.
“Are you okay?” I asked, getting to my feet.
She sat up and looked over her body before looking at me. Without a word, she stood and approached me. Her face was red with rage as she shouted, “You idiot!”