Toby’s scream cuts through the roar of the crowd. Aaarrrgghh holds him back from rushing through the bars. He scratches and struggles against the giant stone arm to no avail.
Blinky watches, frozen in horror, as Jim hits the wall with a harsh clang and goes limp. Draal stalks toward him and the crowd cheers. Jim makes no attempt to get up. He isn’t moving… At all. There’s a flash of blue and the amulet falls off. It rolls a few feet and comes to a stop.
Draal halts. The crowd quiets as everyone holds their breath.
For a long moment the amulet lays still in the dust beside its master and then, with a soft chime that is somehow heard throughout the arena, it begins to glow brightly. It rises into the air hands spinning.
From his place in the center of the arena Draal is staring at it transfixed. It doesn’t go to him. It lets out one more chime and then shoots toward Blinky.
He catches it on reflex.
“Blinkeous… Galadrigal…” The amulet says softly in Jim’s voice.
Slowly what has just happened registers.
“No,” Blinky whispers, dropping the amulet and taking a step back.
In that moment of distraction Aaarrrgghh loses his grip on Toby. The boy breaks free and darts through the gate into the arena. Blinky has never seen him move so fast. He doesn’t even spare Draal a glance as he passes.
Blinky curses and yells at the guard to open the gate. The guard stares at him dumbly then rushes to obey.
When they catch up to Toby he’s holding Jim in his arms. A sweet metallic scent hits Blinky’s nose: blood. Human blood. Jim’s blood.
There’s a thin trail of it on the wall. Toby’s hands and the back of Jim’s head are covered.
Blinky can’t breathe. Jim’s eyes are open and staring blankly back at him.
In his hand the amulet whispers his name again. (When did he pick it up?)
“No…” This can’t be happening. Jim was supposed to survive this.
Aaarrrgghh takes a step closer, extending a hand, and Toby whips around. He pulls Jim’s still body closer to his chest.
“Stay back! Don’t touch him!” He screams and they freeze.
Blinky has never seen such a look on the boy’s face. His teeth are bared in a snarl. His eyebrows are drawn down and, despite the shadows of the arena, his eyes flash.
Blinky takes a step back.
Toby holds his gaze a moment longer then turns back to his friend’s cooling corpse. He buries his face in Jim’s hair and wails. Blinky stands still, uncertain, one hand grasping the amulet (Jim’s amulet), one outstretched as the other two clench and unclench sporadically.
There are footsteps. Blinky spins around at Aaarrrgghh’s growl and sees Draal approaching. The jumble of emotions in his chest turns to rage. His hackles go up and, for the first time in centuries, he roars. There is a flash of blue. Draal’s eyes widen and he takes a step back. Blinky points Daylight at him, the cold silver tip inches away from his chest.
“Leave,” The words are barely understandable through his snarl. “You’ve done enough.... I hope you’re proud.” Blinky spits the last part like a curse.
Several emotions play across Draal’s face before he retreats. Blinky isn’t sure what they are. He doesn’t care. Jim had been his and Draal had taken him away. For what? Honor? Pride?
It doesn’t matter. They had stood and watched as a grown troll had murdered a child.
He had stood and watched.
“Oh, Jim… I’m so sorry,” Blinky whispers.
The amulet pulses softly as something in his chest dies.