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Conflicting Callings

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The sky was still dark and it was serene, calm and quiet, and the cloth, soft, it was very soft. After a long day of work, everything felt like something one can sleep on. On the soft mattress covered in a thin white cloth, under a thick warm blanket in the comfort of home was a dream-come-true for this overworked single mother and life had never been so generous Alas, all good things must end.

*ring* A ring from a phone woke up the woman in her bed. She let out a mumble and hugged the pillow she slept on closer, as she continued to ignore the call. *ring* The chants of the phone continued "Ugh!" The woman exclaimed, without even opening her eyes, she grabbed the ringing phone on the nightstand beside her bed and answered it.

"H-hello?" She answered, with the best you-definitely-didn't-wake-me-up voice she can manage.

"Oh– oh hi Barb, look, there was an accident on 5th street and most of the doctors are occupied, were kinda running low on staff here and—" The caller from the other side of the phone stated.

"Just tell me, Wanda" Barbara had cut the caller off, she was finally sitting down massaging the bridge of her nose.

"What I need to tell you is, we kinda need you here A-S-A-P." Wanda said, not in a demanding tone, but a rather considerate one. A quick silence, then a long sigh was heard from the caller "Look, Barb, we know you just worked a late-shift last night but—"

"I'll go. You need me, so I'll go." Barbara cut her off again, before ending the call.

She stood up from bed and looked at her attire in the mirror, I haven't even changed from last night's shift! She was still in her scrubs from the night prior. She took a quick shower then went off to work. As she was exiting the upstairs hallway, she saw her son's room and took a quick peak, he was still asleep. Everything she had ever done was for her little boy, — which is currently her not-so-little boy — she smiled with relief, knowing that she's doing it for him, she's doing it all for him.

She closed the room of the door and headed downstairs, she looked outside the window as she took her car keys. It wasn't even the break of dawn yet. She hurried outside and got to her car, started the engine and then drove off.
So far it was a smooth trip on the way to work, but then, fate decided that her car should break down mid-way. It was the break of dawn, her car had slowed down near the canal bridge. She sighed and she managed to get the car aside before it stopped working entirely. Barbara tried to start the engine once more, it briefly cranked, but didn't start. "Fuck." She quietly whispered to herself in annoyance, as she let her head rest against the steering wheel and her hands holding it tightly.

Barbara raised her head and took a deep breath and got out of the car, she slammed the door harder than she would've done normally, but at this point, who could blame her?
She went to the front of the car and opened its hood to check if there was anything wrong with the engine. "Everything seems to be fine..." She said to herself, as she peaked through the hood of the car. She went back in the car and once again tried to start the engine, it cranked again, but didn't start. The realization hit her after a few moments of glaring at the car keys, "The batteries!" She exclaimed to herself "Ugh! The car batteries are dead!" She let out a sigh and rested her head on her arms as she held on to the steering wheel. She looked at her phone and tried to see if she could call anybody at this point, but as it turns out, her car's batteries weren't the only ones dead. There was a moment of silence, then there was aloud bang, it sounded like crashing stone coming from under the bridge. She looked up warily, waiting for a few moments after the noise occurred. Barbara looked out the window to see the light of day, but not an explanation for what she heard. She stepped out of the car cautiously, and looked around — there was a pile of stone just below the bridge, she left to check it and glanced back at her car, I don't think that that is going anywhere she thought.

She glanced down at the pile of stone from on top of the bridge before she made her way down.
When she got down, she stayed a few feet away from it looking from under the bridge itself, where could that have fallen from? she asked to herself, the whole scene seemed... odd. Then, there was something glowing. The bright blue glow illuminated through the pile of stone, which drew her closer to it, whatever it was. Then, the unimaginable happened.

"Barbara Lake"

It. Called. Her.

Her eyes widened, her mouth couldn't move but inside her head... Shit! I'm dead, am I!? It called her again.

"Barbara Lake"

no, no, no, no, no! An inanimate object can't possibly call her! Her breathing became unsteady, and she was looking around her. is this some sort of prank? . When she saw nothing, she moved towards the glowing object warily, not letting her guard down. She inched closer and closer to the glowing object calling her name, "okay," she whispered, and exhaled, "okay."
Barbara reached her hand out to grab the glowing blue object from the rubble. The light from it reflected against her glasses. She took it, what... is this? she thought to herself as she held the object in her hand an amulet? . "Uh... Hello?" Nothing. "Great, I'm talking to an inanimate object!" She sighed, "this has to be caused by sleep deprivation... Yeah."
Left in utter confusion, she looked at her watch to see that she was running a little late and put the amulet in her pocket.

Barbara went back up on the bridge to see her car and remembered, "Oh yeah... That." She said to herself in an annoyed manner. She took off her glasses with a hand and massaged the bridge of her nose with the other. She opened the door, got into the driver's seat and shut it loudly. An annoyed groan escaped her, then a sigh, she couldn't do anything but to let her head rest.

Without noticing, another car stopped just behind her's. A man stepped out and walked towards the side of her car right beside of the driver's seat where she sat, with her window opened.

"Good morning, Madam. Do you need any assistance?" A soft British voice coming from outside put Barbara's frustration at ease. "I assumed you needed one since your hood was up and– I just noticed." He explained.

She looked up to see a man in a turtleneck sweater tucked under a brown jacket, with salt and pepper hair, as well as emerald green eyes looking back at her. A little blush of embarrassment was painted on her face, "Oh– I– um– Yes!... please." She said thankfully, seemingly at a loss for words with her first attempt.

He smiled back at her, and she tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. "Well then, what seems to be the problem?" He asked as he gestured his hands towards the car's open hood.

"The um– the batteries, I think they're uh..." She stated, though the sentence was incomplete, she hoped that he got the point what what she was trying to convey to him

"Ah," He glanced at the opened hood of the car. "I may be able to help you with that, yes" He smiled at her and went back to his own car to fetch something, as Barbara went out of her own car.

The man went to look for something at the compartment of his car, after a few minutes he comes back with a jumper cables, which was exactly what she needed to see at the moment. He opened the hood of his own vehicle and attached the corresponding cables to their proper places, afterwards, he started the engine of his own car and let it be for a few minutes.

"There," he stated "I think you should go ahead and try starting your car, dear madam."

Barbara quickly entered her car, she turned on the engine, it works. "Thank you!" She exclaimed, "I don't know what to say, I– oh!" She looked at the watch and got out of the car to remove the jumper cables and fix the hood. "Thank you very much, Mr...?"

"Strickler, Walter Strickler" He smiled.

"Thank you, Mr. Strickler" Barbara smiled back at him.

"Oh dear, you sound like my students." He grinned.

a teacher, eh? she thought.

"Please, call me Walt" putting his hand out for a quick shake.

"Thank you, Walt" , she looked at the sky Shit! The sun's high. "I-I have to go, thank you, really." She rushed in the car and drove off without looking back.
As she was driving away, a realization came to her mind "shit, I forgot to introduce myself."

The man — Strickler — stayed behind to fix the jumper cables back to his car. As he was doing so, he saw two of his students just down in the canal. One of them is trying to help the other up, while the other one was flat of the ground. "Teenagers." He mumbled, as he rolled his eyes. He finished off with packing his stuff back in the car and drove off.

 


 

 

"C'mon Tobes!" Jim told his friend— who is flat on the floor, as he helped him.

"Why did we even take the canal, Jimbo?" said Toby as Jim helped him back on his feet, "we didn't even need to! It's like 7 AM, seven!" He exclaimed, "why are we even so early anyway?"

"It's for the school study session." Jim mumbled.

"School what?" Toby raised a brow at Jim.

"School study session, Tobes." Jim firmly stated.

"Since when did we–? Wait– Claire's gonna be there, isn't she?!" Toby gasped, "you little–"

"Father?"

Toby was cut off with a noise, like someone or something calling out. This made both the boys stop for a moment, then they looked around to see where it came from.
The two boys fell silent, listening for it again.

"Father?"

Jim looked at where the sound originated from, somewhere under the bridge. "Uh... Hello?" Jim asked as he crept into the darkness under the bridge, as Toby stayed behind watch over their bikes.

"Bushigal!" the voice exclaimed in a language Jim didn't quite comprehend.

Jim drew closer to the voice, there was a pair of eyes that slightly glowed against the darkness. As he approached the creature, he was... Tall... Inhuman... It— he didn't even look like any kind of animal, it was blue... And it had these spike-like things that are coming out of its back... And horns, it had horns. Jim's eyes widened at the scene, looking at this– this creature. It wasn't just Jim whose eyes widened, but the creature's eyes as well. They both were seemingly startled by the situation.

Jim was shaking and so was his voice, "T-Toby... I-I think we're gonna miss the s-study session..." He stammered, as he took a few wary steps back from the creature. Toby followed behind Jim and had the same reaction when he reached him. There was a moment of silence from both sides, until Toby decided that it was too quiet.

"AAHHH!" A scream escaped Toby, which in return alarmed the creature that stood before them.

The creature grabbed the two boys before they could run away, opening a portal under a bridge using a glowing dagger-like key. He mumbled to himself as he dragged the two boys into the portal.

"Vendel's going to be very mad."

Chapter Text

There was a bright glow, but the boys couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Jim was still shivering and Toby… he’s still breathing, right?

“oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! We’re gonna die, Jim! We’re going to fu…udge-knuckling die!” A loud cry came from a sack labeled ‘potatoes’. The side street of the sleepy town was truly a wondrous place to find very convenient things for such inconvenient circumstances. Said circumstances may or may not be being seen by a whelp while looking for your father at dawn.

“Stop screaming, Tobes! We-- YOU might irritate it! It might want to eat us faster, try to calm down!” an answer came from another sack, this time it was labeled ‘organic fertilizer’ which did not seem pleasing.

“Calm down?! Calm-frikkin-down, Jim?!” The sack of potatoes answered with frustration, as he breathed heavily. “Do you see us?! Of course you can’t! We’re in a gosh-didly-darn sack!”

Of course he couldn’t, and they can see to that -- that they were gonna die. Or probably need therapy for the next two years or so.
The pressure of high school was one thing -- which was scary enough -- but to be kidnapped by some creature from under a bridge was another. Jim was the lets-stay-calm-in-this-stressful-situation type of teen, a natural leader, taking it from his mother.

“Oh, stop whining! At least your sack is like 110 percent better tha--“ the sack of fertilizer tried to counter, but was cut off by a low growl.

“Silence, fleshbags! Or I will be forced to gag the both of you.” The large, blue, spiky, horned creature commanded. The two sacks fell in silence for the next few minutes to come, very quiet. The exact kind of quiet the creature asked for, though he seemed afraid if he accidentally killed the two whelps in the sacks.

In one of the sacks was a green-eyed boy with braces who was both hyperventilating and stress eating -- a nougat nummy, how? The question remains unanswered. In the other sack, contained a slim, blue-eyed boy who was still a little salty and upset about missing a study sesh with his crush.

Jim felt himself descending -- or at least, the creature carrying them was -- and the boy’s phone buzzed a bit, he pulled it out -- accidentally pulling out a pen in the process -- and looked at the text.

‘Study Sesh Squad’ : Claire sent a message: “Hey guys, sorry but I won’t be able to attend today…”

A small sigh and a tiny “ugh” escaped Jim as he read the message, I’m gonna die, for this?! Jim thought to himself, It would have been fun knowing I was technically dying for Claire, but nooo! Jim takes a deep breath, but with the sudden realization that he was in a sack of fertilizer -- it suddenly ruins the moment, even though the moment was bitter rue. He didn’t even get to say goodbye to his mom. Obviously frustrated, Jim leaned back and got pricked a bit by a pen that was conveniently just below his behind -- the pen that fell out of his pocket when he reached for the phone -- he looked at it briefly, then something came to him. God! I need a breather! Jim thought to himself as he picked up the pen and started poking -- at this point stabbing the sack from the inside, it fu...udging reeks in here! he repeated his stab-- poking over and over again until he managed to successfully punctured a tiny hole he can breathe through.

After a few inhales and exhales, Jim wondered where this- this creature was bringing them. Jim peaked through the tiny hole, his eyes widening with amazement as he witnessed being dragging into a bright blue crystal staircase. The staircase itself illuminated a bright blue that reflected against Jim’s irises. The creature that carried the sacks descended into -- what seems to be -- an entrance to a cavern. As they entered the cavern, a faint “woah” escaped Jim, he just sat there to witness beauty -- a paradise beneath our feet -- as he was carried by this beast. There were crystals everywhere, illuminating a bright glow and acted as the lights for this town -- accompanied by some man-made materials, it was like a scene out of some fantasy movie and the large, fiery-orange crystal in the middle of the town served as the perfect centerpiece for it all. The creatures -- much like the one carrying them at this very moment -- roamed around this vast paradise as if their existence wasn’t even some secret to be kept. The towns-- people? -- creatures? acted just like normal humans, having casual conversation, buying things they do not seem to necessarily need, playing board games? -- though Maces and Talons was a very good game, maybe even dragons played this.
Jim’s amazement was cut short by the realization that it was quiet, too quiet… He leaned back, thinking... It was as if there was something -- someone -- that was supposed to be making a shit-ton of noise in a situation like this, like there was something wro--

“Toby!” Jim exclaimed, “Toby! Are you still there?!” oh shit, he’s probably dead! Jim thought. “Toby? Toby--” Jim’s mouth was covered from outside the bag as he cried for his best friend’s name.

”But I heard yelling, Draal. Doesn’t mean you’re a hero’s son, you can take me for a fool!” A rather scruff yet feminine voice came from outside, Jim calmed down and listened to them, they speak English?! he thought to himself.

”I told you Bagdwella, it was nothing, or perhaps it was merely those gnomes pulling some prank on you -- on us both!” another voice explained, a familiar one… The one calling for their father?

”Well, I heard something! And that bag of yours, it was moving!”

”Bagdwella, please… If this gets to anyone, specially Blinkous, he will go around town seeking every bag in Trollmarket and calling it ‘Talking Bag Conspiracy’, so please, stop.”

”Fine, but do not ever take me for a fool, Draal the Deadly.”

Jim slightly guled at the part where he heard that the very creature that carried them at this very moment was dubbed ‘--the Deadly’. “Great.” Jim whispered to himself.

They were carried by the creature -- Draal -- into a smaller cavern probably his dwelling. He threw the two sacks down in a slightly aggressive and annoyed manner, they didn’t land in the most pleasant manner. The two sacks opened when it hit the floor, revealing two whelps; one seemed distressed, while the other one did not move.

Jim rushed out of the sack and saw Toby simply lying on the floor, “No! Toby! Not like this, dude!” Jim cried as he carried Toby’s head in his arms. Jim had simply wept quietly as he leaned down to Toby. The creature looked at them with wide eyes, he doesn’t understand what what happening. The silence was broken by a loud gasp, “Jimbo!.”

Jim had a sigh of relief, he smiled at his best friend, “Toby!” He exclaimed as Toby tried to stand up.

“Dude, were you crying?” Toby was left in utter confusion as he looked at Jim’s face.

“N-no, not at all…” Jim lied, wiping some of the tears that escaped him.

“Jim!” Toby exclaimed, “I had this- this- nightmare! And you were there- and I was there! And there was this- this thing and--“ Toby tried to explain his vivid dream to Jim but was cut off when he turned his back and saw the creature that took them where they stood. “Oh shit.” He turned his head to Jim and whispered “That. Was. Not. A dream,” he said as he turned his head

Said creature made his way in front the opening where they’ve entered -- and presumably, the only opening where they can exit -- and the creature glared at the two boys that stood before him. He stood tall and crossed his arms. “You will not speak of this…” His facial expression became more serious (and rather scary) -- brows furrowing and fangs showing -- turning into a complete scowl, “of anyone.

 


 

 

The hospital cafeteria was a somewhat crowded area -- maybe because it was still early enough for breakfast, for most people, it may seem -- but nonetheless fine for a confused, frustrated and very tired woman in her scrubs and coat. She was sitting alone in a four-seat table, a mildly cold coffee in a small cup that sits in front of her.
“Ugh!” she exclaimed to herself as she tapped the glowing blue object in her palm, “What… are you?” she asked it -- an inanimate object -- as she turned it around. The finding-an-amulet thing seemed pretty normal, but the finding-a-talking-amulet thing was not.

After a few attempts... Nothing.
“Damn it.” she signed and settled the amulet on the table.

Well, this wasn't the first time she had witnessed something weird in this town, especially as a doctor. Sometimes people would come in the ER severely wounded and would give a reason that seemed too off to be true, but they take it anyway. Most of the time, said ‘people’ would have their blood taken for testing and it would be in an unusual shade of dark-purple or the occasional reddish-purple. It never really made sense but at this point nothing ever did, or at least not since James left her with the child they swore to raise together, nothing since he left her with the broken promise of one ‘I'll love you forever’, not since he left her. She never really got back to dating since she had her job to worry about and of course, she her pride and joy to take care of, Jim. But that doesn't really mean that she wouldn't love again, would she? Sure a few short -- failed -- dates here and there, though hope is never lost.

“Dr. Lake!” a call from a familiar-unfamiliar voice of a girl took her away from her wandering thoughts. “Hi, Dr. Lake!” They called.

She glanced at the origin of this call. When she looked, she saw a girl, a teen -- about the same age as Jim -- she was wearing a skirt with leggings inside and a shirt with a skull print on it, her eyes were chocolate brown, and a short black hair with multicolored hair clips covered her head. They seemed familiar, like she had seen the teen before, but couldn't recall where or how, probably a patient, she thought to herself.

The teen approached her and greeted again,“Hi, Dr. Lake, it's really nice to see you,” the teen said, waving her arms at the now-confused doctor.

“Oh… hi– uh--” Barbara tried to remember the teen's name, but there were too many patients to come around for her to remember anyone at this point, “I'm sorry, where did we– I mean–”

“It's okay Dr. Lake, I know you had a lot of patients to remember them all,” the teen began.

“Tell me about it, I don't even remember the ones from today,” she jokingly said as she took a sip of her now-cold coffee.

“It's Claire, Claire Nuñez,” she stated “I was one of your patients a few weeks back, broken leg.”

Something clicked with Barbara, “The one where I made a joke about how people should really stop using the term ‘Break a Leg’ because I don't get enough break?” she asked.

“That's the one,” Claire said as she giggled.

“So, what are you in for today?” Barbara said, raising a brow at the girl, “another performance-gone-wrong?” she asked.

“No, it's Enrique… my baby brother,” she stated “he had a flu for days so we just decided to take him here, I told my Papi I wanted to come, and I even told the study sesh that I wasn't going to be there.” she said, smiling.

“Oh,” Barbara was surprised on how close Claire was to her little brother, “I- how are they- uh- now?” she asked the girl curiously.

“Oh- yes, he’s doing fine…” she answered, “y’know Dr. Lake, I never really got to thank you for fixing me up that day. They said injuries could have been worse if you hadn’t patched me up that day..” Claire thanked her, not just because she was her doctor, because it was true. If Barbara hadn’t patched her up, things could have ended way worse, considering on how she could have been exempted from drama class just because of a concussion.

“Any doctor could have done it, really, it was just my shift that day,” Barbara tried to reason -- though not against the praise -- but she never really took too much pride in what she did, she was just always happy to help people. She became a doctor, after all.

“But still… Thank you,” she said once more “maybe I could pass by your house sometime? I can give you some of my Papi’s chorizos.” The girl suggested as she smiled at the doctor.

Barbara raised a brow at Claire, “My… house?” she asked, curious to how the girl even seems to know where she lives.

“Oh- oh... yeah. I go around with my mom during campaign season. I practically know where everyone lives,” she explained “sorry if that sounded… weird.” she chuckled slightly with the realization that it would seem to be very weird that someone very random -- even more so, your one-time patient -- knows where you live.

“Well then,” Barbara began, straightening her back as she fixed her posture against the chair “I guess I’ll be expecting some chorizos sometime this week,” she said, slightly quirking a brow at Claire.

”Claire, where are you? We’re going!” A male voice called out.

“Yes Papi! I’m here! -- sometime this week, Dr. Lake?--“ Claire ask, or at least tried to. Barbara simply nodded as she understood what the girl was trying to tell her.

”Claire! You’ll be late!”

“Yes Papi! -- bye Dr. Lake! -- be there!” Claire said as she walked away exiting the cafeteria, meeting a man holding a baby who were waiting for her by the exit.

Barbara watched Claire as she departs with her father and baby brother, the scene made her smile. Her glance returns to the amulet on the table, it was now glowing. What are you? she inwardly asked it as she leaned closer to the now-glowing blue object on her table. She noticed that other people are looking at her and that they seem to start taking notice of this, luckily she was saved by the call of her name through the announcements, calling her into room 304.
Barbara got to her feet, completely forgetting about the existence of her now-cold, half cup of coffee. She shoved the amulet -- that is now glowing a very bright blue -- in the pocket of her work coat.

 


 

“Oh dear,” a sigh escaped a creature of six eyes as he stood beside a larger, harrier creature that stood next to him as they both stood in the shadows of the sewers “Shall we tell Draal the unfortunate fate of his father?”

The larger creature nodded, “Yes. Family, important.”

“And the new Trollhunter?”

The larger creature stood for a moment and shook their head “Not yet. Too soon.”

“Yes, you are correct my friend! This will be too soon for him, specially how he expects to be next in line,” The six-eyed creature held the larger one’s shoulder “we shall depart to Trollmarket at once.”

 

 

Mondays are hated and usually bad for most people, mainly because it’s the start of another long and stressful week but Jim and Toby were definitely having a worse Monday. Probably the most confusing, frustrating and scariest Monday any creature in this or any other planet could have known.
The two boys were now stuck -- or rather, imprisoned -- in a dark room, a cave. They were in the inner rooms of the dwelling of the creature that brought them there, said creature was still outside guarding the exit.

“Jim, what the actual hell are we gonna do?!” Toby exclaimed at Jim with the best whisper-like voice he can manage.

“Okay, mom taught me some of her Krav Maga skills… I think- no,” Jim said to Toby. He was trying to figure out a plan -- but against a creature that they didn’t even know existed until just this morning, it was kind of difficult.

Toby sighed, “I can’t go like this, Jim! I’ve never even been to an actual girl’s room,” Toby said as he covered his face.

They both sat down in the dark room. Jim couldn’t help himself but sigh, in the silence he heard a faint conversation coming from outside. He peaked in curiosity and saw that the creature is distracted by two others that are talking to him. “Toby. Toby!” he called on Toby -- who was still in the sorrow of dying without experiencing the fullness of life -- gesturing the stout teen to come with him.

“What are you thinking?” Toby asked Jim as he followed him through sneaking out.

“It’s distracted, and if there is any chance of us getting out of here and not get turned into some twisted Aligot,” Jim stated, as he crept through the -- what seems to be a -- living room, gesturing Toby to follow him.
Jim leaned his back against the wall waiting for a time to escape. He overheard the conversation between the creatures on the other side of the wall.

”Yes, I saw… though I could not stay longer, problems upon problems only piled up…

”I am very sorry Draal.”

” ‘Tis the Trollhunter’s ultimate fate, Blinky… You have nothing to be sorry about, my father died with honor. Though, what of the amulet?”

” We- uh- we must really depart for some- uh- errands, yes. Once again, sorry for your lost Draal, your father was a very great friend of mine.”

Trollhunter? Jim thought to himself before he heard footsteps that were fading away, but at the same time heard one that is drawing closer to them. Before it was too late, Jim grabbed Toby by the arm and ran towards the exit, completely startling the creature.
Jim ran outside, into a world full of creatures and beings that were only supposed to be myths and legends, but there he was. He tried to remember where they came from, from the tiny hole he had peaked from earlier.

“Left! No- Right! No- Left!- No- Up?- Wait- Ugh!” Jim said in frustration.
The two boys went running around this mysterious world, running through the creatures that seemed just as startled as they were.
“Fleshbags?! In Trollmarket?!”

“What the--?!”

“Oh dear!

“Who had brought fleshbags here?!”

The creature that had captured them earlier is now on their tale, passing through and bumping against the other ones in an attempt to catch the two boys.
The two boys crossed paths with a creature of pale peach and white hair. The creature’s eyes grew, though no comment came out of him. The blue creature also bumped into him and in an instant, gave him a grave look.

The two boys went their way -- running left and right -- until Jim found the crystal staircase again, and they ran up to it like they’ve never ran before.
At a twist of a very fortunate fate, the wall opened up as a creature carrying -- stolen-looking -- items was entering. Before the portal could close again, Jim and Toby slipped out, back into the sunlight.

Panting, Jim looked at his phone… [8:15] “We’re late!”

“Really, Jim? ‘We’re late’ ?” Toby said as he tried to catch his breath.

“We have to go, or else they’ll question where we’ve been, it’s not like they’ll believe us if we tell the truth!” Jim explained.

“Fine, let’s go!” Toby said as he approached his bike.

“And Tobes...” Jim spoke.

“Yeah?”

“We can’t tell anyone, not yet at least,” Jim stated as he looked at Toby very seriously.

Toby looked at Jim with a concerened look “What were those things, even?”

Jim shrugged a bit “They said the place was called Trollmarket… So I’m guessting… Trolls?” he answered.

“I might need therapy for the next four years…”

The two boys grabbed their bikes and headed their way, Jim glanced back at the bridge… What the actual fuck just happened?...

 

 

“Draal!” A yell came from the white-haired creature holding an fiery-orange staff -- much like the big one in the middle of the market, “What is the meaning of this?”

“I-I can explain, Vendel!--” Draal started.

“You better!” The white troll -- Vendel -- said as he pointed his staff at Draal, “Why were there two whelps-- two human whelps just awhile ago? Explain.”

“I was getting there,” Said Draal as he cleared his throat “I was looking for my father… then I stumbled upon these two whelps. They saw me and was about to run away screaming!”

Vendel raised a brow, “Screaming?” he asked.

“Yes,” Draal confirmed.

“I don’t find this a very suitable excuse for bringing them here.”

“They could have told everyone about us!” Draal explained.

“They are whelps, Draal, human whelps... as I’ve seen, adults do not take them seriously. You just gave them even more proof my dragging them in here, and now they know.”

Draals gaze met the floor, he sighed, “What do you think I should do?” he asked.

“I think?” Vendel questioned. “Well, I think that before they manage to convince other humans that we dwell here, have the bridge watched 24/7 and limit our resources from the surface world… I suggest you find them.”

“Find them?”

“Yes, and bring them here. We shall explain to them why our existence cannot be discovered by humans -- or most humans, at this point,” Vendel ordered.

“Bring them back?!” Draal exclaimed “But--”

“You already brought them here once!” Vendel exclaimed, cutting off Draal, “The more we leave them arrogant, the more they’ll try to find a way for their own answers. This curiosity could lead to the devastation of Trollkind! Now, find them, and bring them here.”

“Yes, Vendel.”

As it turned out, Draal was right. Vendel is very mad.

Chapter Text

[“Mein Freund, ich habe das fehlende Teil 74 gefunden. Sende die Koordinaten an 92.”]

The man in a turtleneck sweater — the same man who had helped a woman just earlier this morning, Strickler — sat quietly, completely drenched in whatever he was doing. Soft sounds of typing on a keyboard filled the dim, old-fashioned room.

  [ IPA; 172.168.10.1 {send to} Alias; Scaarbach. Piece: 92. Project “Bridge”. DMS Coordinates: La; 11° 21’ 59.99” N, Lo; 142° 11’ 60.00 E |] 

[Message Sent]

“That should do it,” Strickler whispered to himself as he looked at the clock on his wall [6:20].

[Message Received]

[Decimal Degrees, mein freund]

“Ugh…” A soft voice coming from the man who was typing on his laptop.

  [ Decimal Degree Coordinates: 11.3499986 142.1999992|]

A small pop-up message came up as he was hitting the enter button.

[Message Received]

“Ugh, I’m sending you the Coordinates you wanted you oaf!” He complained, massaging the temple of his head, as he went on and opened the message. Funny, it didn’t even have any mention of who sent it on it “Scaarbach,” he muttered, annoyed.

[“Stricklander, we have a problem— ”]

Strickler’s brows furrowed at the first few words of the messages, he didn’t even need to read the rest to figure out who had sent it to him, “Nomura.”
He sighed, leaning closer as he looked at the screen “What now, you—”

“Strickler!” yelled a black-haired boy in a black and red hoodie, who abruptly came into the room without a single knock, opening the room, letting the light and noise from the outside enter. In a panic, Strickler straightened his back and slammed the laptop close, a faint crack can be heard from the other side of the room.

“What- Why are you—” The startled man tried to ask, but instead continued to face palm “Why are you here, Arcurio?” he asked, settling his hands on the table as he puts his finger together.

“Three things, Mr. Strickler,” he stated, as if emphasizing his name — or at least feeling that he was being forced to say that. “I came to give you these, you asked me to collect them before your class starts. I am your TA, after all,” he said, as he handed a two-inch stack of paper at the man, though he only gestured him to put it onto the side of his table. “I’ve listed everyone who turned in their essays, though Darci- I mean, Ms. Scott asked me if she could request an extra day, since she was sick for a week. Pelchuck didn’t do anything, while Lake and Domzalski aren’t present.”

“Thank you. I will contact Mr. Pelchuck’s mother, see if Mr. Lake and Mr. Domsalski have an excused absence and I may grant the request for Ms. Scott,” the man stated as he took the stack of paper and looked through them. “What was the other thing you wanted to tell me?” he asked.

“Oh yes, the bell for the period rang 5 minutes ago,” the boy said.

This statement, in turn, made the man’s eyes widen “What?” he asked as he looked at the clock still [6:20]? “Broken!” He exclaimed.
He rushed out of the room, taking only his pen and laptop.

“Though I have something else to tell you, Strickla- I mean, Mr. Strickler,” the boy tried to explain but Strickler was already rushing in the hallway until he was out of earshot, “There goes my ‘important news’.”

 

The day was pretty… weird, any day would if they were kidnapped by some creature that’s supposed to only be real in books, dragged into some underground civilization and was imprisoned in a span of just a little bit over an hour. But of course, it was high school and one missed class could be the end of humanity itself to these teenagers. Priorities.
Jim and Toby were now rushing into the hallways of the school as they heard the bell ring just over 5 minutes ago. If Toby hadn’t biked into that fire hydrant and tripped earlier, they could be at least a few more minutes early — though Jim also managed to slip off the gutter at some point or two too.

“Toby! C’mon, we're near the classroom!” Jim yelled, looking back at Toby who was about three feet behind him as they were running through the now-empty hallways.

Toby was panting and desperately trying to catch his breath, “Wai- wa-it,” Toby tries to say, before inhaling sharply.

Jim manages to accidentally bump into Steve, who was cutting classes in the hallway with his friends. “Ugh! Lake!” the blond-haired boy exclaimed, but Jim and Toby already made their left turn.

After a series of lefts and rights in the hallway, the two boys finally made it to the classroom, panting, but alive.

“Ah, Jim, Toby, I thought you weren’t coming,” Their teacher said, in his usual brown jacket as he was still setting up the projector.

“H-hey there Mr. Strickler! We’re- uh—” Jim tried to explain, but what was he going to say? ‘Oh, hey there Mr. Strickler! Sorry we’re late, we just got kidnapped by this horned creature from under a bridge? Can we be excused?’ sounds more like a one-way trip to a psychiatrist, better yet, a mental facility. Or probably detention for such an unbelievable ‘excuse’.

“No need to explain, Jim. I too, am somewhat tardy, we’ve barely started and you’ve missed nothing — in this class, at least,” their teacher told them and gave them a sympathetic look. “Please, you may be seated,” the teacher said as he gestured the two boys to come in the room.
Lecture started soon after

 

“The Peloponnesian war was actually two wars fought between the Spartans and Athens—”

Lecture felt like forever, though Jim wasn’t even listening. At this point, Jim was merely questioning his sanity… What if I died? And this is like my- my death dream or something, He thought to himself as he was looking for these answers on his search engine instead of listening to what their teacher is trying to tell the class. Or what if I crashed and bumped my head- no, Toby was there too! Unless we both- no, it doesn’t work that way? Does it? Wait- he thought even further as he searched for answers.

  [secret troll existence|]

“No, no, no,” Jim whispered to himself.

  [secret troll|]

“Uhhm…”

  [secret troll society|]

“Jim! Psst! Jimbo!” Jim’s research was interrupted by one Tobias Domsalksi calling for his name.

“What?” Jim asked.

“Did you find anything? about, y’know, the you-know-what,” Toby asked, turning his head to the teacher — who was now walking around — and back to Jim.

“I was getting there, Tobes,” Jim told Toby as he rolled his eyes, but his glance ultimately fell on Claire. Claire was arguably the smartest, most responsible, outgoing person in the school. For a second his thoughts, his worries, his fear went away just by looking at her.

“Jim,” a voice with a stern tone called out.

Jim turned to his back and saw his history teacher looking at him, while fidgeting his pen. Jim was caught off guard and visibly gulped at the scene.

“Do you agree with Herodotus’s tactics?” Strickler asked.

“I- uh- yes!” Jim answered in a slight panic and his voice cracked a bit.

“Hmm… which ones?” Strickler followed up a question, timing the clock, knowing that the boy’s little embarrassment will soon end in 5… 4… 3… 2… and the bell rings, perfectly calculated, like everything.
“Don’t forget to study for the quiz next week, Mr. Arcurio will be collecting the homework in the beginning of the next period,” he announced to the class, as the students exited the room.
“Jim,” he turned back at the boy, who now managed to tip off his bag from the table, causing its contents to fall out. Strickler leaned down to help the boy “There seems to be a lot in your mind lately,” he tells him.

Jim chuckled slightly “Tell me about it.”

“Hmm?” Strickler raises a brow as he looks at Jim.

He realized his mistake “Oh- it’s- uh- nothing… really. Really, nothing,” Jim explained as he shoved one of his notebooks in his bag, slightly ripping it in the process.

“Well, I know that you haven’t been paying attention all class period and I know that your A had slipped into a C- and is now on its dreadful journey to becoming an F,” His teacher explained as he helped him up. “And not just in this class too. You’ve also fallen asleep last week in class, don’t assume I didn’t notice.”

“There’s just a lot going on,” Jim tried to explain.

“You remind me of someone…” Strickler stated.

“Oh?”

“Yes, Atlas. He who was cursed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Strickler began. “And I think, just like him, you are carrying too much.”

“I mean… not that much…”

Strickler sighed and looked at Jim, “I know it’s just you and your mother, and I know you’re just trying to be there for her, I—”

“She’s trying her best to support us—” Jim cut him off, before being cut off himself.

“I know, I know. Which is why a conversation with her is well overdue,” Strickler said, as he pulled out a post-it and pen from his pocket and wrote down his number. “I believe it is about time that I talk to her — and I’m not just saying this because Principal Levit was concerned about the rate of failing students — I want to help you, Jim.” Strickler hands the post-it to Jim “Here. And remember, if you need anything, my door is always open,” Strickler smiles at the boy as he made his way to exit the room.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jim said as he headed out and continued the rest of the school day fairly normally.

 


 

 

Jim was already home, he's been on his laptop and phone (both at the same time) since he got home. The boy has been researching and looking up what he and Toby had seen, but there are no documentations about it. of course, why would there be documentations of a secret underground civilization of bull-like creatures that speaks English! Jim thought to himself as empty results among empty results come up.

Barbara, on the other hand, came home later that evening. Her red hair was a bit messier now than when she left earlier that day, but otherwise it was still tied up, the bags under her eyes seemed to darken. Being a single mother and being overworked was enough. This thing calling her name was probably just another one of life's tests on ‘how long can Barbara stay sane,’ she sighed

It was a long day for both mother and son. Barbara was still trying to figure out what the talking amulet was, researching between break hours just wouldn’t suffice. Jim couldn’t bring himself to tell his own mother about what happened, things just became too complicated, he doesn't want to drag her in this.
It was fairly late, Barbara just got home and she wanted — needed — rest, a lot of it. She had set her work coat on the handle of the stairs as she went to the kitchen and tried to make herself tea, though that didn’t work out well… she managed to spill the hot — or rather, mildly warm — water on the kitchen counter.

“Ugh…” she whispered to herself as she took a paper towel and wiped the spill. This is too much, I’m going to bed she thought to herself as she walked upstairs, leaving her coat on the hand-railing of the stairs.

Jim’s door was slightly open, he noticed footsteps that were coming upstairs.

“Mom?” Jim asked, just making sure of things.

“Oh hey kiddo. I didn’t know you were still awake,” Barbara said as she peeked through the crack of Jim’s door.

“Yeah… weird, long day,” Jim said as he looked at his laptop, finding nothing about this ‘troll society’ in his researches.

Barbara huffed a bit and rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it,” she said.

“Huh?” Jim was slightly curious on what she meant, but he figured it had something to do with a patient, “Did something happen in the ER?”

Barbara was a little surprised by the question, maybe she should tell Jim. But if Jim found out that some kid — who could probably be a schoolmate — just pulled a prank on her, he could probably get into a fight. “Oh- uh- no, not really…” Her lips became a flat line “nevermind that.” With a concerned gaze, she looked at Jim, still on his laptop late at night “Don’t overwork yourself, kiddo.”

Jim fell silent for a bit, he simply nodded. “Yes mom, love you,” he said after a few moments of silence between them.

“Love you too, Jim. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, mom,” Jim answered with a smile, as Barbara walked out to her own room.

A few hours passed, it was nearing midnight — or maybe passed midnight… but who’s counting? — and Jim was still on his laptop, desperately looking for answers. Barbara was fast asleep in her bedroom. Jim stood up and sighed. “Maybe I did hit my head,” he whispered to himself. “But Toby… he saw that too… unless of course- no, not possible… I think?” he started to question. “Ugh,” he muttered as he covered his face with his palms “I need water.” Jim stood up and went out of his room — though he did it all quietly as he didn’t want to disturb his sleeping, tired mother.

Jim made his way through the upstairs hallway, then downstairs. It was all going smoothly… until it didn’t. He slipped as he was walking down the staircase, he instinctively tried to hold on to the handrails but failed as he managed to grab on to his mother’s work coat instead. Jim fell face forward, and hit the floor, along with the coat. As Jim hit the floor, an object rolled out of his mother’s coat. It was a round, blue object, and it looked kinda cool and ancient too. He grabbed both the object and the coat, he set the coat back to where he found it but held on to the blue object to examine it further.

“Jim!?” a voice coming from upstairs called out.

“Mom!” Jim answered in a panic, as he shoved the object in his back pocket.

“Jim are you okay?” Barbara asked as she was rushing downstairs. “I heard a loud bang? Is everything alright?” she asked with a concerned expression.

“I- uh- yeah, mom… I’m fine, promise.”

Barbara was his mother, of course she didn’t believe that, but took his word for it. “Okay, Jim. But whatever happened, just be careful next time… okay?”

“Okay, mom,” Jim answered as Barbara took one last look at him before going back upstairs. Jim followed after a few moments. Maybe the best thing for them both — at this point — is sleep, it has been a very long day.

Oh, but it was going to become even longer.

As Jim was walking upstairs, he hears rustling coming from outside. Like any other curious teen, Jim decides to take a peek outside the darkness of the night from the window by the kitchen. He looks around for a few moments, after seeing that there was nothing, he decides that maybe there was nothing. However, he heard the rustle again. Jim decides to step outside to see what was going on, when he got to the origin of the noise, there was nothing… at first. He looked deeper into the darkness and found a pair of glowing eyes that looked back at him, the same pair of glowing eyes he had seen before, — under that bridge — just earlier today.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” Jim yelped.

It was that troll again, damn! When will this day end?! Jim thought to himself. It had found him. “Come with me fleshbag!” it exclaimed.
How? Why? What?... so many questions left unanswered. The troll-creature chased Jim, but he managed to slip into his backyard. Jim tried to get in but the backdoor was locked from the inside “Fuck!” he exclaimed as he tried to climb up the roof of the house but it was simply too high for his reach. The troll came around the corner and grabbed Jim by the foot as the boy was desperately trying to hold on. Jim yelled as loud as his lungs could allow “HELP!” This distress call alarmed the horned creature. The lights from inside turned on and a worried call came from the house “Jim!”

The troll let go of Jim’s foot — or more precisely, his entire leg — and rushed over the fence. “Bushigal!” the creature exclaimed as it disappeared into the darkness. Jim was on the grass when Barbara opened up the backdoor.

“Jim! Jim, are you okay?” a worried cry came from Barbara “what- what happened?” she asked, as she helped Jim to his feet.

“I-I uh-” Jim stuttered, tell her! Just tell her! the tiny voice inside him told him. Jim looked at his mother, she was concerned, distraught, her face was pale, her bags were deep and dark, her ocean blue eyes became more prussian, she was tired, but she was there for him… like she always was. “It was… a burglar! But- but I- uh- I-I think I scared them off!” Jim lied.

“A burglar?!” Barbara yelped. “Maybe we should call 9-1-1 or at least the police- I could—”

“It’s fine mom, I’m fine,” Jim reassured her, as she pulled her closer for a hug.

“Oh, Jim…” Barbara said softly. “I promised you I’ll never let anything happen to you… and I plan on keeping that promise.” She gave her little not-so-little boy a kiss on his forehead. “Let’s go to sleep.”

Jim fell in silence and simply nodded.
They went back into the house. Barbara looked back into the yard, the dirt and grass were messed up, as if some animal went on ahead and ran around in it, the fence was slightly tilted with some scratches on it… that wasn’t a burglar.

 

The next day seemed more normal, considering yesterday’s event. Barbara had left early. Jim on the other hand, left to get to the study session, though Toby declined his offer to go with him as he was still — as he put it — a little traumatized. As he was fixing his stuff, he took his phone and tried to put it in his back pocket but it was blocked by something else. A medal? No- An amulet? Why does mom have— He looked at the clock, [7:05] and remembered that the study session starts at 7:15. He stopped questioning what the object in his hands were and decided to put it in the front pouch of his bag. Jim took his bike from the garage and left.

Jim actively avoided the canal today… for the right reasons. He managed to get to school without being kidnapped and chased.
Jim was passing by the hallways in order to get to the library, for some reason, he took a wrong turn, probably because of how empty the school was. On the way to the library, he passed by Strickler’s office and stared at the office door for a brief moment. maybe he knows about these trolls and creatures and stuff, he had lived here longer than anyone I know… he thought to himself.

Before thinking twice, Jim knocked on his history professor’s door.

“Come in,” an answer came from the other side. Jim slowly turned the door knob and opened the door to see Mr. Strickler fixing up a pile of paperwork. “Oh Hello, Jim,” hr greeted.

“Oh, I-uh, umm— ” this was a mistake “Hi, Mr. Strickler!”

Strickler noticed the unease that Jim had as he entered. “Are you alright?” he asked as he gestured Jim towards the chair in front of the desk.

“Oh, uh- yeah!” Jim answered as he sat down, not being able to find the words that he needed. “Actually no— wait-” he tried to explain. This amount of uncertainty left Strickler somewhat concerned on what has happened to Jim. Strickler opened his mouth slightly but closed it again shortly after, after not being able to find the correct words for the situation. “What I meant to say was…” Jim finally began, “that something weird happened,” he stated.

Teenagers and all these nonsense Strickler thought as he set his paperwork aside. “What do you mean by weird?” he asked.

“Okay!” Jim exclaimed, raising his hands., “There was this- this guy! And he was huge, and blue, and he had these- these crazy eyes!” the boy exclaimed with both enthusiasm and fear. To Strickler, the first few descriptions seemed like it was just a prank pulled off by another student — perhaps Pelchuck — but Jim continued further. “And he told me to come with him!”

“Mhm,” Strickler said, reassuring that he was listening. “And what else?” he asked.

“But my- my mom, she- uh- opened the lights and it ran away!” he explained, “and it, like, yelled in this weird language… I think it said something like Bashgal? Or something like that!”

Strickler’s eyes widened when Jim told him what this ‘guy’ did. It said ‘Bushigal’, he almost corrected Jim, why would a troll — or at least someone who knows trollish — visit Jim?. “And why do you think this ‘guy’ visited you, Young Atlas?” he asked, out of pure curiosity.

“Young Atlas? Wait, nevermind. I- I’m not… sure,” Jim stated. Knowing his mistake of saying that, knowing that he’ll be asked more follow-up questions, he looked around and saw a board game sitting next to the window of Strickler’s office… “Probably because of the chess match!” he lied, trying his best to make an excuse.

This puzzled Strickler even further, Jim was trying to divert the conversation, this seemed to be for the better. “Chess… match?” he asked with a brow raised.

“Yeah, cuz, I- uh…” Jim tried to explain, think Jim! think! his inner voice called out. “I won a chess game! And he was probably the sore loser I beat! Yeah… and he could be- uh- I mean, maybe he wanted… revenge?” That was pathetic, he thought to himself.

“Hmm,” Strickler started. “I see why this might have you so perturbed.”

“You… do?” Jim asked.

“Yes, this new hobby — chess — got you to get your mind off of the stressful things you do. But some people just don’t like it when you win… They always want what you have, and they’ll do anything to get you out of the picture,” Strickler stated all too well. He wasn’t just talking to Jim, but to himself as well. The world he lives in is a competition, it’s all a competition and he’s too far on top to let it crumble down now. “Just be careful on what you get yourself into, you might not be able to get out.”

“Yeah…” Jim didn’t know what he meant, but felt like it was a nice thing to think about otherwise.

The bell for the passing period rang and Jim took the bag he placed on Strickler’s desk. “Oh, uh, Mr. Strickler… thanks for the advice. I really like talking to you.” After taking his bag, Jim went on ahead to the exit of the room.

“Always,” Strickler states with a smile. He was about to turn away, but in a twist of fate, the sun shone against a blue object inside Jim’s bag. His eyes widened, he knew all too well what this object was and it was in his arm’s reach. Jim exited the room leaving Strickler perplexed.

“Jim… is the new Trollhunter?”

Chapter Text

“You did, what?” a displeased expression was painted on the white troll’s face as he asked what happened last night, he might as well regret getting involved in young Draal’s little ‘errand,’ but to say that to shelter the safety of Trollmarket was highly dependent on whether he could find this fleshbag before it blurts out everything it thinks it knows, was another story.

“I perfectly tracked the fleshbag and tried to take him here, just like you said,” Draal explained himself. “I told him to come, but he screamed!”

told him? You didn’t even bother to ask him? Hmm?” Vendel stated as he walked around the now-embarrassed Draal.

“I- I did not,” Draal stuttered.

“Well then, that would likely explain the panic.” Vendel glared at Draal with a grave look. “I suggest you find him, and instead of kidnapping the whelp, you ask him to come with you. Brute force is only needed when necessary.”

“What do you suppose I do?” Draal asked, “It is not like he will come with me…”

“The whelps will want answers, only we can give it to him,” Vendel stated as he shoves Draal out of the Heartstone Hall. “If they agree, bring them here.”

“If they don’t?” Draal asked as he was exiting the hall.

“Oh, I am certain they will. Now go.”

“Where will I find these whelps?” Draal asked before Vendel could depart.

“That is no longer my concern,” the white trolled answered irkingly. “Try looking for someone who has answers!”

Draal simply nodded as Vendel walked away, someone who knows? he thought, who would know where humans go in their waking hours?... “Blinky!” he exclaimed to himself as he rushed out of the entrance of the hall and went out to look for someone.

He rushed to the scholar’s library. “Blinky!” Draal called out “are you here?”

“Yes, yes!” an answer came from the pile of books on the corner of the room. The six-eyed troll — Blinky — stepped away from all the clutter made of books and scripts. “How may I help you, Draal?” he asked, as he was putting aside the books he held in his hands.

“Do you know where whelps be by the day?” Draal asked, following Blinky with his gaze.

“Well, I have observed that they go to this- uhm- structure, they call it ‘school’... It is where humans go to be educated,” Blinky stated “though the relevance escapes me.”

“And where do I find this ‘school’ you speak of?” Another question came from Draal.

“Well, I suggest follow the whelps…” Blinky suggested. “Though I must say that these structures are filled with both human whelps and adults, it might help if you simply wait for them to depart,” Blinky warned.

“Thank you, Blinky,” Drall answered, though he realized, wait, how does Blinky know about the whelps? “How do you— ” he tried to ask.

“Most, if not all, knows about the incident, Draal,” Blinky answered before Draal could even finish. “I suggest you keep your little ‘mission’ undisclosed.”

Draal fell in silence, he had embarrassed himself time and time again. The amulet hasn’t even called to him yet, maybe because he wasn’t fit to wield the mantle of the Trollhunter. He sighed as another troll entered, the troll was taller and bigger than most, he had moss-green fur. Aaarrrgghh was one who had a gentle demeanor despite his sheer size and strength.

“Draal,” Aaarrrgghh said as he nodded at him as a welcome.

“Ah, yes. Aaarrrgghh!” Blinky exclaimed as he noticed Aaarrrgghh’s entry. “Well, Draal the Deadly. My friend and I have some errands to run as well.”

Blinky and Aaarrrgghh left the room. Draal was somewhat suspicious of this, as the two only ever ran errands for the Trollhunter. He simply shook his head and did not mind that. He had his own problems to worry about. He headed out and did what Blinky suggested he’d do. He followed one of the whelps on the way to this ‘school’ and waited.

 


 

Jim was in school, the rest of the day went as smoothly as it could have. Strickler seemed to be avoiding eye contact with him during the duration of his history period, probably because of his ‘crazy story’. Steve has been eyeing him all day, which was getting really uncomfortable. Steve would look at Jim and suddenly break a pencil, it was rather… disturbing. Revs Arcurio, Strickler’s TA, had been following him all day, which was another thing to add to the ‘weird things that’s happening’ list. Toby was already calm with the situation, until he told him what had happened the night prior.

“But what if it comes back?” Toby asked.

“I can handle it, Tobes,” Jim answered, as he constantly looks at his shoulders to find the snitch TA on the corner of his eye.

“Yeah… you, but what about me?” Toby asked, pointing at himself. “I can’t do- whatever you did!” he exclaimed.

“Well I didn’t really—” he tries to counter, but noticed that the TA was nearing them, as if wanting to know what they were talking about. Jim turned around and exclaimed “Okay! That’s it. What’s up with you dude!?” he questioned, but not letting him answer “You’ve been following me all day!”

“Well, uh- not all day, persé— ” the TA tried to counter, but was immediately cut off by Jim.

“What do you want, Reverent?” Jim asked, Tobias was standing next to him sharing the same curious face.

“Well, I- uh…” Revs hesitantly said, he looked around the hallway where they passed and saw a distant sight posters of auditions for Romeo and Juliet, “I was uh- going to ask if thoust wanted to be Romeo of fair Verona!” he said, gesturing his hands as if he was a servant from the 1582 “Ms. Janeth and the rest of the Drama class were having a hard time getting boys to audition,” he explained.

“Wait, you’re not in Drama class… are you auditioning for the play?” Jim asked.

Revs was somewhat startled by the question, damn, I didn’t think this through! he thought. “Well I- uh, yes! I am auditioning for uh… Tybalt,” he stated, Great! Now I have to audition for this play!

“Oh, uh, I’ll think about it…” Jim answered warily.

“I suggest you do, I heard Claire is auditioning for Juliet.”

“Wait,” Jim said. “she is?” he asked

“Yes,” Reverent answered as he turned away from the two boys. “And unless you’ve seen or read the play, you know that there will be a kissing scene in it… might be your only chance,” he taunted in a sing-song manner. at least I know where you’ll be this coming Thursday, makes my job easier

After a few moments of thinking, Jim spoke “I… think I’ll try it out, seize the moment, amirite?”

“Great! I have to go now,” Revs answered as he rushed away and passed by the Romeo and Juliet poster and glared at it. Damn you, Stricklander.

 

Okay, this time… the rest of the day did go smoothly — aside from the fact that Jim felt like they were being followed home, but Toby suggested that was just his anxiety kicking in, specially from what happened the previous night. The whole day played out like so:
Jim got to meet Claire in the study sesh, he managed to last the whole day without sleeping in class, Toby and he managed to get around Steve’s lunch deathtrap, they managed to shoo the TA stalker away… and the day was almost ending, what could possibly go wrong? Answers would vary.

Jim and Toby, on their bikes, were on their way home as they actively try to avoid dark alleys and the canal — especially the canal. Jim had invited Toby for dinner since his Nana wasn’t home for the week, and he simply didn’t want his best friend living off of hot pockets for the remainder of the week. They got to the house in one piece. It was quiet, Barbara wasn’t home yet. Both the boys settled down their bags in the living room, though Jim more likely threw his. This action caused a few things to fall out his bag, a few not-so-important things, a few important ones and a very important one. Jim didn’t notice, nor did he care enough to, it was already a long day as it was… and it was only Tuesday!

“So?” Toby asked, breaking the silence.

“ ‘So,’ what?” Jim asked in return as he was puzzled on what Toby was trying to tell him.

“Your research, did you find anything?” Toby said, as he went straight to the fridge to check it.

“Nothing.” Jim followed behind Toby and leaned on the kitchen counter. “I couldn’t find anything…” he told Toby.

“I see you wish for answers,” a scruff voice coming from the shadows from outside the window suddenly stated, startling both the boys.

Jim saw those eyes and fangs and stone-like skin again. “Holy F-fudgeface!” Toby exclaimed. Toby stood frozen at the scene, Jim was inching closer to the phone he placed a few feet away from him.

“Wait! Flesh- uh… humans! I have come here not to kidnap you,” Draal explained before the two boys could do anything — if they could have done anything in the first place.

“H-h-he c-can ta-alk?” Toby stammered as he whispered to Jim.

“Didn’t we discuss that part already?” Jim whispered back.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Toby said sarcastically “I was too busy running for my life!”

They had a little dispute, but both their gazes fell back to the creature that stood before them. “Wh-what. Do. You. Waaaant?” Jim asked, in an unsettling manner.

“Just in case you were ignorant enough, I may need to remind you that I can understand you very clearly,” The blue troll said, crossing his arms and visibly fixing his posture even from beyond the window.

Jim crossed his arms as well, mirroring the troll. “Well, you never told us that.”

“Observance is the key, whelp,” Draal stated. “At least, that’s what my father always tells me…” he trailed off.

“Well?” Toby spoke, both Jim and the troll’s eyes gazed at him.

“Well, what?” the troll asked.

“No introductions?— Whatever, me first. I’m Toby.”

“Ah yes, I am Draal, Draal the Deadly,” Draal stated “son of Kanjigar the Courageous.” He glanced at Jim “and you?”

Jim was flabbergasted with the ‘—the Deadly’ part, he could have sworn he heard that before when they were in that cavern but was taken away from his wandering thoughts as the troll repeated his question. “Me?... I- uh- I am Jim… uh- son of Barbara?”

“Really dude?” Toby said.

Jim glared at Toby, then he turned his gaze to Draal and met his eyes. “A while ago you asked if we wanted answers…”

“That is true,” Draal reassured him.

“Well… I — we — want answers. Can you tell us?” Jim asked as he leaned out the window.

“Only if you come with me.”

“Wait,” Jim said as he untangled his crossed arms. “Where?” he asked, raising a brow.

“Trollmarket,” the blue troll stated.

“Wait, you mean—” Toby tried to ask.

“Yes, the cavern with all the crystals.”

Jim and Toby took a moment and looked at each other. Toby was waiting for Jim’s decision as he quirked a brow at Jim. “Well…?” Toby asked.
Jim looked at Draal, “If we go with you… will we come back?”

“Of course,” Draal said in a certain tone. “I’ll return you both in your dwellings by nightfall.”

“Well then,” Jim said as he rushed out of the house. “Let’s go, Tobes!” Jim called out on Toby, who eagerly followed behind him.

They were now walking into the woods as a detour to the canal. “Just to be sure,” Toby stated “You won’t… eat us, right?”

“Oh, dear Deya, no,” Draal said. “I am no Gumm Gumm.”

“Gumm… Gumm?” Jim asked.

“I will tell you when we get there,” Draal told them.

“Wait! Let me just…” Jim said as he rushed upstairs to quickly get something. Not a minute later, he came back down “Okay, c’mon!”

The boys went out with the creature, they were unsure of this action. One does not simply tag along with a creature that they didn’t even know existed a three days ago, and the one that tried to kidnap them at that matter. But curiosity kills the cat… Jim also set the police on speed dial just in case.

 


 

“And where have you been?” Strickler demanded and he stood on the grass, gazing at the open and empty field.

“Running your little errands, where else?” answered the boy — in his same old black and red hoodie — with little to no tone of respect.

“Don’t speak to your superior like that boy, it might get you killed.”

“Superior?” Revs chuckled. “I, a disgrace, would love the taste of death.”

We are NOT having this conversation again, Strickler rolled his eyes at the response and turned the subject back. He raised a brow, “What errands?” he asked for clarification, he gave the boy a lot these days, especially now that the ‘project’ was near completion.

“Y’know… papers, papers and more papers!”

Strickler furrowed his brows at the boy’s ludicrous answer. “What of the boy, Arcurio?”

“Caught me following him, had to make an excuse…”

Strickler looked as the boy with an unamused expression. “And…?”

“And now I have to audition for Tybalt for the play!” Revs exclaimed.

“Not that!” Strickler massaged the bridge of his nose. “I meant ‘What did you find?’” he clarified.

“Oh… nothing,” Revs shrugged. “I don’t think he even knows what he has in his possession.”

“Not yet.

“First human Trollhunter, huh? That’s a game changer,” the boy stated as he put both his hands in the pocket of his hoodie. “Have you consulted the brute about this?”

“…you’re right, I haven’t.” Strickler put his hand on his chin and spoke, “call Nomura and tell her to tell him to meet me up where the last Trollhunter was felled, we have something to discuss.”

Revs walked away knowing exactly what that brute — the prince of Gumm Gumms — will do the moment he finds out who the next Trollhunter is. “This is too soon, there’s too little we know,” he said under his breath, just barely out of Strickler’s earshot. He knew he could hear him.

 


 

It was now about 7 PM. Barbara was ending her shift before she gets called up again. Barbara gets to the parking lot and opens her car and enters, she rested her head on the headrest and pulled out her phone.

[Message Received]

She opens it.

[Jim: Hey mom! Having a sleepover at Toby’s, love you.]

Barbara smiles at the message, knowing that Jim had time to tell her what he’s doing. Times today was hard, teens would just go out into a whole new world without telling their parents, leaving them worried sick, hiding secrets from them, for that, she was thankful. This was really important to her, especially what happened yesterday — or a while ago, since it was a bit past midnight.

Barbara drove to her house, it was a quick and smooth drive. She was tired and worn out from a long day of work. She parked along the driveway and went up the porch of the house, with the keys clinging, she opened the door. It was dark, cold and quiet, the scent of a half-burnt hot pocket came from the kitchen — more precisely, the microwave. She turned on the lights to find that the two boy’s backpacks were sitting on the floor, Jim’s backpack was tilted as some of his books can’t even be considered to be inside anymore. As the responsible mother that she is, she takes Toby’s bag and sets it upright on the sofa. She did the same for Jim’s bag, taking it and setting it up. As she was on her way to the pencil that had rolled up to the other side of the room, she stepped on the blue, circular object — the amulet — and picked it up. It was glowing brighter than before.

Barbara went outside and into the backyard for a breath of fresh air, the amulet illuminated against the darkness of the night as she held it up. It was so… unusual, intriguing… bewildering. The markings on the outer edge of the amulet glowed and they changed from these strange letters into… English. Barbara squinted at this, and began to read the words to herself.
“For the Glory of Merlin…” She turned the amulet counter-clockwise as she read it “…Daylight is mine of command.”

The amulet started to hover into the air, and it glowed even brighter. She began to levitate as a bright blue light surrounded her, she spread her arms open as she closed her eyes. What is this? she asked herself. She felt cold metal covering her body and face. She felt her feet touch the ground again, and she opened her eyes. Barbara was now in a full silver armor with blue markings, it was complete with everything you’d see a knight would wear. It felt… magical… powerful. Barbara tried to touch her face, but instead ended up touching a mask, a helmet that covered her face. She looked at her hands and as she was doing so, it began to glow and a sword — that seemingly came out of the light — formed solid in her hands. It was heavy, Barbara had to use both her hands to lift it, all her feelings of consternation were suppressed by bewilderment. “What the hell is this thing?” she whispered to herself.

”Oh great Gronka Morka! She did it!” Barbara heard someone or something exclaim from beyond her fences.

Barbara — by instinct — widened her stance and raised the glowing, sharp sword in her hands. “Who’s there?!” she demanded. “Show yourself!... or yourselves- uh- however many you are!”

With her words, a tall yale-blue creature came out of the shadows, it had four arms, stone-like skin, six-eyes, horns, and fangs poking out of his mouth. Barbara stiffened and gulped at the sight of it. She tried to back up but was blocked by another creature, it was bigger and hairier than the other one. Her eyes widened at the scene. I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming! she repeated to herself in her thoughts.

“Master Barbara!” The six-eyed creature broke the silence. Barbara yelled and tried to run away, but was blocked by the giant paws of the other creature behind her. She screamed once more and tried to run the other way but was blocked again.

“Or do you prefer Lady Barbara instead?” The blue creature asked. Barbara didn’t — couldn’t — answer as she was now hyperventilating. “Calm now Trollhunter,” the creature tried to soothe her.

“T-t-troll- wha-” Barbara stammered, What the living hell?! “Who— What are you?!” she demanded.

“I, Lady Barbara, am a troll,” the blue troll said enthusiastically. “And as for who we are, well… I am Blinky,” he pointed at himself. “And that...” he pointed at the larger troll behind her “…Aaarrrgghh.”

Blinky approached Barbara as her breathing went back to normal. “W-wait, I- uh… What exactly is happening?” Barbara asked, lowering her shoulders as the mask on her head opens up just enough to see her face. Her sword turned to light and disappeared in the darkness.

“You, Lady Barbara, have been chosen to be the new Trollhunter!” Blinky stated.

This statement both puzzled and shocked Barbara. “Wait, you said that you are a troll,” she said, pointing at the troll.

“Yes, that is very much what I said,” Blinky reassured her.

“Then why am I hunting trolls? Does that mean I have to hunt you?”

“Oh, by Deya’s Grace, no!” Blinky chuckled a bit at the misunderstanding. “Not the most creative names… But, no.”

“Hunt bad Trolls,” the large troll — Aaarrrgghh — stated.

The statement didn’t really put Barbara at ease. “Wait, did you say… bad trolls? There are bad trolls?!

“Apparently, yes,” Blinky answered.

“What even is a ‘Trollhunter’?” Barbara asked.

Aaarrrgghh looked at Blinky and nodded, Blinky nodded back and answered, “A Trollhunter is someone who protects both the human and troll world, they have been chosen by the amulet — the very one you have on your chest — to wield the mantle and be the protector of both worlds.”

“Wh- Why me?!” Barbara exclaimed as her glasses — that were previously tucked in the mask — was beginning to slip off. “Can’t I just… give it to someone else? Trollhunting isn’t really in my resumé. Plus, I already have a job.”

“I’m afraid not, it is bound to you! This honor will be something you will have, until death.” Blinky explained.

until death… it rang in her ears. Death? Did he just say death? He just said DEATH! “I- I need to uh- s-sit down,” Barbara said, as she did so.

There was a moment of silence between the three… “Hey Dr. Lake! I’ve been knocking for the past five minutes. No answer, but I saw that there was some sort of light coming from here so I figu—” until it was broken by an expected-unexpected visit.

“Holy sh-mokes!” it was her, the girl who had promised to bring Barbara chorizos ‘sometime this week’, well apparently she didn’t specify at this very moment! The teen was now stiffened, slightly shaking. “I- Dr—” she didn’t know how to react. The doctor who she talked to just yesterday is now wearing a full armor — that was glowing, might I add — and that she was with two- two- things.

Claire pulled out her phone and Barbara caught that she was dialing 9-1-1. “Wait!” Barbara exclaimed before claire could call the number. Claire’s wide eyes fell on the doctor. “I- I can explain!” Barbara stammered, “well, uh- they can explain!” she said, pointing at the two trolls.

“Fear not, young human!” Blinky told the shocked Claire. “We are trolls and we will not hurt you.”

“T-t-t—” Claire looked away and rubbed her eyes. “No, no, no, no—”

“I understand the perplexity of the situation,” Blinky began, looking at the two women “I shall explain everything. But first I think we should go in and sit down, shall we?” he eyes Barbara as he gestured two of his four arms at the door.

Claire agreed to stay for awhile and the four — two trolls and two humans — went inside and sat down on the sofa in the living room for some — or rather, a lot — of explaining. This week just couldn’t get any longer, can it?

Oh, but it can.

Chapter Text

Ah yes, a nice Wednesday morning. It was the middle of the week and there is simply so much to do, especially for this history professor who already had too much on his plate. In his office, Strickler sat in tranquility — well, half-tranquility — as he leaned back on his office chair. Last night wasn’t the most peaceful of nights, he didn’t really have a nice conversation with the brute he faced. Strickler told him he had a plan, but the other insisted — no, demanded — to know, and as if there was anything he could do anything about that. In all honesty, he could — would — care less for the Gumm Gumm prince if it wasn’t for his father. But it didn’t matter, if Bular wished to kill the boy, he may, though it might cause slight turmoil, he can still clean up after him — despite the amount of pain working will cost it. And if Bular succeeds in terminating Jim and getting the amulet, it’ll just be another thing done in his ‘to-do’ list and the boy will just be another picture on a milk carton, just another flyer on the streets… just another empty seat.


Strickler leaned back — fidgeting the pen in between his fingers — thought about this, it wasn’t the first time Bular had killed a human whelp out of sheer hunger. How tragic, he was a dedicated, hardworking and determined boy too, always trying to pass the class even though he knew nothing, always there for others despite having so much on their plate… the boy reminds him so much of the Lakes, not just Jim, but his dedicated and hard-working mother as well. It was truly unfortunate to end it like this, end it in death and loss. Pity, he had grown fond of the boy. But it was worth it for his kinsmen’s freedom, was it not?... was it? All these thoughts wandered around Strickler, but a knock on the door pulled him back to his seat.

“Come in,” he answered, trying not to sound too annoyed.

A man — the Principal — peeked through the door before fully entering. “Good morning Mr. Strickler,” he greeted.

“Oh, good morning Principal Levit, how may I be of your assistance?” Strickler asked as he fixed the lapels of his jacket.

“Well,” Levit began, putting his left hand inside his pocket, “A lot of students have been reported to be failing your class, though more are failing math… I think this is something I should also look into. Is it something I should be worried about?”

“Oh dear, no,” Strickler answered immediately. “I have come in contact with most, if not all, the parents of students that have their grades in a D to F range. I’ve also seen to it that I contact parents of students that had dropped a full letter grade.”

“Good, good,” Levit said. “Just be sure you cover all of them,” he stated as he made his way out of the office and shutting the door once more.

all of them, the words rang in Strickler’s ears as he took out his phone and took a quick glance. Come to think of it, Jim’s mother hasn’t contacted him at all yet. Maybe Jim forgot to give the number, reasonable. Or maybe he didn’t give it on purpose, though it was understandable considering everything that is occuring in his life, as well as the most recent one — especially the most recent one.

Strickler took the laptop that was sitting at the corner of his desk and skimmed through the list of student profiles until he found Jim’s profile. He pulled out his phone and dialed the number that showed on the ‘parents’ section. He rang the number, no answer. He It took two tries and a few rings, Strickler thought that Jim’s mother may be busy — considering her job and all — but she eventually answered.

“Oh, hello,” Strickler greeted when the call was finally picked up. “is this Ms- I mean, Dr. Lake?” he corrected himself after seeing her profession.

“Oh I- uh- hi, um… who is this?” the woman on the other side of the call asked.

Strickler chuckled a bit, realizing his mistake. “Oh, pardon me, I’m Jim’s history teacher, Mr—” he was cut off even before he could introduce himself.

“Wait?!” she exclaimed, as any worried mother would. “Is this about Jim? What happened? Should I go there- or, or—”

“It’s fine, Dr. Lake,” Strickler tried to calm the situation. Though, the woman’s voice seemed so familiar, though he’d been through so many parent-teacher conferences that that might be the reason why… but— nevermind, he simply shook his head to get his mind back to the topic. “I simply want to discuss about Jim… Would over the call be okay? Or would you rather have a house visit, I wouldn’t mind.”

Strickler heard a soft sigh coming from the other side of the call. She answered, “I think… I’d like to talk about this in person, I think it’s more suitable, not to mention more professional that way, don’t you?”

“Ah yes, of course. Well, shall I pass by sometime today?” he asked. “If you’re not too busy, that is,” he continued.

“I- um- yes?” she answered hesitantly, he could have sworn that he heard her say ‘shh!’ over the line but it was too muffled. “Yeah, I think that would work…”

“Well then, I shall meet you soo—” he tried to tell her but was cut off when the call ended abruptly. The sudden end of the call puzzled Strickler, but realizing that he might have disturbed her during one of her shifts, he decides to shake this off. Jim always told me she was busy…

With that ‘meeting’ set, it gave Strickler an idea. If he could get close to the Trollhunter’s mother, he may be able to get close to the Trollhunter — with that, the amulet — no blood will unnecessarily be spilt, not until the reign of Gunmar, of course. But ‘till then, This could work. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Strickler put his phone back in his pocket as he looked at the clock — that was now fixed — on his office wall, there was still a lot of time left before school began. There was still time to grade the late essays, think of questions for next week’s quiz, review his study guide for his students, look up how Scaarbach is doing, make sure his colleagues aren’t trying to murder him (though not likely since it was daytime, but still) or maybe he could just go to the teacher’s lounge for a nice cup of warm coffee… yes, that would be great.

 


 

“What was that for?!” Barbara exclaimed as she set her phone down. Blinky — weird name, but weird would be normal at this point — decided it was best if she didn’t see her son’s history teacher later.

“I told you, you will have to have training later, Lady Barbara,” the six-eyed troll countered.

Honestly, what’s up with this troll calling me ‘Lady’?Barbara thought, though the term didn’t bother her. She simply sighed. “Well, you didn’t have to do that, it was rude!” she exclaimed. “Also, my son’s education is just as important to me as this-” she said, pointing at the amulet that was set on the coffee table the previous night “-this ‘duty’,” she told them. She approached it and picked it up afterwards.

She was frustrated, still a bit confused and most of all… worried, but to blame her was to blame her actions, though truly this was the work of fate and destiny… and Merlin. Last night was not usual for Aaarrrgghh and Blinky, they would usually just tag along the Trollhunter. But last night, they had to explain what a troll even is! But it seems like Barbara was more stupefied with the situation.
To Barbara, last night was… how do you define this?... Weird. It was definitely the kind of night that an overworked doctor would want — even more so, not the one she would expect — and the weirdest part of it all, was that somehow, it made sense. Blinky sat down with Barbara and Claire last night, explaining everything — well, mostly everything — to them and quite frankly, everything they discussed somehow filled in missing puzzle pieces regarding the strange occurrences in their town. The presumed sightings of ‘living rock creatures’, cats suddenly going missing, weird ‘magical’ occurrences, everything. Claire suggested that she’d go home because it was getting late and it would be best to not let suspicions rise. The teen promised that everything that was said and happened inside the Lake household would stay there and that she would simply come back again for what Blinky referred to as a ‘critical need-to-know information’. Blinky had mentioned that it was quite crucial that trolls keep their existence a secret, though he did not give any reasons as to why that is… perhaps a discussion for some other time. But ‘right now’ was a different story.

The two trolls stood in silence at Barbara’s anger. “Wait… Why are you even here?!” She asked.

“Well,” Blinky began “you, Lady Barbara, told us you needed rest, therefore me and my friend explained and decided that we should just visit you afterwards,” he explained.

Barbara remembered she did say that, the thought soothed her a bit “And Claire?”

“She said she’s come back today, though I do not see her anywhere!,” Blinky answered.

“Nice girl,” Aaarrrgghh commented on the side.

“Yes, yes. She was,” Blinky said as he took a quick glance at and looked back “but I don't see h—”

A *ding* from the doorbell cut off Binky’s statement. Barbara walked slowly to the door to assess whom it may be, she signaled the two trolls to hide inside the kitchen just in case it was someone(else) unexpected. She opened the door ever so slightly and peeked through the tiny crack. Thankfully, it was only Claire — whom they now gladly expect.

“H-hey Dr. Lake,” the teen greeted, not knowing whether to be enthusiastic or worried about the situation at hand. “May I…?”

“Oh, yes! Of course,” Barbara stated as she realized she was still peeking through the hardly-opened door. “Come in.” She gestured the teen inside and called out on the two trolls hiding in the kitchen. “Uh, Blinky? Aaarrrgghh? It’s only Claire…”

“Finally!” Blinky exclaimed, coming out of his ‘hiding spot’, if you can call it that — he was just simply ducking next to the counter, but nevermind that. “You are finally here,” he said, “we can now continue what we’ve discussed yesterday,” he told them, putting his hands — at a pair — together. “Now, where did we end the discussion?” Blinky backtracked on what they had already talked about and those that still needed to be discussed. This lasted for a few moments, he turned his back on the two humans to try and re-think where they were.

Barbara took a glance at Claire, she was surprised the teen even showed up today. If she was her in that situation, she would have just called it off as a weird hallucination after bumping her head and headed home to sleep. But this one was a little different — really different. She came back to the house despite what craziness was happening. “You actually came?” The words unexpectedly floated out of Barbara’s mouth as she was looking at Claire.

“Well… I needed to know…” Claire said, there was a hint of uncertainty in her tone.

“Know… what?” Barbara cocked her head, asking in utter curiosity on what she meant. She turned her body towards the teen.

“Know more about this!” Claire exclaimed, her eyes glistening with enthusiasm and excitement. “I just c-can’t believe it! Trolls exist!... I guess Eli wasn’t crazy after all.” She paused to breathe for a brief moment. “And- and you! Dr. Lake, th-they said you had this magical destiny!...” She gasps, “Magic exists!”

“Hmm… I see,” Barbara agreed with her, she felt the same after all. “But they told me it’s dangerous… shouldn’t you — Oh, I don’t know — distance yourself from this? Your parents could be worried!” She stated, as any parent would understand. Your child fraternizing with magical creatures isn’t really a news you can describe as ‘acceptable’. Good thing Jim isn’t here, she thought quietly to herself.

“Well I- I mean, this doesn’t happen everyday!” Claire explained.

Barbara had a weird and worrying feeling that the teen would want to tag along with her, she can’t! Blinky explained to them yesterday that trolls — even normal ones without some ‘magical destiny’ — have lived ‘underground’ for centuries and that humans, apparently, aren’t really in their good graces. That doesn’t really look good fo—

“Aha!” Blinky exclaimed, raising a finger in the air.

“Aha… what?” Claire asked. Both Claire and Barbara now facing Blinky as he took their attention.

“Aha, dear Claire… because I found out what else I needed to tell Lady Barbara,” Blinky explained.

Before Blinky could begin another round of ‘lecture the Trollhunter about trolls’, Barbara interjected. “Please, Blinky, just Barbara… or just say Doctor — or Dr. Lake — if you may.”

“Well then, Doctor Lady Barbara,” Blinky began “We still have to discuss about what trollhunting actually is!”

“Didn’t you already say that?” Barbara asked, pushing her glasses back in position as it was slipping off. He did though, it was the first thing he told her. Why come back to that now when there’s still so much to learn?

“Yeah,” Claire interjected, “You said a Trollhunter is a protector of both worlds—”

It was unlike Blinky to cut someone off, but for the sake of clarification, he did so. “Sorry for this, but I must clear up that is told you what a Trollhunter is, but not what they do,” he explained. “You are correct dear Claire, but I have yet to explain their duties.”

“Okay…” Barbara approached Blinky and Aaarrrgghh, who was standing next to him) and crossed her arms. “What are these ‘duties’?” she asked.

“Do not fret, Doctor Lady Barbara, I was just getting there,” Blinky said.

‘Doctor Lady Barbara’? Okay, can we go back? Barbara silently thought to herself.

“You see,” Blinky began, he also began to walk around as if lecturing them, “A Trollhunter lives and fights by three rules. Rule number one, always be afraid.”

“Wouldn’t that be kind of the opposite impression of what a ‘protector’ should be?” Barbara asked.

“Fear is a precursor to valor, Doctor Lady Barbara.” Blinky pauses for a while. “May I request calling you ‘Lady Barbara’... the alternative is quite… long,” he says.

This comment made Barbara smile ever so slightly. She simply nodded as a response and gestured her hand at Blinky, telling him to continue.

“Rule number two, always finish the fight.”

Barbara’s brows furrowed at the moment the statement came out of Blinky’s mouth. “Wait… ‘finish the fight’?” She interjected once more. “What do you mean ‘finish the fight’?” she asks.

“A Trollhunter must always vanquish their opponent through death,” Blinky furthermore explained.

“Wait! You mean like…” Barbara gulped — not too much to be noticeable though — she felt uneasy with what Blinky said but simply continued, “...kill them?”

Blinky simply nodded at the new Trollhunter’s question. Claire looked at Barbara, a concerned look was painted on her face as she looked at the good doctor. Barbara knew why Claire looked at her like that, she was a smart girl, of course she knew. Blinky and Aaarrrgghh however, didn’t.

“I- I save lives!” Barbara exclaimed. “Not take them!”

“In the midst of war, Lady Barbara, the choice will be yours to make,” Blinky told her. “But they will not hesitate you take that—” Blinky points at the amulet that was still in the grip of Barbara, “—from you, and they will do anything to do it, even if that means killing you.”

Barbara tried not to frown, setting her lips into a grim line as her brows were furrowed. Her body was still facing everyone but her head turned slightly to one side as her eyes wandered, lost. I can punch a guy or two, for sure, but kill them? she questioned herself, looking for answers in the empty space she stared at. She could still hear Blinky talking, but his words seemed like a faint muttering from outside, unclear—

“Lady Barbara!” Blinky called out. Barbara immediately turned her head to face the yale-blue troll. “As I was saying,” Blinky continued, “Rule number three. When in doubt, always kick them in the gronk-nuks.”

The term puzzled both the humans in the room, Aaarrrgghh looked like he wanted to explain, but ought not to. “Gronk… nuks?” Claire asked, but Blinky only gave them a straight face for an answer. Barbara and Claire looked at each other for a brief moment, then they squinted at the two trolls in the room, who were now also eyeing each other. Then the realization hit Barbara and Claire simultaneously.

“Oh,” the two women said in unison.

“Oh!” Blinky blurted out “And about your trai—“

Blinky was cut off as Barbara’s phone began to ring, she was hoping it was someone ordering pizza for her, but it seemed too unlikely. She took out her phone and looked at the caller, Wanda, she had not answered the call yet, but she already knew why she was being called. “I’m sorry, I have to take this,” she said as she walked out of the living room to answer the call.

“Hey Barb?” the caller asked, “Is it okay if you come today? I know you already have a shift yesterday and that you need rest but we really really need someone to cover a shift, just a shift, you can take a half-shift if you want but we just really need someone right now,” she begged.

“Okay, okay,” Barbara responded in a soothing manner, she knew she was needed at the hospital — not to mention the slight noise of distress in the background. “I’ll be there in a few, think you guys can handle it by then?”

“Will do!” the caller answered before hanging up.

Barbara closed her phone and let out a sigh, she faced the two trolls and Claire. “I have to go… You guys can stay here, maybe after my shift we could…? I just- I really—”

“It’s fine Lady Barbara, they need you. Go,” Blinky said sympathetically. Barbara gave them all a smile before quickly quickly grabbing her things.

Before heading out she stopped by the doorframe and glanced back at the two trolls. “And if you did want to stay, please don't terrorize the house when I'm gone,” she said with a serious face. And with that, she left for her car, and then for work.

Claire left shortly after, after all, she explained that she still had her study session to go to. This left the two trolls alone in the Lake residence.

“What now?” the krubera asked his companion.

Blinky, who was now next to the television, answered, “Oh, I trust the Trollhunter won't take long, and she also told us not to ‘terrorize’ her dwelling,” he said enthusiastically. He patted the TV with one of his upper arms and it turned on into a static which made the larger troll wince slightly. “Oops…”

 

Barbara drove down the street on the way to the hospital, with the discussion’s topic still ringing in her head — specifically, one of the ‘rules’. Vanquish their opponent through death, I can't do that! she thought quietly. She was quiet, one may think she is calm, but her facial expressions say otherwise. Her brows were furrowed, her grip on the street in wheel was tight, she couldn't feel her foot on the accelerator nor the break, her eyes were on the road, but her mind was not.

Primum non nocere.

It clouded her thoughts, her beliefs. She had an oath, she swore to do no harm. I will keep them from harm and injustice, she heard herself say so long ago. Of all the creatures in the world…Why me?
She questioned this to herself, What will my colleagues think? What will Jim think? Can he even understand? Will he even believe me? Or will he just think that his mother gone stark mad? Oh dear… And what if he does believe me? Will he expose the existence of trolls? No- Will he be in danger??.

Barbara let out a soft grunt, she was focusing on her thoughts more than the road, causing her to swerve as there was a car coming from behind that she didn’t notice from her side mirror. The car beeped at her a bit afterwards — a ‘bit’ meaning, a nice long annoying horn sound — though she didn't mind — mostly because she somewhat deserved it. Maybe a day at work would help her get her mind off of this for a while — a ‘breather’, if you may — oh, but of course the hospital had to have its own problems. Great.

 


 

“Dude!” a young, enthusiastic, green-eyed boy exclaimed as he walked between a white troll and his best friend.

“Hmm?” Jim responded as he turned his gaze from the crystals on the walls of the hall to Toby.

Toby’s eyes were glistening with enthusiasm, the traces of lacking sleep was unnoticeable against the sheer excitement they are experiencing as they roamed around this ‘new world’ beneath their feet. “I can’t believe we’ve been here all night!” he exclaimed.

This statement gave Jim a slight shock, his eyes became wider when those words came out of his best friend’s mouth. “Wait… What?”

“Yeah, Jimbo!” Toby confirmed.
“What time is it then?!” Jim asked as he halted in the hallway, taking Toby’s full attention at the matter. This also led to the two trolls they were roaming with to stop and look at them.

“It’s like…” Toby glanced at his phone, “seven?... seven.” Jim sighed at Toby’s response, until Toby continued it with a “thirty.”

“What?!” Jim exclaimed, “We’ve been here all goshdarn night?!” He held Toby’s shoulders with a tight squeeze, leaving Toby somewhat surprised though unamused.

“Didn’t I — Ah! Watch it — say that already?” Toby remarked.

Jim fell in silence and removed his grip from Toby as he glanced at the two trolls who were silently watching them. “C-can we leave?” he stammered, more worried about being late for school than the fact that he and Toby are standing within a world that was brought to life by a magical crystal and is full of magical beings.

The two trolls gave each other a glance before the white troll — Vendel — spoke, “I suppose we could.” He stepped closer to the two human whelps. “if,” he bargained,“you two promise to return.”

“yes! Anything!” Jim agreed and nodded without hesitation, Toby copied Jim.

“Very well then,” Vendel stated and looked at Draal. “Will you escort them in their leave?” he asked, but the question sounded more like an order than most.

Draal nodded and grabbed two sacks which were conveniently the size in which you can fit a human teenager in.

“Woah!” Toby exclaimed, “What’s that for?!”

“To escort you out,” Draal answered, seemingly serious with what he was going to do.

“Tobes! Let’s just go!” Jim exclaimed, in a more worried tone rather than mad.

“In a sack, Jimbo?” Toby raised a brow at Jim as he pointed at the creature holding the sack they ‘have’ to enter.

Jim sighed and gave a half-hearted face-palm. “Tobes,” he began, “we have to go! They would be more suspicious if we get to school late with no explanation.”
“Kidnap,” Toby stated with a straight face.

“What?”

“Kidnap. Isn’t that what happened anyway?”

Jim simply didn’t know what to feel about this, well yes, but actually no was what he thought of saying before Vendel interjected.

“Well, young Tobias,” Vendel started, “as I’ve explained to you, it will cause panic if trolls find out that humans have been exposed to Trollmarket. Which is why this may be a better way to get you out of here without raising much suspicion — or panic for that matter.”

This got the attention of both boys. “Why though?” asked Toby.

“I think that would be a good story for your next visit. You are returning, if I’m not mistaken,” Vendel said.

“Yeah,” Jim answered, “and if there is any reason we can’t come, we’ll just tell ya’.”

“And how, might I ask, will we be able to accomplish that?” Vendel asked with curiosity, stepping closer to Jim.

“Well…” Jim pulled out a small square box from his pocket and held it out for both Vendel and Draal to see. “Through this,” Jim explained.

“What is it?” Draal asked, dropping his shoulders from holding up the sacks.

“It’s a phone!” Jim explained, “Don’t tell me you’ve never…” He took a look around, “Oh yeah, nevermind — But, it’s a phone! You can contact me even when we’re far away… here, its like this…” He stepped closer to the two trolls and angles the phone so that they can both see it.

Vendel and Draal — especially Draal — were very amused with this contraption which Jim was showing them how to use. The human whelp would swipe the black screen and it would turn to a different image, it seemed like it has a magic of its own, except it has none.

“…aaand that,” Jim concluded his little demonstration on how to use the phone. “So yeah. Here, take it.” Jim held up the phone for one of the trolls to take it from him. Vendel and Draal glanced at each other, Vendel giving off a straight face while Draal seemed more unsure.

“Well, since you are Draal’s responsibility,” Vendel began, “I think that he should take the… whatever you call it.” With compliance, Draal took the ‘phone’ from Jim’s hand and immediately began to turn and sniff it as if it was some sort of dangerous object.

“Uh, Jim?” said Toby, who has been quiet throughout the whole ‘demo’. “It’s 7:44.”

“Ah shiz!” Jim exclaimed. “We have to go!” Without thinking, he rushed out but was blocked by Draal who was once again holding up the sacks. “Do we have a choice?” he tried to bargain.

“No,” the blue troll stated firmly. “Now, get in and lets get you out of here.”

With acquiescence, the two boys stepped in the two respective sacks and Draal lifted them like how he carried it the first time around — though now he was more gentle and careful — and nodded at Vendel. Vendel nodded back and Draal went his way out of the hall and into the crowded Market, in which thankfully, no one grew suspicious about this. Draal made his way to the crystal staircase and out of the portal once more. He dropped off the two boys and gave the troll a wave goodbye as they took the bikes that they parked near the canal.

The whole event was captivating for the two young ones — enchanting, even — but who wouldn’t be astonished of something so magical just laying beneath our very feet?
The two boys thought of coming back, not just because the trolls specifically told them to do so, but because they wanted to see more of it, to learn more of it. It was just a magical world, right? The trolls have lived in peace and tranquility for centuries — or at least, that’s what Vendel said — though it felt as if there was a point missing, but who were they to question? If nothing went wrong then, nothing could possibly go wrong now, right?

Chapter Text

Despite all the patients and the lack both of staff and sleep, Barbara managed to snatch a few minutes to take a quick break from all of this. She would glance around the hospital for a moment or two and see people in need of saving, in the way she knows. Her whole life — ‘after she graduated and got settled in a job’ life — she helped people by saving them, but why would destiny, why would fate decide that this isn’t enough, that to save people, she has to hurt others? It didn’t seem fair, but was it really truly unfair to begin with? The people she will inevitably hurt along the lines of this new path laid down by fate, they’ve done bad things, to have remorse for people who could’ve hurt others to begin with was both uncalled-for, yet rational. So why did she have this unpleasant feeling of guilt? The answer was there, in front of her, but she refuses to say it was so. Ever since she decided to be a doctor, it felt great saving lives — though there were times that they also felt the ghastly feeling of another’s loss — which was probably the reason why she can never get herself to truly ‘vanquish’ anyone. She gripped the amulet in her pocket.

All this evil, all this conflict, all these lives that would be either saved or taken, depending on which side of the river they are. But she, she was rowing in the middle of that river, to be on one side felt like having to kill everyone else on the other. Why did she even agree to do this if she knew that she was battling something bigger than her? And then her phone vibrated inside her pocket, it was her answer.

[Message Received]

She opened it.

[Jim: Hey mom! Me and Tobes are on our way to school now, love you!]

The text made the edges of Barbara’s lips rise ever so slightly. Jim, he’s why… he’s why she ever did anything, of course this was going to end up being ultimately for him as well. She let out a small sigh. “If you can’t do it for yourself, just do it for him,” she whispered to herself. If this world is in danger, then so is Jim, and so are all the other people she tried so hard to save. All her efforts would be meaningless, in vain, if she doesn’t stop the ‘great evil’ that Blinky explained to her.
Right now, she can’t do it — she can’t do all the ‘hurting others’ without feeling guilt — but she’ll do it anyway. How many times had she defended Jim from something bad? Countless, maybe if she thought of it that way, everything would seem easier. Just treat all those evil trolls as people who would hurt him.

Barbara stood up straight, losing her grip on the amulet as she saw Wanda rapidly approaching her.

“Doc,” the woman began as she was nearing Barbara. “We need you in the ER.”

Wanda gestured Barbara to follow her and Barbara caught up after. “Why?” Barbara asked as they walked fast through the hallway.

“Stab wound,” she answered hastily. “It was on his side. May or may not have punctured an organ, but we’re not on that yet.”

“How…?”

“Probably a gang fight, or just someone really mad at him. He was running — not sure where he wanted to go — but he passed out near building A, someone saw the kid and brought him in.”

After a few quick turns down the hallway, they finally reached the ER. Wanda left Barbara to herself.
Barbara went ahead and slipped into a more sanitary attire and entered the emergency room where another doctor and a nurse are already currently present in.

“Hello Doctor,” Jesse, the nurse who was assisting Connor, the other doctor in the room. Though his voice was a bit muffled due to the mask.

“So,” Barbara began, getting Connor’s attention. “What do we have here?” she asked as fixed on her gloves.

Connor took a quick glance at Barbara but went back to cleaning out the blood that was painted over the boy on the operating table, “Stab wound, punctured near the left kidney…” he paused as he sensed Barbara coming on the other side of the table, “though it didn’t reach the organ.” He moved to get side to get a better angle at the boy. “The kid passed out after running ‘ere…” Barbara already noted that from earlier but didn’t comment otherwise “...was still probably being chased.”

Barbara fell in silence. Her brows furrowed at the sight of the boy on the table who was still mildly bleeding, her eyes trailed down to the wound. His blood… it wasn’t the crimson red you would see in a human. The boy, in his blood-stained black and red hoodie, had blood in an unusual shade of byzantium purple, a shade that you don’t see in humans. Maybe because he isn’t human a tiny voice inside her provided.
Could it be? A creature from Blinky’s stories in front of her at this very moment, but what kind? Blinky never mentioned anything that resembled a human, but isn’t one. She had so many questions. Why was he here? Why was he wounded? Who was after him? Why isn’t Connor questioning this? There’s too much going on, she simply decided to sigh and do what she was called there for.

The bleeding had already been taken care of, the boy was stable but he still needed to be stitched up. The room was silent and Barbara was finishing up with stitching up the boy’s wound. Said boy was getting back their consciousness and began to tilt their head sideways and groaned softly.

“Huh,” Connor said, noticing the movement, “I could have sworn there was enough anesthetic.”

Maybe because it takes more anesthetic for these creatures than in humans, Barbara’s thoughts provided, though she did not physically respond to the other doctor’s comment and simply continued.

It didn’t take too long and the patient was stable and resting. Barbara went outside the room and quickly cleaned herself up.

“Does he have any identification on him?” Wanda said as she followed Barbara, catching up to her.

“No,” Barbara answered. “There was only him and his blood-stained hoodie,” she sighed.

“Well I guess you could ask him yourself,” Wanda half-heartedly commented.

Barbara turned her head to face Wanda and raised a brow. “Hmm?”

“The kid,” Wanda explained. “He’s awake… well, more or less.”

That was fast, Barbara thought. It takes at least 45 minutes for the anesthetic to wear off. Her face became more serious as her inner thoughts canceled out all the outside noise.

“Barbs? Barbara,” Wanda called out, catching Barbara’s attention.

“Hmm?”

“You gonna check on the kid?” Wanda asked. “I mean, we’re here so…”

They were now in front of the room where the boy was. Barbara realized that she could ask the boy more than his name.
She entered the room as Wanda left for her break, leaving Barbara alone in the room with the half-awake boy.
“Hey there,” Barbara greeted with a forced smile. “Feeling better?” she asked.

The boy nodded. “Yeah, thanks doc,” he replied.

“We- erm- need identification. You need to contact a parent or guardian too,” Barbar said.

“Oh.” The boy cleared his throat and spoke, “Reverent Arcurio. I- uhm- live with my aunt…” the boy’s tone was unsure but Barbara decided that it could have been because of the concussion.

“Good, good,” Barbara said. “I think you need to call her, here,” she stated as she handed an office phone to the boy. “Do you know her number?” she asked.

The boy didn’t speak and just simply nodded. He took the phone that was gladly offered to him. The boy — Reverent — quickly sat up and looked at Barbara, silently wishing for some privacy. Barbara caught on to this and let out a soft “oh” and left the room.

 

As the doctor exited the room, Reverent’s genuine-looking smile turned into a more expressionless face, the edges of his lips arched down as he typed in a familiar number and rang it.

“Hullo, Who are they?” The man on the other line answered.

“Archuero,” the boy quickly spat out as others might hear him.

“Why.” A snarl can be heard on the other line. “Did you call? And Where are you?! You’re lucky I managed to make a fake excuse email.”

“Forgive me, Mr. S but I am at the hospital—“ Archuero tried to explain but was cut off.

“What? Why- nevermind, what do you need?”

“My ‘aunt’, apparently.”

An annoyed huff escaped the man on the other line “Fine, I’ll send the nearest one there,” the man stated.

The boy looked down at what he was currently wearing, a hospital gown. He looked around the room and spotted his hoodie, though at this point it was soaked in an unpleasant purple stain. “Oh… and can you tell them to bring me something to wear for that matter?”

 

Barbara, who thought twice about giving the boy ‘complete privacy’, stood by the door. She only managed to hear half the conversation but she was certain that the boy didn’t call his ‘aunt’. Another suspicious thing was how resilient the boy was, with that wound and his short time recovering, he was awfully resilient. He sat quickly sat up on the bed without even wincing nor glancing at his wound. She knew it wasn’t in her right to spy on her patients, but hopefully her new other job would excuse that behavior. The boy told whoever he was talking to a different name, an alias perhaps? Still, something was off. She might have to talk to Blinky about this.

She entered the room noticing how silent it became. The boy greeted her back in with a convincing lopsided smile, the call has been made and was now over. Revs handed the phone back to her without breaking eye contact.

“You called her?” Barbara asked.

Revs took a moment or two before answering, “Uh, yeah. She said she’ll be here in a few.”

“Oh.” The kid is hiding something. “Well then, better rest,” Barbara said as she walked towards the exit of the door.

“Thanks again doctor…?”

“Lake,” Barbara supplied. When she told the boy her name, the boy’s ‘genuine’ smile wore off, his brows slightly furrowed as he turned his head to the side, not letting his face be read.

“Doctor… Lake.”

 


 

Afternoon. The sound of students who were seemingly in pain — but were truly just complaining — covered the entire Gym as coach Lawrence tries his best not to give mercy to anyone, especially Toby. These instances would usually amuse Claire, but after all that happened, she had seemed distant. She would look at the students but she was actually looking beyond them, asking the questions on how there was an entire other world they didn’t know about. Questions on how there were creatures they coexist with that they didn’t even know existed. She had considered and reconsidered all night long if she needed — wanted — to come back to the Lake household, but her legs decided for her earlier that morning as she found herself walking towards the direction of Doctor Lake’s house.
Maybe it was all a dream, maybe it was just her delusions, maybe reading all those fantasy and fiction novels are finally catching up to her, or maybe she just had too much coffee that night so she could stay up and study for the math quiz. There was only one way to find out, and that’s where she decided to ring her doorbell.

It all felt like a dream, or a nightmare, depending on who you ask. Claire had this bitter taste in her mouth knowing that she can’t tell this to anyone, not even Mary or Darci. Speaking of the two, they were currently arguing on who was a better celebrity with Shannon in the background who was trying to calm down their little dispute, both of which she could care less about. Because of that, she was left alone with her thoughts as she glanced around, watching all other students from the bleachers. Until she realized who was approaching her.

“Oh- I- um- ah-” the boy in his slightly sweaty P.E. clothes stammered as he looked at Claire with his ocean blue eyes. “Buenas noches,” he greeted with an awkward wave. This greeting caught the attention of all the girls. It was the son of the good doctor.

Wait, Claire thought, does he even know? The question never crossed her mind until now. She had to think of a response before the whole scenario becomes too awkward for the already gawky boy. “You speak Spanish?” she heard herself say, of course he does! He already spoke to you in Spanish! her inner voice taunted. She tried her best not to seem unsure of herself, the acting methods they teach in Drama class are truly coming in handy.

“Hey Claire bear, we have to go.” Darci’s sudden interjection just saved Claire an internal warfare whether to ask Jim if he knows or not, possibly risking the existence of trolls if she did. But she still had to entertain the boy, he did get out of his way to try and talk to her, responding would be a rather generous way of saying ‘thank you’.

The girls stood up and began to walk towards the exit of the Gym. Jim watched as they all left. Claire looked back at Jim, in which Darci stopped to wait for her, and she gave Jim a sympathetic smile as tucked a stray hair behind her ear and hugged her books tighter.

“So, Romeo, right?” she asked. The look on Jim’s face changed, his nervous expression turned into a more perturbed one. “Right?” she repeated, to confirm whether or not her assumption was correct.

“I- ah- yeah! Romeo,” The boy answered.

“Yeah, Revs told me…” she said as she was being called by Darci in the background.

Speaking of Revs, Jim glanced around to look for him, checking if that stalker was still around. After a moment of turning and tilting his head, he saw him helping Coach Lawrence with the Gym equipment. Funny, he wasn’t in his usual red and black hoodie, but rather in a tacky lime-green jacket and he does not seem the slightest bit comfortable with it. Considering he just came in, maybe that’s why he was absent for most of the day, he couldn’t find a nice shirt to wear. Jim chuckled inwardly at the sight of it, but quickly returned his attention to Claire. “Yeah, he’s the one that told me about the play too,” Jim told Claire.

“Great! I’ll see you on auditions then, uh...” she waved goodbye, slightly embarrassed not being able to remember the name of the son of the woman who she is now associated with after visiting her house that one night.

“Jim,” he supplied. “You can call me Jim,” he said as he gave a wave goodbye. Claire and the girls made their way to exit the Gym.

“So,” Toby, who was still somewhat panting, said as he made his way next to Jim. “How did it go?”

Jim turned to meet his best friend’s glance, carrying a face you’d see when someone is daydreaming. “Can you help me practice the lines for the play?”

“What about…” Toby leaned closer to Jim’s ear and whispered “Trollmarket?”

“We can do it there, then!”

 


 

A long day. It was a long day for this doctor, but she could finally rest once she gets home. Her shift was finally over and the sky was a mix of indigo, purple, red and fiery-orange as the sun began to set. Before leaving the hospital, Jim had texted her that he was trying out for a ‘chess club’ and the he might come home late. It didn’t worry her too much, Jim is now looking for hobbies and keeping himself busy. This, of course, also worked in her favor as she hasn't told Jim about trolls and she plans not to… to keep him safe.

Barbara took a deep sigh as she found herself on her driveway. She adjusted her glasses and glanced at her front porch, her eyes narrowed when she noticed that the lights were still on. Maybe they didn’t leave? Or maybe they just forgot to turn it off? Whatever the answer was, she was soon to find out. She took out her keys and its sound may have alarmed the people inside the house. She opened the door and…

Her jaws dropped as her eyes widened at what made of her living room, her kitchen, her house. It was an utter mess. She walked towards the living room where Aaarrrgghh sat on a couch that was upside down and Blinky was trying to fix the coffee table that was now missing a leg.

“Ah! Lady Barbara, welcome home!” Blinky greeted with a smile, as if everything was okay.

“Hi,” the larger troll greeted as he waved at Barbara.

“What...” Barbara took a deep breath. “Happened?!” she exclaimed, making the two trolls wince.

“Well- uh- Lady Barbara- you see… there was this cat and—” Blinky tried to explain but Barbara held up her hand to halt the blue troll.

“I… don’t want to hear it,” she breathed, “not now, at least.” She pinched the bridge of her nose as she laid her other hand to rest on her hip. “Just,” she sighed, “help me fix this.”

Blinky simply nodded quietly in agreement. The six-eyed troll gestured at his friend to help him put up the couch that he sat on. They went on and fixed everything that has tipped or fallen over.

“So,” Blinky began as he was putting the fallen portraits up. “About your training. You must start soon, Lady Barbara, Bular would not wait until you’re ready!”

Barbara stopped what she was doing and glanced at Blinky. “Bular?” she asked. “The one you said that killed the last Trollhunter?” Her glasses were slipping off.

“Yes,” Blinky answered.

Barbara gulped. “The last Trollhunter… was he just having a bad day?” she asked.

“I do not believe that is the case,” Blinky said. “Kanjigar is a good friend of mine, I know that he is a formidable opponent.”

An “Oh” escaped Barbara, though a sound can barely be heard. The doorbell rang a few minutes later, they were almost done cleaning up — almost but not fully done. The mess will be quite questionable and she quickly tried to think of a way to excuse it, until the person outside called out Barbara’s name.

“Oh! It’s just Claire,” Blinky stated.

Barbara went ahead and opened the door, and greeted Claire with a warm smile, though Claire gave her a more apologetic one.

“Sorry Doc,” the teen sighed. “I got caught up in band practice and I had to finish homework and I had to wait for my dad ‘cause Enrique — my brother — there was no one there to watch him and—”

Barbara was amused by how the teen carried her responsibilities. “It’s fine Claire, really. And you can call me Barbara,” she told her. Claire entered the house as Barbara gestured her in, the teen looked around and was surprised by some of the mess that had not been cleaned up yet.

“Uhm…” Claire glanced at Blinky who was trying — and failing — to sweep the floor. “Maybe I should help.” She gladly took the broom from Blinky and swept the floor clean from all the mess, whoever did this, caused.

About an hour — or two — later, the two trolls and women finally finished cleaning up the living room and parts of the kitchen. Though all the VHS tapes were oddly nowhere to be found, not to mention that she may need a new coffee table. They all sat down in the now-tidy living room, talking more about the amulet.

“So… I can’t just leave the amulet?” Barbara asked.

Blinky nodded. “Yes,” he answered. “It is bound to you and will come back no matter where you leave it.”

“Dang,” Claire mused.

There was a moment of silence, until another ring on the doorbell broke it. Barbara quickly stood up, it could be anyone. It could be Jim or Toby or Nancy, whoever they were, they can not see who — especially what — was in her living room.

“Upstairs!” she exclaimed in a panic, she pulled Aaarrrgghh and Blinky up, Claire was obedient enough to follow. She got all of them upstairs and shoved them into her son’s room. “Here, stay here! And don’t make any noise!” Barbara rushed downstairs to answer whoever was ringing her doorbell.

Barbara opened the door slowly. She was greeted with a pair of familiar emerald green eyes and a warm smile.

“Good evening Miss…” the man said in an awfully familiar voice. “Lake?” The man also looked at her like they’ve met before. “I’m your son’s history teacher, Mr.—”

“Strickler?” Barbara provided. “Walter Strickler, right?” she asked, making sure if her memory served her well.

“Ah yes,” Walter told her. He shot his index finger up and slightly cocked his head. “Aren’t you…?”

“The one with the uncharged car batteries? Yes,” she answered with delight.

Walter looked by the garage and saw her car parked in the driveway. He chuckled slightly and glanced back at Barbara. “I see that.” He cleared his throat then started “So, about Jim…”

“Oh yes!” Barbara exclaimed. “Of course, Mr. Strickler.” She gestured to the man to come inside.

“Oh please, do just call me Walter — or Walt for short.”

“Is he doing really bad?” Barbara asked as the man — Walter — walked in.

“Oh dear, no… well, not yet, at least,” the man answered, and quickly looked at the little ‘peace offering’ he had in his hands. “And I- erm- brought some cheesecake. Just a little peace offering… I didn’t know if just showing up suddenly would suffice so…” he said as he scratched the back of his neck and chuckled. “I’m awfully sorry, I don’t do house visits too often.”

“It’s fine,” Barbara told Walter. “I don’t get visits often either.” She gave him a sympathetic smile, then the kettle that she forgot she set earlier started to whistle. “Would you like some tea?” She offered.

“Certainly,” he agreed, handing the cheesecake to Barbara.

Barbara gestures Walter to sit on the seat near the counter as she went into the kitchen to prepare some tea.

 

“So?” Blinky asked Claire while the teen leans against the door, trying to figure out who it is.

“Wait, Shh.” Claire put her index finger on her lips, signing the trolls to stay quiet. “I think… I think… it’s…” Claire was unsure who it truly was, but she had guesses of who it could be. Aaarrrgghh sniffed the air and gave a low growl, but neither Blinky nor Claire noticed it. “My guess is Mr. Strickler…”

“Who?” Blinky asked.

“It doesn’t matter, Jim’s just probably failing History. He did fall asleep multiple times in class.”

“Jim? Who is this ‘Jim’?” Blinky asked.

Claire turned away from the door to face Blinky. “Barbara’s son.”

“Lady Barbara has a son? How fascinating.” Blinky walked around the room and found himself sitting on the bed. “What shall we do now?”

Claire looked at Blinky and gave a shrug, but something beside him caught her eye. The teen approached Blinky and grabbed the stack of cards that laid on top of the nightstand beside the bed.

“Uno, anyone?”

 

“So…” Walter shot his head up from drinking the tea when Barbara spoke — though she wasn’t the reason why he quickly pulled away from that tea. “You said Jim’s grades were… slipping?” Barbara asked, concern flooding her voice.

“Well… yes,” Walter answered. “You see…” Walter adjusted his posture as he set the tea cup on the counter, “he started off good — great, in fact — with an A, but now I’m afraid it’s turning into a C-,” he explained as a quiet “Oh” escaped Barbara.

Barbara turned away to fix the kettle. Somehow, could she have caused this? Thoughts of being a bad mother ran through her head. Could it be that she didn’t pay enough attention to Jim and his studies.

“Though…” Walter began once more, taking Barbara’s attention. “I really think it’s because of all the work teachers are giving to them… it can really overextend a student, especially one already taking so many extracurricular.”

“Chess?” Barbara asked, already knowing about the matter. “I didn’t really think one extracurricular could do that much,” she said.

Walter chuckled. “Well, I think it’ll be more than one if— when he gets into the play. Also considering the fact that he always helps out in the Drama Class and is always present — as a support — on band practices,” he told her.

“He’s a really helpful and supportive kid. But a play?” Barbara questioned, mostly to herself. Jim was always the ‘shy type’ and acting was never really his thing, but now he’s going to be in a play? “Huh… I never thought he liked acting.”

“Shy type, is he not?” Walter said. “But I believe he does it…” he leaned closer to Barbara, “for a girl.”

“Of course!” Barbara hit a sudden realization. “Wait, who?”

“Miss Claire Nuñez,” he stated, as he sat back down, “a very smart girl.” Yes she was, kind, caring and responsible too, Barbara had known these traits that she carried from the day they met. No wonder Jim would fall for her.

“She really is, isn’t she?” Barbara mused, getting plates for the cheesecake

Her statement drew questions to Walter, and out of curiosity, he asked, “Do you know her?” he asked, standing up as he offered to help Barbara.

“Uh- yeah, she was my patient once,” she explained, no lies were needed because it was true. It wasn’t the full truth, but it was true nonetheless.
“Oh, that’s too kind of you Walter.” Barbara said as the man offered to cut the cake and gave her a slice.

“It’s nothing, really.”

Barbara looked at him once more as he took a slice of his own. Something about this man stood out, he was a gentleman, sophisticated and kind. “So, about Jim. He’s just being a teenager isn’t he? I didn’t notice he grew up this fast. Worrying about school and girls…” she simply stared at her cake.

“Nothing out of the ordinary, no,” Walter told her as he took a bite from the cake “Teenagers,” he mumbled.

“Why? Don’t you have kids of your own?” Barbara suddenly asked.

Walter nearly choked on the cake when he heard her ask the question, he shook his head. “Oh heavens no!” He chuckled at the thought. “I’ve never even considered it.” He looked around to find the time, when he couldn’t manage to find where the clock was he just simply pulled out his phone and checked the time. It was getting late. Walter Strickler stood up and took out a piece of paper he had been keeping, alongside his pen. “I don’t wish to overstay my welcome… here, my number Miss Lake.”

Barbara gladly took the paper Walter gave her. “Maybe we could talk more about the matter,” she suggested. “And please, call me Barbara.”

“Barbara,” he began as he took her hand and placed a quick peck on it. “Delighted to meet you.”

They made their way to the door and Walter Strickler left the house. Barbara made her way upstairs to check on what the three were doing, it was really good that they were quiet the whole time. She entered Jim’s room to see that the three were playing Uno and that Blinky seemed to be losing as he has almost half the stack in his hands.

“I do not understand how you shuffled it!” Blinky exclaimed, “Why are all the green cards on the bottom?!”

“I told you it can also be the same number!” Claire countered, “You’ve just been skipped because I gave you a +4!”

“Woah there,” Barbara interjected, trying to calm everyone down. Though it was kind of amusing watching these two entirely different species bond.

“Oh hey Dr— I mean, Barbara,” Claire greeted. “Who was it?”

“Oh just Jim’s History teacher,” Barbara answered.

“Mr. Strickler?” Claire, more ‘said’, than asked. “Oh, he’s my History teacher too.”

“He seems like a nice guy,” Barbara said. “Is he single?”

Claire tried to hold back a giggle. “I think so, yeah,” she answered. “Back to Jim, where is he anyway?”

Barbara considered this question. Where is Jim? Where is her son? It was late and school extracurricular activities don’t last this long — unless it’s a play, of course, but it’s only chess. She got caught up with talking to his teacher that she forgot about him. She looked at her text messages, nothing. Something could have happened to Jim, she started to panic.

Claire noticed that Barbara became more anxious. “Should we look for him?” the teen asked. “It could be that they just got caught up with something…”

“Or got caught up with a hungry man-eating troll!” Blinky yelled, seemingly panicked even though he had never met the boy. This, of course, alarmed everyone.

“We have to find my son!”

Chapter Text

Just near the Lake residence. At this hour, a blanket of darkness covered the sky, the stars barely twinkled. The moon was the only thing that stood out among the darkness of the sky, and the only thing that could be heard was the soft rustling of the trees and bushes against the nightly breeze, alongside the soft and calming sound of the crickets. But among the darkness within the forest that grew thicker, a pair of fiery-orange eyes glowed and there was a low growl that could easily send shivers up one’s spine. Though this was something Walter Strickler was now used to.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Strickler said in a monotone voice, facing the other way, away from the creature behind him.

“Where is the boy?” the creature asked, a low growl escaping him from every word. “Why am I not feeling his skull crush beneath my feet? Why not just burn down this hut?”

“That certainly wouldn't attract attention,” Strickler sarcastically stated. “The boy isn’t even here, Bular,” he snarled as he turned to face a large, dark troll who wears skulls on his belt as he wields two black swords.

“Where is he then?!” Bular demanded, punching his large fist to the ground.

“Quiet! You Brute. We don’t want to get the whole neighborhood’s attention,” Strickler stated. “I do not know where the boy is… and I don’t think his mother does either.” He glanced at the window of the Lakes’ house, barely out of view. Barbara looked worried, anxious. She was preparing to leave the house.

“The woman, she’s looking for him,” Bular pointed out, Strickler was unamused as he felt like a fool being told the obvious. The black troll moved out and started to walk away.

“Wait,” Strickler said. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“To look for the boy,” Bular answered with a snarl. The brute started to run away on all fours. “And I will not listen to a mere impure.”

“No! Wait!” Strickler tried to stop him but Bular refused to listen to him. And like that, the brute ran off leaving Strickler to himself. Strickler, irritated by the troll’s actions, slammed the roof of his car with a clenched fist, consequently hurting his own hand. He decided to get into his car and leave, if anyone saw him there right now, it would be quite questionable.

 


 

“Ugh, Jimbo, I can’t believe we forgot about the time!” Toby exclaimed. “Good thing Nana’s out for the weekend though.” The two boys pushed their bikes as they walked by the sidewalk. They decided to do so because Toby said that his legs were still sore from Gym class and he didn’t want them to get too strained, Jim, of course, agreed.

“Well, I’m sorry Tobes, but it’s not like they use clocks in there!” Jim answered sarcastically. “And besides, how were we supposed to know the sun was down? We couldn’t even see it!” he stated, trying to make a point.

“Well it wasn’t me who wanted to memorize Romeo and Juliet,” Toby countered. “I haven’t even tried out my new chubby tracker yet!”

“New… what?” Jim asked as he shot up a brow.

Toby sighed and stopped himself from face-palming. “Chubby Tracker, Jim,” he explained, “it gives me awards on my phone depending on how many calories I burn… used up half my savings on it.”

“Seriously?” Jim was unamused, Toby has tried various ways to lose weight but the taste of a taco or two would always triumph against these kinds of things.

“Hey!” Toby exclaimed at his best friend’s sarcasm as he rolled his eyes and playfully punched him on the shoulder, causing the bike that Jim was pushing to swerve. “But like, seriously, you gotta up your game if you want to get into the play!”

“What? Draal said I was doing fine!” Jim countered.

“Draal doesn’t even know what a play is!” Toby told Jim, laughing at the matter. The two boys decided to practice a bit of Romeo and Juliet in Trollmarket as Jim wants to get ready for auditions, especially now that the news is out that Steve — that blonde, simple-minded bully — is also auditioning for Romeo. This consequently drained the battery of both their phones since they didn’t have the hardcopy of the script and only had pictures of it. This, again, consequently caused the two boys to lose track of time.

“Oh c’mon Tobes! It isn’t that bad, is it?” Jim said as he grimaced.

“Well, it’s not bad… but it’s not that good either,” Toby explained, nearly hitting the gutter with the front wheel of his bike. Jim tuned out the comment as he felt a slight chill come up his spine.
Jim fell in silence, there was something off. The town was usually calm and quiet at this hour and the nightly breeze was soft, but something about all of this felt… odd. Like something — someone — following them. Jim looked around with his brows furrowed, looking for something. He had looked over his shoulder but it was too dark to percieve anything clearly.

“Jim? Jimbo?” Toby called out. “Earth to James Lake Junior!”

“Shh!” Jim told Toby when he yelled his name. “Quiet Tobes…”

Toby gave an apologetic smile. “Woah dude, sorry… but you can still improve y’know—“

“It’s not about the play, Toby,” Jim said, cutting Toby off. At the moment the play didn't matter, they were out late and just wanted — needed — to go home, else it's the cops — facing curfew — or the rage of one Barbara Lake. The latter was already a given as is, unless of course she was called in late — though it was unlikely. “It’s just so quiet… Like- like we’re alone, but we’re not!” Jim continued.

“Alone? I mean, we’re not alone if we have each other, Dude,” Toby remarked, quite impressed with himself.

“No, ugh—” Jim gave a face-palm. “I mean, I feel like we’re being watched.”

“Watched?” Toby looked around to see if there was anyone else, but the sleepy town was well asleep, there was no one on the streets. “I think that’s just your nerves dude… y’know, stress and such.” The two fell in silence after a while, though they both kept walking. Jim would occasionally take out his phone, forgetting is was discharged and putting it back in his pocket.

“Stress and such…” Jim repeated the words Toby said to himself. “I don’t know dude,” he remarked. “I just— Oof,” Jim accidentally dropped his phone as he was taking it, once again forgetting it had no battery. He turned to pick it up, and when he stood up… he wished he had never dropped the phone. Toby saw Jim’s reaction and his eyes trailed to the direction Jim was looking at. The two boys stiffened.

What stood before them seemed like a nightmare fuel, and how they wish it was only a nightmare but their luck may have run out. It was a huge dark creature, a body structure like that of their friend’s — Draal — but this one was bigger, more frightening, spine-chilling. He glared at the two boys as he raised a hand and gripped one of the swords that was attached to his back.

The dark troll gave a low growl. “Jim Lake Junior…” he stated. Jim and Toby stood, perplexed, how could this troll know Jim’s name? But there was no time for questions when the troll continued, “meet your doom.” The troll charged them as he took out the sword he was gripping. A Gumm Gumm, crossed Jim’s mind.

“Oh sh—!” Toby exclaimed, before being pulled by Jim. They took their respective bikes and their legs suddenly felt less sore. The two boys rushed to the other direction as the black troll chased them. They tried to lose him but was rather fast. On a few quick turns, they managed to get a significant amount of distance from the troll, but he was still on their tail and couldn’t manage to shake them off. Toby suggested that they should take the public parking lot, but it consequently failed since it was a rather open area. At one point, the black troll managed to jump in front of them, but gladly there was a perfect quick turn.

Both Jim and Toby were panting at this point but the moment they stop will most probably be their end. “Quick!” Jim exclaimed. “Behind Stuart’s Electronics!”

“What?! You know I can’t fit there Jimbo!”

“We have to try!” Jim said as he glanced back. “Quick! He’s coming!”

The two boys took a sharp turn as they saw the shop. Jim slipped behind the electronics shop perfectly, Toby however, was not having the greatest moment. With an angry man-eating troll chasing them, it was definitely not the best time to get stuck. Thankfully, Toby managed to go through after a few tries just in the nick of time as the black troll’s paw almost manage to grab Toby.

They managed to get a lot further away from the troll, but he was still in sight and he could still see them. Knowing that trying to catch up to the two boys was going to fail, the troll took a truck that was parked beside him and threw it at the boys. Toby and Jim’s hearts were racing as the impact missed by a hair strand. But their luck was still not enough. They took another sharp turn as an attempt to loose the troll. Toby’s Chubby Tracker got stuck on a loose wire on a metal fence.

“Your Chubby Tracker!” Jim yelled. “Take it off!”

“I’m trying!” Toby yelled back. Jim was keeping watch on whether they had lost the troll or not. When Toby successfully removed his hand from the now-stuck tracker, another car came flying in. Jim grabbed the handle bars of Toby’s bike and pulled them both out of the way. The car hit the fence — and the tracker — but the troll still missed. The troll gave a deep roar. It seems like they didn’t lose him.

 


 

“Wait, Doc!” Claire called on Barbara as she rushed down the stairs.

“I’ve been calling him for the past 20 minutes and he’s still not answering!” Barbara exclaimed. “I need to find him!”

“Can I come with you?” Claire asked. “I want to look for him too,” the teen suggested.

Barbara was thankful that the girl wanted to tag along with her in search of Jim, no wonder her son admired her so much. But she couldn’t let a child go with her, risking her safety. She saw the determination in Claire’s eyes, how could she refuse that? “Fine,” she sighed. “But the moment there’s trouble, you turn around and run the other way, okay?”

“Okay,” Claire agreed.

“Won't your parents look for you?” Barbara asked, knowing exactly how a parent would react if their child just suddenly disappears.

“Not really,” Claire answered with a shrug. “I told them I was sleeping over at Darci’s tonight,” she shrugged.

“Let’s go then,” Barbara said.

“Wait, Lady Barbara,” Blinky called out. “I wish to help in search of your son too. We could split up to cover more ground,” the scholar suggested.

“But we can’t let him find out that trolls exist, remember?” Claire reminded them.

Blinky paused and thought about the matter for a moment, and finally spoke, “We will just simply inform you of our findings, you can fetch him yourselves if- when we find him.”

“It’s settled then,” Barbara spoke. “Let’s go.” The two women went to exit from the front door, while the two trolls exited from the back so it will be less of a risk exposing them since late-night strollers are a thing.

Barbara held on to the amulet just in case it was a troll problem — though she doesn’t really have a choice since its bound to her. Barbara and Claire decided to search for Jim on foot, since using a vehicle might alarm any troll — if it were to be one.

They took a quick stroll outside, heading for the school as that was where Jim claimed to be at. The town was quiet, most people were already asleep since it was a weekday.

Barbara and Claire were walking towards the school, the atmosphere grew thicker and everything felt more tense as they walk through the streets and see cars crushed — and seemed like they were thrown — and some of the lamp posts weren't exactly standing the right way up. Barbara gulped at the scene, it sent goosebumps to both women. It didn't take them a moment to realize that it definitely is a ‘troll problem’, and definitely not a good one in that matter.

They continued their way, but this time following the path of literal chaos. They stopped every now and then to investigate the destruction of whoever caused this caused, there were large scratches unlike any that they've seen before. At the moment, they had stopped to take a closer look at a car that was crashed against a wired metal fence, they were surprised that no one had reported this yet. It was dead quiet… until it wasn’t. A scream coming from two teenage boys from a distance broke the silence.

“This is the third time we took this turn!” one shout went.

“It’s not like we have much option to work with!” another went.

The screams made Barbara's heart drop, she knows who those screams are coming from no matter what the situation may be. It was as she feared, and it was as Blinky predicted. The two boys were being chased by a large, black troll — a body type much like Aaarrrgghh's.

Barbara looked at the glowing blue object inside her pocket, she knew what she had to do. She took the amulet out and began to say the incantation. for a brief moment, she levitated in the air and there was a bright blue glow. The pieces of her armor, one by one, attached to her in an enchanting manner. Her attire changed entirely, as if she wasn't in her scrubs just a second ago. Her glasses disappeared just like the rest of her original attire, but the lenses attached to her helmet — which, one the inside perfectly fits her just like her actual glasses — miraculously worked just like the lenses of her glasses.

Barbara summoned daylight in her hands, though it still felt somewhat heavy to her. She doesn’t have any training on it yet, but after all, she was the one who taught Jim baseball back when he was still in middle school.

Barbara was relieved when she saw that the two boys took no notice of this; however, her relief was cut short when she saw the beast chasing her son. Jim and Toby took a sharp turn on 7th street without looking back, giving Barbara a chance to intervene. Before the beast could take the same turn the two boys did, Barbara blocked his way.

The beast’s eyes widened with surprise, though it was not just because of the sudden appearance of the creature in the armor clad. How could this creature be standing before him if the boy was visibly running away? But questions are to be asked later. Their identity will barely matter once they’re dead.

“Trollhunter!” Bular yelled, “Merlin’s Creation, Gunmar’s Bane,” he growled.

Barbara gulped, her heart was racing faster and she started to shake a little but managed to keep her stance.

“Surrender the amulet and I will give you a speedy death.”

Bular went straight for an attack, trying to catch the armored warrior with his right fist.

Barbara was glad she took those Krav Maga lessons, she dodges the beast’s attack. The blow was hard enough that it crushed the ground on impact. The lack of training made Barbara incapable of facing the troll and not just that, her sword — daylight — vanished, she did the only rational thing left to do…

Coward, Bular thought as the Trollhunter ran the other way. The Trollhunter slipped in between a narrow area in between to buildings in which he couldn’t fit, forcing him to take the longer route. But he was not too worried about this, as trolls are naturally faster than humans of foot.

Barbara slipped perfectly against the narrow space of two shops, meeting Claire on the other side.

“What are you doing here?!” she exclaimed at the teen. Claire should be nowhere near this area, especially now that a man-eating troll is well after her — them.

Claire wasted no time and grabbed Barbara’s had and ran with her. “I did!” she answered Barbara’s question, “but I found Blinky and Aaarrrgghh and thought you needed help!”

Barbara truly admired the brave, determined child… but she still shouldn’t be here. “Where are we going?” Barbara asked as she looked back if the beast was behind them.

“Aha! Lady Barbara!” Blinky exclaimed, walking towards them as Aaarrrgghh followed.

“This- this black troll! Uh- Bular- you said it,” Barbara began, “he’s trying to kill me! Y-you guys can fight him, right?”

“Sadly, Lady Barbara, I do not possess the skill to defeat Bular,” Blinky explained.

Claire pointed at Aaarrrgghh, who was standing next to Blinky. “What about him?” she asked. “He’s big.”

“Pacifist,” Aaarrrgghh calmly explained.

“Seriously?” Claire complained.

Blinky stepped forward. “This is why there is a Trollhunter, Lady Barbara.”

A growl from the distance caught the four’s attentions. It was Bular who was rushing towards them, fast.

“Quick! Follow me, we’ll be safe in Heartstone Trollmarket!” Blinky exclaimed as they began to run the other way.

Aaarrrgghh took Claire and Barbara, letting them ride on his back as he was relatively faster. They went into a shortcut into the woods, towards the canal. Bular was nearing them, the trees that they passed were falling behind them as the brute was catching up.

“The horngazel! Where is my horngazel!” Barbara heard Blinky exclaime. “You have to buy us time Lady Barbara! Call of Daylight!” he said.

“I- I can’t!”

“We still have to open the gateway to Trollmarket, you have to buy us time!” the six-eyed troll explained.

“You have to be kidding me,” Barbara mumbled to herself.

“I was serious, Lady Barbara, I do not find this a good time to make jokes.” Claire only had to facepalm at Blinky’s comment, sarcasm is definitely not something trolls are familiar with.

When they finally reached the canal, Blinky — alongside Aaarrrgghh, who was carrying Claire — went under the bridge while Barbara stayed at the edge of the canal to face Bular to buy the rest some time.

Bular was tearing down all the trees that were in his path, rushing closer and closer to Barbara. Barbara stood there, trying to fight her fear, trying to summon Daylight. Her hands would glow, but it would soon disappear. She tried harder, nothing. Bular was close, very close… he caught up to her. Bular gave the Trollhunter a strong blow on her chestplate, sending her flying into the middle of the canal. Good thing she was in her armor, else she would be dead. But the armor didn’t cancel out the pain, it was still there and it hurt. It felt as if she broke every ribcage in her chest, she gasped for air as she tried to get up. Bular, that beast, was watching her from the edge of the canal, amused, giving a wicked grin.

“You are not fit to wield the mantle, fleshbag,” Bular snarled.

Barbara grunted as she got up on her feet, grasping her lower chest with her slightly injured left arm. She felt something within her, an inner light. No one could see it, but she closed her eyes. Instead of forcing it to come out, she simply felt it and called out on Daylight. Unknownst to her, her hand illuminated a bright blue glow and she felt a heavy weight pull her right arm down. There it was, Daylight. Barbara held her sword with both her hands and gave a fighting stance. Bular growled at the scene.

“Aha! I found it!” Blinky suddenly exclaimed, holding up a glowing, orange crystal.

No one needed to tell Barbara it was the thing they were looking for earlier. She rushed to meet them but Bular leaped in front of her, blocking her way. Barbara gasped and held up her sword. There was a faint “Cut him like in the operating room!” coming from Claire and a “Quick! We have to open it!” coming from Blinky. Barbara swung her sword at the brute, but it seemed to not have an effect on him, not even a wince. Bular tried to crush her but she swiftly dodged again. All her earlier thoughts came back to her, this was it, she has to fight back, to hurt — preferably finish — the troll that stood before her. She needs to do it. She recalled her memories from earlier, this brute chasing her son down the street. And if this was to be the case, if these kinds of creatures would go and hurt innocent people including Jim, then no oath was worth her son’s life — worth anyone’s lives. She gave another swing, this time it was from above, this time it aimed to hit Bular.

Blinky, Aaarrrgghh and Claire finally succeeded in opening the gateway. “Lady Barbara!” Blinky called out, “come on, we must waste no time!”

“I’m a bit busy right now,” Barbara — who had missed her strike to Bular — answered as she and her opponent circle around in the middle of the canal, waiting for one to strike. Aaarrrgghh and Claire went in, Blinky yelled “lets go, Lady Barbara!” before following the two.

“I will drink your blood from a goblet made of your skull!” Bular stated.

Barbara knew this was merely an intimidation but she couldn’t help but think of the fact that using the skull as a goblet may not work, considering all the entry holes on it. She shook her head and brushed those unimportant thoughts away. She gave another strike, she was somewhat proud that this one hit. But her proud moment didn’t last long as the sword simply attached to the stone skin of the brute and didn’t seem to hurt him even a little. Bular lifted his arm in which the sword was stuck along with the Trollhunter who was still holding on to it. The brute tried to grab the Trollhunter with his other arm, but missed by an inch as the Trollhunter decided to jump at just the right moment. Bular threw the sword that was attached to his body away. This gave Barbara a few seconds to run.

She ran towards the gateway — so close, it was so close — but closed just as she reached it. Bular took his swords and threw both at the Trollhunter, only missing by a few inches. Barbara felt her heart raising, she looked behind her as Bular rushed in. This is it, she thought, closing her eyes as the image of Jim not knowing where she went, worrying, popped in her head. Barbara feared that Jim will think that she left him without a goodbye, just like his father. But in the nick of time, the portal opened and a hand reached on to her — to her surprise — and pulled her in.

Bular roared as be banged his clenched fists at the cement of the bridge.

Inside, they had entered a cave-like setting. Barbara was panting as her armor glowed and vanished as if it was never there, the amulet dropped from her chest but she caught it with her hand.

“We. Almost. Died!” Barbara exclaimed.

Almost, Lady Barbara,” Blinky said. “A life of ‘almost’ is a life of never,” he remarked as he walked deeper into a cave, in which a crystal staircase appeared before them. Barbara and Claire followed, they couldn’t help but be amazed at it. They followed Blinky and Aaarrrgghh as they made their way down. Reaching the bottom of the staircase, they entered into a beautiful, massive cavern that was lit up by a mix of both crystals and man-made lights. Barbara gave a gasp of astonishment as she looked around while Claire breathed out a voiceless “wow”.

“Welcome!” Blinky said enthusiastically. “To Heartstone Trollmarket!”

 


 

“Jim!” Toby called out, but Jim ignored this. “Jiiim!”

“What?!” Jim snapped. “We have to bike away from that thing!”

Toby stopped, gasping for air. “What thing exactly?”

Jim also stopped and looked back at his best friend, he also glanced pass him and turned back at him. The troll that was chasing them was no longer there. “We… lost it?” Jim asked, hoping for a ‘yes’.

“I th-think so…” Toby was still catching his breath. “I- I think I want to go inside for now, see ya’ Jimbo.” Toby took his bike and walked up to his house.

Jim looked up to realize that they were indeed in front of their houses, he barely noticed. Though who would notice that you’re home if there’s a man-eating troll chasing you? Certainly not Jim.

He went inside, tired. His palms were still somewhat sweaty, his breathing is back to normal, though his hair was a ruffled mess. He went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water, barely noticing the broken coffee table. When he went up his room, he noticed that it was silent, he noticed that no one welcomed him in. Jim slightly panicked and called out on Barbara.

A “Mom?” in the kitchen, a “Mom?!” in the living room and a “Mooom?!” in the upstairs hallway, nothing. He had even checked the basement, no one. Jim began to panic, his heart rate was rising once more. His mind came back to the black troll… what if- no, he tried not to think about it, but still assumed the worst. However, before he could rush out the front door, his phone vibrated and he gave out a long sigh of relief seeing as who messaged him. He opened it.

[Mom: Hey kiddo, I got called in. Might not be home until later. Stay safe, love you. Call me if anything happens.]

Her text seemed like it has more worry than her usual text messages, but Jim was happy that despite everything, his mother still looked after him as he looked after her. They looked after each other. Though it seemed suspicious that her car was still in the driveway, but she had mentioned before that the car’s battery was discharged, so he simply dismissed the thought. It was a long day, he needed rest. He also needed to tell Draal about how that black troll chased them, if it’s troll business, he needs to know.

But for now, he needs some rest.

Chapter Text

It was very late — or very early — depending on who you ask. The smell of damp grass was overshadowed by a metallic-like smell, like iron, but not really — not entirely. Walter Strickler — fidgeting his pen — calmly walked deeper into the woods, in which the smell grew stronger as well as another smell, an odor, like that of a decomposing animal started to be noticeable. The dark was not something human eyes were adjusted to, which was why this history professor’s eyes were glowing a yellow with his iris as a blood red and his pupils slitted like that of a cat’s. Granted that no one was around, he continued to do this. He reached the source of the smell. Bular was too busy feasting on the dead deer that he barely noticed the figure that was coming behind him.

“And where did you get that?” Strickler spoke as he stood behind the brute. The poor creature that Bular had decided to feed on had its intestine sticking out of the flesh that was torn open, a river of blood

Bular, with his hands covered by the crimson red liquid that came from the deer, snarled at Strickler as he turned his head to meet his eyes. “None of your business, Impure,” he answered, as he further chewed his meal.

“Feeding on a mere deer, are we?” Strickler remarked. “Pity, I thought you’d be feasting on the Trollhunter,” he taunted with a smirk before putting his pen back in his pocket.

“You filthy impure!” Bular caught Strickler off-guard and grabbed him by the neck, raising him up. “You lied!”

Strickler was gasping for air as he spoke, “W- ugh- What are you- ack- talking ab- huagh- bout?” He tried to speak as best he can while grasping on Bular’s grip on him, trying his best to slip out.

“The boy!” Bular growled, before letting go of Strickler to face him closer. He faced Strickler who was now sitting on the floor gasping for air and heavily breathed out on his face. “He was not the Trollhunter! You. Lied,” the brute snarled.

This left Strickler in utter confusion, did his eyes deceive him? “Impossible!” he countered as he stood up once more. “I saw him with the amulet! He would have never gotten it if it didn’t call on him,” Strickler remarked.

Bular scowled at Strickler’s defense. But it is the impure who is wrong, he knows what he saw.

“How do you even know that he isn’t the Trollhunter?” Strickler demanded to know.

“Because I saw him.” Another snarl escaped the brute. “I saw him run away at the same time as I saw the Trollhunter stop me.”

“What?!” Strickler exclaimed in disbelief. He gave a low growl, “This can’t be…” he stated as he put his hand to his chin, which had smears of blood.

“But it is, Impure. You gave me the wrong information. If it wasn’t your connection to my father, I would gladly slaughter you like a lamb right now.”

Strickler was more irritated at his blood-stained sweater, he had just finished laundry and with his tight schedule it’s less likely that he would have time for this. He sighed, “Fine. I shall look into this.” He fixed the lapels of his jacket. “That does not mean I believe you, no. I am only giving you the benefit of the doubt,” Strickler stated, still strongly believing at what he saw and not whatever this brute claims he saw. The comment made Bular growl. Strickler knew that it would be smarter if he decided to leave the brute alone, he would also love to get the blood off of him as he doesn’t want to smell like it, especially in class tomorrow.

Walter Strickler left for his car in which he parked nearby. He took off his brown jacket and set it on the passenger seat. He sat down quietly for a moment, not turning on the engine yet. He closed his eyes and breathed in, the smell of blood was something he had gotten used to in his line of work… the one that involves babysitting that big brute. Though who was he to think that teaching adolescents would be less of a bloody job than his other one? He enjoyed the smell of blood, it reminded him of the days in which he would triumph in war — both troll and human wars alike — and he liked it; however, the same scent reminded him of loss, which was one of the reasons he had taught himself not to care. He showed affection towards his students every now and then, he had always dismissed those affections as an addition to his guise. Though he began to wonder if these affections were only still tools after the death of one of his students in the hands of Bular and he couldn’t do anything about it, for days it left a bitter taste in his mouth and something in his stomach would curl up every time he sees that empty seat. He eventually pushed these emotions away and compelled himself not to get attached to anyone like that again, and to a human, no less. He managed, until one James Lake Jr. showed up, he reminded Strickler so much of that other boy. What could possibly go wrong on letting affections grow one last time? One last time before the rise of Gumm Gumms wipes all his precious pupils out. As it turns out, of all the people to become the Trollhunter, it had to be him — or someone close to him if he had access to the amulet to begin with. Either way, his life was surely in danger.

Strickler sighed, he simply inhaled deeply… now the smell of blood just felt sickening. He wanted it off of him. He started the engine and drove away. Why was he, of all creatures in the world, was stuck in this mess?

 


 

There they stood, two humans in a place — a paradise — of creatures they wouldn’t have known existed a month prior, but there they were. It was breathtaking, like out of a fantasy novel. Barbara and Claire took their time to look around and let themselves be enthralled by the scene. Trolls, walking around and talking, for a moment it felt like it was them who were complete aliens to this world.

“Woah!” Claire exclaimed, “This is your home?” she asked Blinky, eyes glistening.

“Yes,” Blinky answered. “It is the home and sanctuary of all good trolls.”

As they walked through the market, they caught the attention of a few — dozen — trolls. Blinky remarked that “Humans have never set foot on Heartstone Trollmarket before” as they made their way.

“More humans?” one troll remarked, though Barbara and Claire were either too busy listening to Blinky or were just simply fascinated by Trollmarket to take notice of it.

“Friends,” Aaarrrgghh answered.

They passed the market like it was just in the world of humans. They passed a blacksmith shop, what seems to be a pub, and a few statues that were really nice decor. Though a troll, who was only supposed to get glug as he holds a black rectangular thing in his hand, doesn’t seem to be fond of the situation. Their trip was slightly interrupted by a swarm of little creatures, one of which went in front of Claire.

“Aww these are so cu— Ack! They bite!” Claire was only halfway through a compliment and one of those little vermin had already decided to try and bite her finger off.

“Be careful Claire and Lady Barbara, those vermin can’t just bite you, they also pickpocket. Scum of the Earth, if I do say so myself,” Blinky stated.

Barbara adjusted her glasses before commenting, “Thats, uh, good to know.”

Claire went ahead to follow Aaarrrgghh who gestured her to follow him. “Holy… shish… kebab…” Her eyes widened as she witnessed a beautiful fiery-orange crystal at the heart of the market.

Barbara followed soon after, after hearing Claire’s amazement. “That… is amazing,” she breathed.

“Heartstone,” Aaarrrgghh said softly.

Blinky gave a moment for the two humans to be fascinated by the Heartstone, then spoke, “The lifeforce of trollkind, our source of light and sustenance.”

The two humans were speechless, they were silent for a moment until about a dozen troll appeared behind them and caught their attention.

“Why are there more humans in Trollmarket?!” one troll demanded.

“More?” Barbara mused as Claire commented, “A think we attracted some of the locals.”

“Filthy fleshbags!” another troll exclaimed.

“Friends! Let me explain,” Blinky began, “This is our new Tro—” he tried to explain but was cut off as a blue, spiked, troll entered the scene. His very presence silenced everyone there.

“What is this?” the troll asked, “Why have you brought fleshbags here after explicitly telling me not to?”

“I was getting there Draal,” Blinky stated, slightly stepping back from Draal.

“I was lectured, embarrassed, only to be confronted by nothing but hypocrisy!” Draal spat out, he was still not over the fact that both Vendel and Blinky had lectured him about not absent-mindedly bringing humans into Trollmarket. And now here, Blinkous Galadrigal, simply doing the same thing. Bushigal. Blinky did not answer Draal, so the spiked troll took a deep breath and gave another question, though it wasn’t in a less annoyed tone, “Why have you even brought fleshbags here? Have they spotted you too?”

“You only speak for yourself Draal, me and Aaarrrgghh are smart enough not to get spotted,” Blinky said, putting his lower pair of arms behind his back. “This… is different.”

“How different?” Draal asked, his tone was softer but the hint of irritation is still there. He looked at the two humans, one was obviously older than the other. The older one had lenses on her face while the younger one had multi-colored things stuck to the hair of her head, both seemed nervous. He then gave his glance back to Blinky.

“This human, Drall,” Blinky began, pointing at Barbara, “is the Trollhunter!” Everyone present gave a gasp.

“What?!” Draal’s eyes widened, for a second he thought that the six-eyed scholar was bluffing. But he was not. “Impossible!” Draal spat out, “She’s not even a troll! And there has never been a human Trollhunter before!”

Barbara was completely alien to this world, she didn’t know what to do or say. She looked at Blinky for guidance. The six-eyed troll simply calmly stated, “Show him.” Barbara took a deep breath before taking out the amulet into her palms, this completely perturbed the spiked troll.

“For the power of Merlin—” She started, before being interrupted by Blinky saying “Glory.” She calmed her breathing. “Right… For the glory of Merlin… Daylight is mine to command.” She said the incantation and she was surrounded by a blue light as her armor appeared, proving that she truly is the Trollhunter.

“A human protecting us?” one of the trolls in the background remarked.

“But… why… I- I should have…” Draal scowled. “Bushigal!” he exclaimed. “I am the amulet’s rightful heir! I, Draal, son of Kanjigar!”

Son?!” Barbara exclaimed, though her voice was slightly muffled inside the armor. “Ooh, that I can see being a problem,” Claire commented.

“Amulet. Chose,” Aaarrrgghh calmly stated as Barbara stepped back to him.

Draal growled at the krubera’s remark. “What did Vendel say about this?” he demanded.

“We have not seen him yet,” Blinky answered. “But if you are eager to know, you may fetch him if you please.”

Blinky getured at Barbara and Claire to follow him and they gladly did. They passed the visibly angry troll and departed into a different area of the cavern.

What welcomed them into the next area was as breathtaking as the previous one, it gave a different aura but the enchantment was still there. It was vast, wide, beautiful. In their entry, they passed a rather narrow part of the structure in which the sides lead into a seemingly endless fall, a darkness. There were pillars on the outer edge of the dome-like structure, and on top are statues of trolls who can be seen wearing the same armor Barbara wore earlier.

“Holy shish-kabob!” Claire exclaimed, “Where are we right now?”

“This is The Hero’s Forge!” Blinky said with vigor.

Barbara took a quick 360 turn, admiring the beauty of the forge, but what caught her attention the most were the stone statues on the pillars. She narrowed her eyes as she looked at and and spoke, “are these…?”

“Trollhunters,” Aaarrrgghh finished her sentence. Blinky heard this and followed. “Your predecessors, Lady Barbara,” he said.

“In here,” Blinky began after a long pause, “you will be trained to fight Gumm Gumms.”

“Gumm Gumms are ‘evil’ trolls, right? You explained it to us in the house,” Claire interjected in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Brilliantly put, Claire!” Blinky put both pairs of his hands together at the girl’s comment. He was amused on how she paid attention to him in their discussions.

“But, ‘Gumm Gumms’ doesn’t really seem like the scariest name out there,” Barbara commented.

“Well, Lady Barbara, ‘Gumm Gumm’ in trollspeak is ‘bringer of horrible, slow, painful and thoroughly-calculated death.”

“Oof.” Both Barbara and Claire cringed when Blinky explained what their name truly means.

“But concern isn’t necessary,” Blinky stated as he walked towards the wall near a staircase. “Gumm Gumms were exiled to the Darklands and only one roams free.”

“Bular,” Barbara breathed, fixing her glasses.

“They have been trying to escape for centuries and they will stop at nothing to do do,” Blinky explained. “Hence, we must begin Lady Barbara’s training as soon as possible!”

“And when is ‘as soon as possible?” Barbara asked.

“Well, now, of course!” Blinky stated. “Step back, please.”

With no other comments or questions to be added, Barbara, Claire and Aaarrrgghh did what they were asked to do. Though Blinky had to tell them to move back a little further twice more before he pushed the button beside him. Barbara took a deep breath, nervous with what kind of training she would receive. With the push, the walls of the forge began to swiftly open up and large blades began to swing from side to side. A visible gulp came from barbara as she whispered “Oh no” to herself. The three had to dodge when a blade from the floor swung at them, causing them to scatter in the forge. Aaarrrgghh successfully got Claire in his arms and took both of them out of the training ground, Barbara however, found herself stuck in the middle of the forge.

Barbara, with her quick thinking and reflex, dodged as the blades coming from the sides swung at her. She managed to duck when a blade from above almost caught her, she felt the wind from the blade at the back of her neck. This is just ‘training’, she thought to herself for a second. She managed to dodge another blade that came from the floor, the surprise caused her to get out of balance but managed to lift herself up. After regaining her balance, Barbara saw an opening between two blades that have yet to swing towards her again. Barbara took it, she rushed towards the opening as the two blades swung down, she managed to jump an inch away from being cut in half — or quarters, in that matter. A second later, she found herself beside the wall, safe, alive. She was panting as her heart rate raised from what had happened.

“Excellent reflexes, Lady Barbara!” Blinky complimented her with her outstanding performance, even more so as she was caught off-guard.

Panting, Barbara tried to answer, “th-thank you… But, can we start off easy?”

Blinky, with a wide smile, opened his mouth to answer but he was cut off before he could even start. “Blinkous Galadrigal,” a voice coming from the entrance echoes throughout the forge. Blinky was startled as he quickly turned the training mode of the forge off by pressing the button once more.

A light peach-colored troll with white fur entered the forge and met them at the middle. “Blinkous,” he spoke, taking a quick gaze at the two humans present. He was no longer surprised to see two more humans in Trollmarket, not after the incident that involved the son of the previous Trollhunter. “I wish to speak with the fleshbag which the amulet supposedly ‘chose’.” He took a glance at Claire and Barbara who were now standing beside each other, he took a few steps closer towards the two women. “I am Vendel,” he introduced himself. “Son of Rundle, son of Killfred,” he continued.

Barbara and Claire simply stood there, speechless to be standing in front of who seems to be the elder troll. Claire looked at Barbara — who seemed lost in her thoughts as her brows were furrowed — then glanced back and Vendel. “I- I am- uh- Claire, daughter of, uh- Javier and Ophelia?” she stated, but sounded in more of a question.

“Hmm…” Vendel mused. “Which one of you is the Trollhunter?” he asked as he raised a brow.

Barbara stepped forward, facing Vendel. “I am,” she spoke, taking out the amulet from her pocket.

“Amulet chose,” Aaarrrgghh said, pointing at Barbara.

Vendel scoffed at the unasked comment. “Ridiculous!” he exclaimed. “However, The amulet has been known to make ill-fated choices.” Vendel turned his back and walked to the center of the forge.

Barbara’s determined expression faded into a more unsure and confused one. “What do you mean?” she asked, wanting clarification.

Vendel answered without turning to face Barbara, “Why don’t you ask your ‘mentor’?”

Barbara faced Blinky but now answer came from the troll. His earlier enthusiasm faded into an expression full of shame. Thankfully, Aaarrrgghh came closer to give Barbara the answers she was looking for. “Blinky trained Trollhunter before,” Aaarrrgghh said, as he pointed at one of the statues. “Unkar ‘The Unfortunate’.”

“U-unfortunate?” Barbara was almost hesitant to ask.

Aaarrrgghh nodded. “First Night. Torn, limb from limb.” Barbara paled when Aaarrrgghh stated how the other Trollhunter came about.

“The amulet chose true,” Blinky defended with a firm tone.

“If it did, the Soothscryer will reveal it,” Vendel stated as he gestured at Barbara to step towards where he was pointing at.

“But,” Blinky tried to counter, “She hasn’t even had a single hour’s training—”

Vendel stopped Blinky mid-sentence with a gesture as he pointed at Barbara to step in. Barbara stepped on the part of the floor depicting two feet — though it was big for her own. The amulet started to glow, and with it, the carvings on the floor. A structure came out of the ground, glowing a blood-red. It was shaped like the head of a troll and the mouth of it opened.

“Behold, the Soothscryer!” Vendel stated.

“What is it?” Claire asked from the background.

“This, fleshbag, will judge the Trollhunter’s true spirit,” he explained. “Insert your right hand, Trollhunter.”

Barbara gulped, she tried to do as she was told but was too short for the Soothscryer. Aaarrrgghh saw her struggle and lifted her up, there was a silent “thank you” that came from her and Aaarrrgghh nodded. For a brief moment, she looked at it, hesitant to put her hand in. She looked at her hand, I hope I still get you back, she thought. She finally put her hand in, slowly. Once it was inside, the Soothscryer suddenly closed. Barbara yelped as she struggled to get her hand out of it. An “Ah!” escaped her every now and then, until the Soothscryer opened up, letting go of Barbara. Though she was relieved that she got her arm back, the sudden unfastening caused her to fall backwards. Luckily, Aaarrrgghh had caught her before she hit the floor.

Vendel walked towards Barbara. “Well?” Claire asked, curious on what happened and how the Soothscryer could possibly judge Barbara’s spirit. Vendel did not answer at once, he observed the Soothscryer first. “Hmm,” Vendel mused, “inconclusive.”

“What?” Barbara stood up. “What do you mean ‘inconclusive’? I’m not doing that again!”

Vendel turned away. “It means, Trollhunter, that there has never been a human chosen by the amulet before. The Soothscryer needs more time to conclude its judgement.” And with that, Vendel walked away.

 


 

It wasn’t too cold — considering it was California — nor was it too hot, just the perfect temperature to be set in slumber. All the problems and fear from earlier seemed to have faded away. It was just Jim and his bed… until a ring from his phone came in. Jim’s eyes felt heavy and struggled to open, he didn’t fight it. With his eyes closed he tried to reach towards where he remembered placing his phone. A few misses but he finally reached it. He didn’t bother to look at the caller I.D. to see who it might be, he just simply took the phone and answered it as he took it to his ear.

“H-hello?” Jim tried not to sound too tired, but failed.

“Fleshbag! — ha, it worked,” the caller remarked, failing to introduce themselves.

It took a few moments for Jim to guess who it was, but it occurred to him that there is only one creature who calls him ‘fleshbag’ and has his number. “Ugh, Drall. It’s like 3 AM! Does ‘sleep’ ring a bell to you?” he complained.

“I apologize, Jim. But I have a question… are you awake?”

There was a slight groan coming from Jim’s side. “I am now. What’s the problem?”

“The Trollhunter,” Draal didn’t care to elaborate.

“Trollhunter?” Jim’s eyes opened up and squinted as it wasn’t adjusted to the dark, he sat down on his bed. “The one you explained to be the protector of both trolls and humans? You told me your father was the previous Trollhunter… what about it?” Jim found the topic intriguing, especially how Drall called him — a teenager who barely know anything about trolls — for a topic regarding the protector of trollkind.

“Well…” Draal didn’t know where to begin, but he collected himself and continued, “The new Trollhunter is, well, uh… human.”

“Really? Cool.” This was not the response that Draal was looking for from Jim.

“Ugh- What do you mean ‘cool’? And do not say ‘cold’, I clearly mean the other one,” Draal stated in an offended tone.

Jim took his pillow and adjusted it as he took the phone to his other ear. “I mean, like, isn’t it kinda cool to have a human Trollhunter for a change?”

“Are you being absurd?!” Draal exclaimed. “There has never been a human Trollhunter before! Who knows what will happen to Trollmarket.”

“Darn,” Jim uttered. “I mean, jeez, but if you’re really that upset… you can challenge them… you can do that, right? To see who’s more worthy.”

“Well, yes. But I do not think that challenging the Trollhunter would be a wise decision.”

Jim yawned but covered his mouth with his free hand. “Why is that?” he asked, slowly slouching back to laying down.

“Because,” Drall explained, “They are clearly more skilled and worthy to wield the mantle if the amulet chose them.”

Jim, now fully laid in the bed — again — suggested, “Then why don’t you ‘spar’ with them… y’know, to see who’s better, and the amulet would probably reconsider choosing you.”

“But the amulet chose—” Draal tried to argue but was immediately cut off by Jim.

“You said that it was the first time that a human was chosen,” Jim threw back Draal’s words back to him. “So there’s a first time for everything… which means it isn’t entirely impossible for the amulet to re-choose.”

“I suppose you’re right…” Draal mused.

Jim gave out another yawn, he could feel his phone slip from his grip. “And, like, if it doesn’t, then just have fun kicking there butt,” he quipped.

“I will take that into consideration,” Draal said. “By the way, you seem tired. Why is that?”

Jim’s eyes were struggling to open and it felt as if another yawn was coming out. “Well… 3 AM isn’t really an appropriate time for most humans to be… awake…” he explained.

“Ah… I see,” Draal said. “Take your rest, then, fleshbag.”

“Thanks… but would you mind calling me ‘Jim’?” he asked. “ Being called ‘fleshbag’ feels like I’m being labeled, don’t you think?”

“Hmm,” Draal thought for a brief moment, “I suppose… Rest then, Jim.”

Jim no longer answered back. There was a soft snore coming from Jim’s side. Draal took the liberty of hanging up. Perhaps Jim’s argument had a point, if the amulet was able to choose a human for the first time, what’s to stop it from rechoosing a new Trollhunter. After all, it wasn’t the first time it made an ill choice.

After hanging up, Draal quickly got on his feet and ran out of his dwelling. He left his phone inside, to be sure that he won’t lose or accidentally destroy it. Draal made his way to the Hero’s Forge. Along the way he couldn’t shake off the feeling of slight nervousness, they were chosen for a reason, he silently thought to himself as he drew closer to the forge. What if I lose to them? He was contemplating whether to go forward with it or not. He was wondering if he had enough strength to with ‘sparring’ the new Trollhunter. But as he reached the entrance to the forge, he took a deep breath, You saw her, a voice inside him argued, she couldn’t even stand up to you. Why are you afraid?. Why was he afraid? He was the son of Kanjigar the Courageous, the son of the previous Trollhunter. He has trained his entire life to wield the mantle, to hold the title, to be the next Trollhunter. He was one to want to live up to his father’s name. He took a deep breath and straightened his body as he entered the forge.

As he entered, no one noticed him. Everyone in the forge was busy training. The smaller human — the one with black hair — sat quietly beside Aaarrrghh. His gaze turned to the woman in the Trollhunter’s armor, their stance wide, body lowered. Blinky was throwing stones at her — though to Draal these are merely pebbles — they seemed to have been discussing something, but what he needed — wanted — to do cannot wait. He stepped in to meet with the Trollhunter, blocking Blinky.

“What is it, Draal? Can you not see that I am trying to train the Trollhunter? Our Trollhunter?” Blinky asked, but his words fell on deaf ears as Draal completely ignored his remark.

Draal went to face the Trollhunter, her shoulders dropped at the sight of him. “Ah, so the great Trollhunter’s training begins!” he said, trying to brush off any hint of nervousness, trying to be confident of himself and his abilities. “I am here to offer myself as a sparring partner if you may…”

“That would be a great offer,” Blinky said, coming out from behind Draal, taking his attention,“considering it’s coming from you…”

“Of course,” Draal answered in a matter-of-factly tone. “I trained my whole life to fight after all."

Barbara felt inside her that this wasn’t going to be a ‘friendly spar’. It seems as if he was definitely not going to go easy on her, considering earlier’s encounter.

Draal gave his gaze back to Barbara. “So, Trollhunter,” he leaned closer. “Do you have what it takes?”

We’ll see.

Chapter Text

“E-excuse me?” Barbara distanced herself a bit.

“What is it?” Draal asked rhetorically. “Afraid to face me? It is only a spar. I thought you were — are — a warrior, is it not why the amulet chose you?”

Barbara didn’t know what to answer, she was only a ‘warrior’ for less than a week and never really had to face anyone until a few hours ago. “I-I, uhm- uh…” she stammered.

Draal looked at Barbara’s nervous expression, this caused all his earlier fears to be brushed away “What is it Trollhunter? Will you accept my humble offer?” he finally asked.

Blinky saw Barbara’s unsettled posture “Of course she will accept it! But…” he interjected.

“‘But’? But what?” Draal asked for an elaboration.

“But perhaps in due time,” Blinky answered.

“Due time?” Vendel was watching from above, holding his staff in his left hand as he moved forward to be better seen standing in the balcony. “There is no ‘due time’ in a battle with the unpredictable,” he remarked, “I, too, wish to see what the Trollhunter can do.”

“Perhaps…” Blinky mused. “Perhaps.”

“It is settled then,” Draal clasped his hands together. “I’ll try to go easy on you, fleshbag.”

Barbara and Draal separated into two areas of the forge. Draal settled on one side of the forge, warming up for the spar. Barbara followed Blinky as they made their way on the other side.

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Barbara halted Blinky. Blinky turned to Barbara as a response, waiting for what she has to say. “You actually expect me, me, to fight this guy?” Barbara argued, knowing that she, herself, had not enough training not to mention that her opponent is a troll, no less.

“Well, yes, Lady Barbara…” Blinky answered, seemingly confident with Barbara’s abilities in combat. “You managed to confront Bular and you still have all your limbs attached!” Blinky remarked.

“Barely!” she exclaimed.

“Your reaction to immense, life-threatening pressure is truly remarkable!”

“That was just my surgeon skills!” Barbara argued.

Blinky sensed Barbara’s anxiety kicking in, he put his lower hands on each of her shoulders. “I’m sure you will do well, Lady Barbara. The fight is within you, trust yourself… One hit!” Blinky let go and walked to join Claire and Aaarrrgghh at the sides to spectate on Barbara. “And besides…” he looked over his shoulder, “Draal did say he will go easy on you, did he not?” Blinky gave a sympathetic smile before rejoining with his and Barbara’s companion.

“Okay…” Barbara breathed, “I can do this… I can do this!” After all, how could she protect Jim from those who would not hesitate to eliminate her if she doesn’t face someone who will — presumably.

Both Barbara and Draal are now in position — on opposing sides of the arena, they get ready with their stances. Barbara is wielding the sword of Daylight with determination painted on her face — though no one could see it, but it barely mattered. Draal is on an opposing side, facing her with nothing but his bare fists which are clenched.

Vendel, from the balcony, raised a hand then spoke, “Begin.”

Barbara was waiting for her opponent’s attack to figure out what her next moves will consist. Unsure of how to attack Draal, she stays in a defensive stance. At the first second, Draal pounded the floor with his fist, Barbara swore she could feel the quakes it caused beneath her metal clad. Draal gave a few snarls in an attempt to intimidate Barbara and catch her with her defenses down. With Draal’s unsuccessful attempt, he charged first in all fours with a roar. Barbara tried to look for a weak spot in which she could give the blue troll a hit, but to her surprise, Draal rolled like that of a fictional blue character who collects golden rings… Great, she thought, He's fucking Sonic!

Draal was about to hit but Barbara was quick on her feet. She dodged Draal with a yelp and he missed by a mere centimeter. Barbara — even though her heart was pounding — gave out a sigh of relief but the relief did not last long as she looked behind her to see that Draal, surprisingly, had not crashed but instead rolled up against the wall. Barbara’s eyes widened as she feared what will happen next. Draal rolled halfway up the ceiling and dropped down, aiming for Barbara. Barbara braced for Draal’s attack, but as he rapidly came down, he didn’t hit her. Draal had hit the ground, as if he intended to miss. Though it didn't hit her, the impact caused a fog of dust, blocking Barbara’s vision.

Barbara tried to steady her breathing, she tried to sense where her opponent was, but she was suddenly hit from the side. The impact caused her to be flung to the edge of the forge, near the deep. That… was... painful… she thought as daylight disappeared from her grasp and she reached towards her side where Draal striked. She was on her knees. The lenses of Barbara’s mask opened up as she tried to gasp for air. Draal came closer. She wasn’t ready for this. Her vision was blurry as the lenses served as an alternative to her glasses, but she could feel a large presence that was slowly coming from behind but she didn’t have enough strength to stand up. As if by instinct, the lenses closed as she was pulled up by Draal by the arm. She looked at him. There was disappointment in his eyes, though it wasn’t towards her, but seemed like it was towards himself. Did he not prove himself enough that he’s obviously stronger than me? she thought.

Draal came closer, making Barbara — who is now on her feet — back off even further. She nearly tripped off the edge and into the darkness of the deep, but Draal decided that was far enough.

“It was supposed to be me…” He spoke as if there was pain. “I had lost him, to be replaced by you….” Eye-contact was hardly kept.

Barbara fell in silence as she realized that he was just a son that mourned at his father’s death, expecting to continue his honor through him. But instead the amulet chose her over Draal, fate truly loves to play. In the short silence between Barbara and Draal, Barbara silently wished that Draal would one day accept what destiny has for them both and that they could be allies rather than — though left unspoken — subtle enemies. It Also crossed her thoughts about Jim, what would he think if he found out that one day his mother had gotten killed by an evil troll? Would he get himself killed by seeking revenge? No. That won't happen, she won't let it happen.

“I waited for so long to inherit the amulet,” Draal spoke, breaking the silence. His voice was now low, a hint of rage can be heard though not completely wiping out the pain and disappointment from earlier. “But with you…” he scoffed, “I suspect I do not have to wait for very long.” Draal tried to keep up his formidable demeanor despite nearly losing it a few seconds ago.

Draal walked away. Barbara was still in pain and her knees were threatening to hit the ground once more. And it did. Her armor faded into a blue light after it pulled apart, the echo of the cling from the amulet — as it had fallen from her chest — was heard throughout the forge. Blinky, Aaarrrgghh and Claire rushed to aid Barbara.

“He’s right…” Barbara spoke atlast, after finally finding her voice. She looked up to see Vendel, he had his eyes locked on her. Vendel shook his head then quietly walked away from sight. “This is ridiculous!”

 

“Wait, Lady Barbara, Wait!” Blinky called out for Barbara as she was walking fast on her way to the exit. Though Barbara was making sure that Claire was just behind her.

Barbara dismissed Blinky’s call and kept on moving forward. Her emotions was currently a mix of frustration, worry and disappointed. Frustrated of this, of all of this! She was just a normal single-mother with a good-paying job less and a week ago, and now… now she's worried about her, about her son — and for some reason — about the trolls she was ‘chosen’ to protect. And then there was disappointment… in herself, for very self-explanatory reasons.

Barbara took out her phone and looked at the hour, [4:35 AM]. It was late — No, it was early. With an apologetic smile, she looked at Claire who was
just behind her as they made their way to the crystal staircase.

Claire had looked at her own phone earlier, she knew why Barbara had looked at her like that. “It’s okay Dr. Lake…” she said reassuringly, “I’ve stayed up for longer.” She tried to give a little humor to the situation with a somewhat true statement, she had crammed for much worse.

Barbara gave out a sigh and they proceeded to the staircase. As they were about to go up, Blinky halted them and this time Barbara gave into it, she looked back and gave him her attention.

“What?” Barbara spat out.

“Where are you going?” Blinky asked. “You barely finished training.”

“Training?” Barbara asked in frustration, “Do you actually expect me to continue this after I- after this? After the spar and- and…” she trailed off. “I can’t!” she exclaimed. “I can’t do this! What’s the point? I already save lives, why do I need this- this stupid- stupid… and it’s not fate! Don’t you dare say it’s ‘Fate’!”

“Perhaps ‘destiny’.” Blinky remarked, though it left Barbara unamused. There was a silence between all four of them at the scene, all the other trolls that passed by simply minded their own business. Blinky took a deep breath and tried to reach out to Barbara’s shoulder but she jerked it backwards. Blinky took back his hand.

“It’s not…” Barbara mused, “It’s not ‘destiny’... It’s a mistake.”

Blinky came closer as he saw that Barbara was less defiant of him. “Lady Barbara…” he began,“Destiny is a gift. Some go their entire lives, living existence as a quiet desperation. Never learning the truth that what feels as though a burden pushing down upon our shoulders, is actually, a sense of purpose that lifts us to greater heights. Never forget that fear is but the precursor to valour, that to strive and triumph in the face of fear, is what is means to be a hero. Don't think, Lady Barbara. Become!”

“That’s… really great of you, Blinky, for telling me…” Barbara said in honesty, though Blinky could hear the exhaustion in her voice. “Thank you.”

“Now,” Blinky said. “I understand that it has been a long day — a very long day — and that you need rest. We may continue your training when you feel that you’ve rested.”

Barbara did not answer but instead she simply nodded her head. Barbara and Claire made their way up the crystal staircase. It was utterly dead-quiet between them as they all made their way up. Blinky gave both women their own horngazels so that they would be able to enter Trollmarket even if Blinky or Aaarrrgghh are absent.

“I’m really sorry you got dragged into this…” Barbara apologized softly to Claire as they walked back to the Lake residence.

“It’s fine Dr. Lake.” Claire reassured her once more,“Just please don’t tell my parents about this! They freak out if they do!”

“I… can keep a promise.” Barbara thought for a second, “If you promise to stay out of trouble.”

“Seems fair,” Claire answered back as she smiled at Barbara.

“What about school?” Barbara had to ask.

Claire didn’t think twice about what to say, she already had that problem covered. “I can go by Darci’s, maybe for a quick snooze… but she also has my stuff — not to mention my Romeo and Juliet script, since the auditions are tomo— I mean, today.”

“Oh. Well- uh- well that’s great!”

“Speaking of… I have to take this turn to get to her house…” Claire told Barbara, as they needed to go separate directions.

“Stay safe. Wait, do you have my number yet?”

“I don’t think I do, no.”

And with that, they exchanged numbers. Claire already went off the next turn, Barbara watched her and waited until she was out of sight before proceeding to her own path. It was nearly 5 AM, maybe passed 5 at this point. The break of dawn was nearing in, and it would be foolish for Bular to charge at this hour, with that thought in mind, Barbara became less tense.

“Good thing trolls can’t walk in daylight.”

 


 

“It is early!” Revs exclaimed in frustration as he entered his History teacher’s little domain of an office. “Too early!”

Strickler simply rolled his eyes as he closed the blinds. “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” He turned to the boy who was now sitting on the piano stool but did not take the liberty to move it closer to his desk. “If anything, I should be the one who should be more displeased.”

Revs gulped as he sat up straight with the tone of Strickler’s voice, he hadn’t been doing any assignments at all — neither for his classes nor for Stricklander — so where had he screw up now? He was soon to find out.

“How’s that wound of yours,” Strickler finally spoke. Revs lost eye-contact with his ‘boss’ at the mention of his wound. Oh, that, Revs realized.

“You- uh- you can barely see it…” he stammered at his answer,“like it was never there… heh.”

“You almost compromised us.” Strickler gave his TA a snare as he made his way to the door to lock it. “Luckily, Connor was there and he was the one who operated on you, lest you’d have been contained or caught by the color of your blood.”

“I apologize…”

Strickler walked back to his desk and sat down on his chair. “I don’t need your apology,” he spat out, “I told you to at least try to be cautious, yes?”

“But I—” Revs tried to reason

Strickler didn’t halt to let his assistant explain. “Nomura told me that you were running by the hospital and collapsed.” He watched as Revs fell in complete silence, all his earlier confidence seemed to have faded. Good. “And another one,” he added, “You are lucky that both Connor and Nomura didn’t have any urgent assignments, else they wouldn’t have gotten out of their way to consult you.”

The tension was thick, Strickler knew that the boy could feel it as well as he does. He didn’t want the patronize the boy. But if the boy ends up getting his own head on a silver platter, that would not be Strickler’s fault. But he doesn’t want any more changelings to be harmed just because the brute ordered to do so. He, Walter Stricklander, was the leader of the Janus Order and not Bular. If Bular wasn’t the son of the Gumm Gumm king, he would have long gotten rid of him. Strickler glanced at the boy once more, studying his facial features. His brows were furrowed, as if lost in a thought but was still listening otherwise. “You know not all changelings are under my direct command. And they will do anything to gain status and recognition from Bular — the brute who doesn’t even know your neck is still attached to your shoulders, might I add.”

Strickler heard the boy mutter something but couldn’t figure out what he said, he simply dismissed this and continued his little sermon. “I should have never spared you.” He tried to put it out nicely but it came out sounding more like a threat, which did not come greatly to the boy. “But of course, you’ve been more useful than you are a burden. But they don’t know that. If only you’d think twice before trying to start a revolution—“

“Because we don’t deserve this,” Revs muttered as he had finally had enough of what Strickler had said.

“Pardon?”

“We don’t deserve this treatment,” Revs finally spoke up. “And you know that.”

Strickler, alarmed, stood up from his chair. “What do you—“

“It’s unfair for me, and it’s unfair for the rest of them.” the boy uttered with anger and frustration in his tone.

Strickler gave his TA another snare as he tried to hold to his authority over the boy. “Life is unfair. Now, hold your tongue or lose it.”

Revs gave his History teacher a grave look. “Then I can personally give you the dagger to cut my tongue, but only after you listen.”

Strickler didn’t know how to feel, but if it felt even remotely close to the last time the boy has been consumed by his own emotions, he had to be there to prevent it. “You will continue only when I permit you to. I am still your superior,” Strickler stated as he gave the boy an alarming stare, but the boy was persistent

“Are you, though?” The boy’s question rang through Strickler’s ears. Technically, yes… actually, no.

Strickler felt that the boy stepped over a line, he didn’t exactly know what, but he did. He needed to take authority over the irrationally acting boy. He took out a dagger from his drawer and threw it at the boy — finesse was visible as he handled the sharp object. But Reverent put his palms together as he caught the dagger mid-air with almost the same amount of flair.

The TA dropped the dagger to the floor and looked at Strickler with narrowed eyes. “I never wished to be a changeling—“ So that’s where this is going.

“None of us did!” Strickler tried to tell him, but the boy was too drenched in his own emotions to listen.

“But I am, and I get to be tortured and enslaved for it,” he continued.

Strickler tried to reason with him but he was consistent on his little rant of a tantrum. “This is why in Gumar’s reign—“

“Gunmar?!” he exclaimed, completely revolted by the mention of the name. “Don’t you get it? They would love to see our bones as decor as much as they love treating us like inferiors. There is no freedom in Gunmar, Stricklander. Even if Gunmar wins, changelings will lose.”

“So we what?” Strickler bitterly countered. “Hmm? Ally with Trollmarket? They hate changelings too, you know. At least to Gumar, we have a purpose.”

“Purpose?” Revs scoffed, now standing up to head towards Strickler, “What purpose? To be slaves? I thought you cared about our brethren.”

“I do.” Strickler answered in a low growl.

Revs stood up straight to face Strickler, this time he looked at his superior in the eye. There was no intimidation, only the fact that he wanted to be listened to. “I’m not telling you that we should switch sides and everything will be ‘peachy’,” he began, his voice was low and calm, opposing his earlier tone. “I’m telling you that… maybe- maybe we should stop fighting? It’s not- it wasn’t our war to begin with… If we’re going to lose anyway, why not just stay on the side that has already accepted us into society… as equals?”

Strickler was afraid that the conversation would go to this. At one point or another, a changeling would grow attached to these mortals.It was somewhat inevitable since changelings live around humans, but never had he thought that his own assistant would ever grow remorse for them. But who was he to say that he hasn't grown any affection himself? “Humans, you’re referring to them, yes?” He sighed. “They’ve accepted us, sure, but only because they think we’re one of them. We can never show them who we truly are, humans… they are afraid of what they don’t understand. We will have more freedom once trolls rule the overworld. Humans won’t accept us and surely Trollmarket won’t either, we work for and belong to Gunmar. That’s how it has always been, and that is how it will always be.” Strickler sat back down.

There was a moment of silence, a moment to calm down. Revs knew what Strickler meant, but he wasn’t convinced, Bular wanted him dead and ordered every other changeling to take his head… It was at those moments when the only place you can call home was with your kin, but not anymore. “A human Trollhunter isn’t how ‘it has always been’.” And with that, Revs proceeded to exit the room but was called out by Strickler before he could lay a foot out the office.

“That wasn’t the only reason why I called you in,” Strickler explained. Revs gave him his attention but didn’t move from where he stood, ready to go whenever his History teacher finishes. “I am to also inform you that you might need to get close to the two boys, especially Mr. Lake.”

“Why? Can’t Bular just deal with him and be done with it? After all, isn’t he the one itching to get his daddy back from exile?” Why must he do this? Bular and his plans doesn’t even matter to him.

“He reported to me that there is a possibility that Jim Lake Jr. is not the Trollhunter—“

Revs’ brows furrowed and he closed the half-opened door once more. “But you said—“

“I know what I said and I know what I saw. Bular might be wrong but we cannot risk killing the boy,” Strickler explained. “If he isn’t the Trollhunter, he most probably have connections to the real one. We wouldn’t want to make ourselves a walking target now, would we?”

“How do I fit in, in all of this?”

Stricklander leaned forward on his desk. “Befriend James Lake Jr. and find out for yourself, report back to me — and to me alone — once you’ve figured out the truth.”

“Then I have a play to audition in…” the boy mused, then raised a brow at Strickler. “Is that all?”

“Remember where your loyalties lie.”

“Not to Gunmar, for sure.” Revs exited the office, leaving Strickler in the darkness.

Not to Gunmar, oh it never was. His loyalty was to his kin, but when his own brethren turned against him. He had nothing, not until Stricklander spared him. But he didn’t put the boy back in the Order, instead he became his own personal assistant. For the longest time he never left. After their little conversation, he questioned if boy was still loyal to him. Maybe if he could prove himself to be a useful member in the Order once more by retrieving the amulet and freeing Gunmar, maybe the rest of the changelings will accept him once more, given that that is what he wants. After all he mentioned that it’s not fair for them.

 


 

[7:30]

Barbara was fast asleep the moment she got home from Trollmarket — which was around 5-ish — not to mention the minor bruises she earned from the ‘friendly spar’ Draal had offered. The bruises were one thing, after all, she is a medical professional. The exhaustion was another, she had to work for the day then she gets chased by a ten — maybe 12 — foot beast who wants her dead, then she immediately goes into training before getting herself whipped by a troll version of Sonic. Great! And there was Jim, her boy, she didn’t even have enough time for him then, what more now?

Sounds of plates clatter somewhere downstairs was the first clue that Jim was already awake, and unless there was a thief kind enough to cook Barbara breakfast, the next clue was the smell of Jim’s famous breakfast omelette. She hasn’t seen her son all day yesterday, except for that moment when Bular—

Barbara rushed downstairs to see her son. “Jim!” she yelled, troubled. “Jim!” she repeated.

“Mom! Is- is anything wrong? You look pale!” Jim came running out of the kitchen the moment he heard his mother’s cry. “Is there something wrong?” he asked again.

“Are you alright?” she asked as calmly as she could. “You’re up early… -er.”

“Yeah! I just- erm-” What could Jim possibly say? His mother was obviously worried. He had plans to tell her about the new-found world he stumbled upon but right now doesn’t seem to be the right time. “...had a bad dream, that’s all.”

“Bad… dream?” Does he really think last night was all a ‘bad dream’ and decided to sleep it off? Hopefully, the less he knows, the better it seems for him. “What was this bad dream about?” But of course, she was still his mother and concerns were always there. She also wanted to know how much Jim really knew.

“Me and- uh- Toby were being chased by this big- uh- black thing — I didn’t really get to see what it was, but we don’t really need to specify what I saw, right?” he stated. Maybe half-truths, for now. Barbara nodded at him to continue. “Anyway, he- uhm- chased me and I got home and… I woke up! The end!”

“That’s…” Barbara’s lips curled “very… scary, isn’t it?” she gave a slight chuckle.

Jim gave back a little chuckle of his own as he combed his hand through his hair. “Yeah it- it kinda was…” He looked at the clock and his expression immediately changed, it was 7:40. “Oh no!” he blurted out

“What?!” Barbara exclaimed in worry, “Did your dream suddenly felt real? I can—”

Jim couldn’t make out the words she was trying to convey in his own panic. “The auditions!”

“Auditions?” Barbara was confused, but she was relieved that it didn’t have anything to do with trolls or the ‘dream’ that Jim had the night prior.

“I’m auditioning for Romeo in the play…” Jim explained, realizing that he had not once mentioned to his own mother about this. “Parents can come for support, I thought you’d be busy so I—“

“Oh honey…” Barbara couldn’t stand hearing the fact that she doesn’t have enough time for her own son, especially how it’s coming from him. “I’ll be there,” she told Jim as she approached him for a hug. “Promise.”

“Thanks mom…” Jim said as he hugged Barbara back. Before long, he broke off and took two of the three bags that was placed on the counter. “No work today?”

The edges of Barbara’s lips arched upwards as she shook her head. “Nope, not today.”

“Well, this can still be lunch, right?” Jim jokingly stated as he gave the third bag to his mom and took his bag that sat on the sofa. “Auditions are 9-ish, In the school theater. I’ll see you later, Mom. Love you.” Jim left the house through the garage, leaving Barbara to herself to snatch a few good moments of sleep.

 


 

Strickler sat quietly in his office and stared at his laptop, he’s been at it since his conversation with his TA. Classes were about to start, and he still seemingly doesn’t know what to write. Maybe he’ll just use last year’s lesson plan. In case Reverent won’t be able to figure out who the Trollhunter really is, then he too must start investigating for himself as well.

The phone in his pocket rang, he took it out to see who has sent him a message. The calling ID was labeled Otto. Please, do give me good news… he thought. He opened up the message.

 

  [Otto: Mein freund, I, as well as the others who’ve helped, have retrieved the 92nd piece for the Killahead. The package will arrive sometime this month, at best.]

“At best?” he sneered at the message. He gave out a sigh as he massaged the bridge of his nose with his left hand, leaning back on the chair as he threw his phone to the desk. Consequently, the phone tipped off the edge. He gave out a deep, annoyed huff as that was not what he was aiming for.

Long day. It was going to be a long day

Chapter Text

Deny Thy Calling (Part III)

“Tobes!” Jim yelled, carrying his loaded bag, as he rushed across the hallway and out towards the school’s outside locker area. “Tobes, c’mon!” Jim called out again.

“W- wait!” Toby managed to utter between breaths. “I… need… to… breathe!”

“Well, I have to change!” Jim said as he grabbed his best friend’s shoulder and ran with him. “Auditions starts in 25 and I haven’t rehearsed yet!”

The two boys stopped running as they exited the hallway. “Where…” Toby said after finding his voice.

Jim raised a brow at Toby, not exactly knowing what he was trying to convey to him. “Where…?”

“Are we going?” Toby clarified, “You didn’t exactly let me finish.”

Jim tried to hold back a laugh at Toby’s remark. “You don’t exactly take a long pause mid-question.” They both chuckled as they walked along the lockers. “We’re going to the boy’s locker room,” Jim answered Toby’s earlier question.

“Just to change? I mean, we have time. Good thing they moved it to 10 o’clock instead of 9 at the last minute.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed. “And to rehearse too… And I’ll try not to forget my lines this time.”

Toby halted Jim, grabbed him by both shoulders and forced him to lean down at Toby’s eye level. “Really?” he jokingly asked, chuckling as he let go. “Emphasis on try though.”

“Real funny, Tobes.” Jim rolled his eyes.

They saw the locker room and ran towards it. But they didn’t run careful enough as Jim managed to stumble upon another student in a well-dressed 14th century clothing. Jim fell on his behind at the impact while the other student simply took a few steps back and winced.

“Thou must really look where thoust run,” the other student remarked as he offered a hand at one fallen Jim Lake Jr.

Jim looked up to see who it was, as it turned out, it was his soon-to-be rival — in the play, that is. “Har har…” Jim grabbed his hand and pulled himself up with the help of the other. “What are you doing out here, Revs?”

Rev’s chuckled and took a glance at Toby and back to Jim. “What are you doing out here?” he questioned back, but as he expected, no answer. “You do know I’m the ‘TA’, so I constantly have to do errands for Mr. S.”

“Oh,” Jim mused. He noticed that his schoolmate had a really realistic costume just for an audition. “Your, uhm- your outfit looks really great…” he complimented, “but doesn’t it seem to ‘over-the-top’? I mean, it’s just the auditions and not the actual play.”

Revs looked down at his clothing. “Oh this?” he chuckled and cleared his throat afterwards. “It’s borrowed,” he explained, “and don’t you think first impression’s last? I suppose Ms. Janeth doesn’t just want someone who can play the part, but someone who can look the part too,” he remarked as he quirked a brow at Jim.

“Well, I—“

“Also, don’t you think you should hurry up a bit? 20 minutes before audition starts… doesn’t seem like a lot of time to me — if you want to be well prepared, I mean.”

Jim took out his phone from his bag and glanced at the time, [9:40] “Oh crap, you’re right.” He took Toby’s left shoulder and pulled him again. “I’ll see you later — c’mon Tobes!”

The two boys rushed to the boy’s locker room as Revs quietly made his way. After a few seconds of running — and dragging — they made it to the locker room and quickly got in. Jim quickly changed into his Romeo outfit, it wasn’t much but it was enough for the auditions. It used to be Toby’s Dad’s, Jim was hesitant in borrowing it for Romeo and Juliet but Toby insisted. Some parts of the outfit seemed hand-stitched, some of the threads were beginning to unthread, maybe because it hasn’t been out in a long time and wore off over the years, but is otherwise in good condition.

Jim carefully got it on, though he struggled a bit. But with the help of Toby, they practically slipped it on.

“Lookin’ sharp there, Jimbo!” Toby remarked genuinely as Jim turned to show Toby how it would look on him.

“Really?”

“Yep,” Toby reassured Jim, who was looking more anxious by the minute. “All you need now are your lines.”

“Right!” Jim took his bag once more and took a few pieces of paper they had printed out earlier, learning from their grave mistake the other night. “Okay…” he began as he shuffled through the papers, “which- uhm- which one do you think I should do?” Jim glanced at his best friend for assistance.

Toby gave a shrug as he took out a nougat nummy from his pocket. “Up to you, Jimbo.”

“What about act two?” Jim suggested, looking for that specific act.

“Sure, sure. Whatever you say.” Toby approached Jim and offered to take the script from his hands. “I’ll help you memorize, c’mon.”


A knock on the door caught Strickler off-guard as he was closing the untold room that was in his office. No one knew of this other than himself and a few of his ilks. He had to put inside a package, one that he acquired earlier today and one that he must deliver to the museum later this day.

“A moment,” Strickler answered, waiting for the descending bookshelf to descend faster. Darn this slow thing! he thought. But the person on the other side of the door did not bother to listen. They abruptly entered.

“You should really replace that with something faster,” Revs remarked as he entered the room and immediately closing the door behind him. He sighed, “the price of wanting your ‘secret room’ to seem dramatic whenever it opens, I guess.”

Strickler rolled his eyes and fixed his sleeves as he set aside the cluttered pieces of quiz papers. “Why are you here?” he asked

Revs took a palm-sized stone out of his pocket and let it speak for itself. “Our European assets sent it to us a few months ago, it got held up for a while but it finally came.”

“Good, good.” Strickler offered to take the piece and his TA gladly gave it to him.

Revs looked at Strickler and breathed. “Look, about earlier… I- I apologize,” he began. Strickler said nothing but gave him his attention as he glanced at the boy before continuing to put aside the piece of stone. “I overreacted.”

Strickler raised a brow as he leaned back to his desk. “You did,” he agreed, knowing that the boy fully knows his actions. “Just do your assignment, and don’t let it happen again.”

Revs nodded and opened the door to exit, but before he could go Strickler halted him with a “But…”

“I mean to ask what in the Pale Lady’s name are you wearing?” Strickler gave an amused chuckle. “As far as I know, it’s currently the 21st century.”

“Does it look that convincing?” Revs asked. He scoffed, “You sound like Lake.”

Strickler furrowed his brows and stood up. “Jim Lake?”

“Yeah, he was rushing in to the boy’s locker room. He mentioned that he was going to change,” the boy answered.

“Into his armor?”

“Not sure,” Revs mused. “Do you want me to check on him?”

Strickler waved his hand as he approached the door and grabbed the knob. “No, no.” He waved his hand as he turned the knob. “I’ll look into it myself. After all, I think it may be too early for Act three.”

The obvious reference to the play made the TA roll his eyes, but not without a forced chuckle. Strickler pulled the door open as he pushed Revs out, he too, went to exit and locked the room. They both went their separate ways, they would meet up again when Strickler calls on his assistant — or when the school work demanded it. The TA made his way to the theater while Strickler roamed the hallways to check Jim himself.


Barbara was rushing down the stairs as she glances at the time every few seconds. Come on! her inner voice was scolding her. It seems like last night — or rather, earlier — tired her more than she could handle with a few cups of coffee, thus, exhaustion got the best of her. Jim had told her that the auditions was around 9-ish, but it was well past 9:30 at this hour and the clock won't stop ticking for her. She managed to grab a descent clothing other than her worn-out scrubs from yesterday. With a hop, skip, and a jump, Barbara got her keys and hopped in the car in an attempt to get to Jim on time, hoping that the auditions are barely starting. Luckily — or rather, hopefully — auditions would start alphabetically.

She drove as fast as she could — though trying not to break any laws in the process — on the way to Arcadia Oaks High. After a few near misses with the red of the traffic lights, and almost hitting a stray cat that suddenly appeared out of nowhere — which also left Barbara to wonder how she managed to get her license all those years ago — she was finally near, approaching the school. Barbara gave out a sigh of relief as she got into the parking lot. She adjusted her glasses and grabbed a purse, only small enough to fit her license and the amulet.

The gate was fairly easy to pass, since other parents already came. The school felt empty from the outside as the passing period was over and the rest of the students who were excused for the auditions are already probably in the theater.

Barbara should’ve asked Jim where exactly the theater was, she was roaming the school not knowing where to go. She found herself near the outside locker area, and without direction, she found herself lost. Barbara doesn’t really know the ins and outs of the school enough, she’s only be there on parent-teacher conferences. Conferences in which she wasn’t much called in or needed since Jim never really made any trouble and is keeping up with academics. Well, that was before, but the boy’s current grades have become quite shaky the past few weeks — as his history teacher has mentioned — and Barbara felt that she only had herself to blame for that. Jim always wanted to look after her, even though she would tell him that he didn’t need to do that, but the boy would always insist. Oh whatever did she do to deserve such a child like him? But now, Barbara could only find very little time between her job, Trollhunting and sleep. This was the reason why she needed to be present for Jim right now, for her little boy.

She walked along lockers but was still lost. With worry and all other emotions coming back at her, she found her emotions going in multiple directions. To this, the amulet reacted and began to glow. A bright blue glow illuminated through her purse, it could only be that — like Blinky explained to her — reacting to her emotions and is calling her to change. Oh no. Barbara was in panic, no one can see her change, it’s too dangerous. She was now in the verge of risking exposing herself and possibly the entirety of trollkind, after all, you don’t just see someone suddenly glow themselves into a full metal clad and disregard it. With quick thinking, she ran to the nearest door she could find, not having time to stop and see what room she was entering.

 

Walter Strickler, though trying to be discreet, was roaming the ground floor of the school. It was his off-period, so it came without question that he wasn’t in-class. A turn away, he was a turn away from the boy’s locker room. He took the turn and…

A bright blue glow, there was a bright blue glow.

This, without question, perturbed Strickler where he stood. He could only conclude that it was one of the — presumably — only two boys currently present in the locker room. This raised more questions than answers. If Bular told the truth, how come there was that all-too-familiar blue glow that illuminated from the locker room. He clicked his pen and put it back in his pocket. Time to check what Romeo was up to.

 

Barbara’s heart nearly stopped when she realized that she wasn’t the only one in the room. Right off the bat, she realized that she could only be in a locker room and judging from the surroundings, she concluded that she is specifically in the boys’ locker room. Great. Luckily, the other occupants seemed to be too busy to notice her entrance or her presence. She quickly moved to the door to find a better area to hide in. She figured the far corner of the room would be the least noticeable area. As she was moving, she overheard a conversation. A conversation with voices that were far too familiar to miss.

“But, soft!” The voice was now very much audible from where she hid. Jim, Barbara thought to herself. “What, uh — line!”

“ ‘light’, Jimbo,” the other voice — who could only be Toby — provided.

“Right, sorry.” Barbara was very amused seeing her son like this, even if she was hiding from him beyond his knowledge. “What light through yonder window breaks?”

As much as she was amused, Barbara was currently wondering why the boys were still there, they should be at the auditions right now. Although, the circumstance did work on her favor. She would simply wait for them to leave and follow them to wherever the theater could be. But of course, not everything would work in her favor the way she hoped it to be. There had to be setbacks.

“Young Atlas?” A voice, familiar to both boys and Barbara, called. “Are you in here?”

Luckily, Barbara had moved to the other side of the room. When Strickler found the two boys, he didn’t continue to find Barbara only a few steps away. She gave out a sigh of relief.

Strickler was completely unimpressed to find Jim in a normal — well, for a play. He thought that maybe he could have removed the armor when he caught sight of the light. “You’re… still here?” he asked.

“I- uhm- yes?” Jim answered, stammering as he was caught by surprise. Though, Strickler took this with a different meaning.

“Well… I” Strickler cleared his throat. “I don’t think that’s proper school attire,” he said, as he tried to cover up from the fact that he had entered the room looking for Jim for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

“Oh, this?” Jim gestured to his clothing as Toby watched at the side. “It’s for the play, I’m auditioning for Romeo…”

“Is that so?” Strickler quirked a brow as he took out his pen and fidgeted with the cap. “Well, I think you should hurry, auditions start in a few and Ms. Janeth doesn’t really favor the tardy.”

“Wait? It’s almost ten?!” Jim exclaimed in surprise. “Thanks for the heads up Mr. Strickler! — Tobes, Tobes c’mon!” he grabbed his best friend by the arm and dragged him out of the locker room, completely forgetting about his bag and the blue jacket he left inside.

Strickler took a glance inside Jim’s bag. Nothing, he thought as he shook his head, must still be on him. He put his pen back into his pocket and followed the boys out shortly. He took a quick double-take at the room as he felt as if they weren’t the only ones in there, but he quickly dismissed it and closed the door. Barbara let go of the breath she was unawarely holding. She waited a few seconds, making sure that no one else was going to come in. She slowly walked out of her hiding spot towards the exit. As she calmed down and her emotions were finally kept at bay, the amulet glowed and in a split second, she was back in her blouse and pants and put the amulet in her back pocket. She gave out a sigh and made her way out. She rushed followed closely where Strickler headed — hoping that he was going the same way as Jim, since Jim may have ran to the theater in panic. In her hurry, the purse that contained her license fell without her noticing. Oh dear.

After discreetly following one of the professors she got there, as well as the rest of them.

Barbara, as she was entering, her glance immediately shifted to the beautiful Claire Nuñez who was waiting to be called on-stage which pulled the edges of her lips upwards ever-so-slightly, but her gaze shifted to the anxious-looking Jim that can barely be seen behind the red curtains. He had nothing to fidget so he was anxiously tapping his fingers to his side, Toby was there at his side trying to calm him but it doesn’t entirely seem to work. The small smile she had earlier faded. She was too busy with the scenarios in her head that — like their first encounter — she didn’t notice the man coming up behind her.

“Young Atlas seems to need a bit of motivation…” Barbara couldn’t help but smile at the remark. It was him, Walter Strickler. He was fidgeting a pen in his right hand as he had the other in his pocket. He looked at her like the gentleman he was.

“I really think he does,” she said as she shifted gazes between her son and his history teacher.

“You should go then,” Strickler suggested, pointing at Jim with a pen in his hand as he looked at the woman beside her.

Barbara looked and walked away while saying a quick “Thanks” as she felt herself blush the slightest bit. What was about this man that made her feel like this? But she quickly disregarded her self-question as she found herself approaching her son.

Jim took a double-take as he saw his mother approaching. “M-mom!” he called out, quickly giving a smile to Barbara’s face. “I honestly thought I sent you here earlier, heh… they changed the time last-minute.”

Barbara gave a slight chuckle. “I may or may not have overslept, I honestly thought I was late.”

“Welp, you’re not.” Jim half-jokingly said, trying to wipe off his slightly sweaty palms which Barbara noticed.

Barbara bit her lip, looking for the right words to tell Jim. “You… you look…”

“Nervous?” Jim provided.

“Pretty much, kiddo,” she remarked.

“I just- I’m just… scared? I don’t know… I don’t think I would be a good Romeo, especially for Claire!” Jim exclaimed, but only loud enough that Barbara could hear it. “I don’t even know how I got here…” Jim sighed as he clutched his chest.

“Maybe it was the work of ‘fate’?” Barbara suggested, feeling and clutching the amulet that was back in her purse.

“It was more or less a dare? To myself… I think?” Jim answered, unsure of what to say. “And ‘fate’?” he chuckled half-heartedly. “Really, mom?… and please don’t say ‘destiny’.”

Jim was truly Barbara’s son, as he had the same troubled and unsure tone as Barbara after she was defeated by Draal. Barbara recollected what Blinky told her that calmed her down and brought even the slightest amount of self-confidence. She sighed and looked at her son with sympathetic smile. “Look, Jim… someone once told me,” she began, “They told me that ‘destiny is a gift. Some go their entire lives, living in quiet desperation. Never learning the truth that what feels as though a burden pushing down upon our shoulders, is actually, a sense of purpose that lifts us to greater heights. Never forget that fear is but the precursor to valour, that to strive and triumph in the face of fear, is what is means to be a hero.’” She took a pause to see Jim’s wondered expression. “Don’t think,” she said as she leaned down to hug her son tighter. “Become”

Barbara glanced at Jim and was genuinely surprised at the expression her son gave her. Jim looked up at his mother with awe. “Wow, mom…” he said, “that was just- just… wow…” Jim gave her a smile, a smile she had longed for.

“James Lake!” A woman — who could only be Ms. Janeth — called out from the other side of the red curtains.

“That’s my cue,” Jim stated.

“Now, go out there, Romeo.” Barbara watched Jim as he went on-stage. She went off the backstage via the stairs and went back to the rest of the audience to watch Jim. She looked at Claire who looked at her son with admiration, which in turn gave her a smile of her own.

“It’s not even the actual play yet and he’s already more anxious that I’d expect him to be,” Walter commented as he approached Barbara who wasn’t even listening to the lines Jim was saying, she was only watching him. Barbara turned at Strickler and gave a sheepish laugh.

“As I’ve said, acting isn’t really his forté,” she said taking a quick glance at Jim before looking back at her son’s history teacher.

Walter chuckled at the comment. “Well, he seems to be doing rather splendid on-stage.” He put his left hand in his pocket while he held his pen in the other.

“Well, nothing a little motivation speech can’t fix,” Barbara said as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear.

Walter raised a brow and gave a lopsided smile. “Well, whatever you said… you did a great job.”

“Really think so?” she asked, questioning herself more than the man standing next to her. “‘Cause it sometimes it feels like I’m the one pulling him down…” she trailed off, her previous smile fading into a guilt-ridden frown.

Walter watched her with knitted brows as the words seemingly fell from her mouth. He thought very carefully about his next words. “Jim talks greatly of you.”

“Jim… does?” Barbara asked, gaze shooting up at Walter at the mention of his words.

“Why, yes,” he gave a rather genuine — genuine-looking — smile, trying to lighten up Barbara. “I doubt he would ever see you as a burden, if anything, he tries his best for you.”

Though not too much, the remark did cheered Barbara up a bit. Even just a little bit, it felt enough. “Oh, I hope so… I can barely remember when he grew up, it’s so unlike the past…”

“Then I suggest simply enjoy the time you have with him at this moment.” He gave her shoulder a quick pat, though reluctant to remove his hand. Something about what he said curled up in his stomach, his darker side wanted to add ‘while you still do’ but it seemed too out-of-context to be taken as a joke. “The past is behind us, the future is yet to come,” he instead uttered.

She looked at him, there was something missing. “And the ‘present’?” she asked.

Walter chuckled. “The present, is of course, a gift.” Barbara giggled at the inspirational yet obviously pun-intended remark. “Treasure it now or you lose it forever.”

“Thank you, I think I needed that right now,” Barbara said truthfully. “Especially with all the things that’s happening in my life.” She rubbed her arm, her arm in which she almost forgot she had a bruise on.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Walter said to brush away her doubts. “As a great poet once said: ‘Do what’s good for you, or you’re not good for anybody.’” He stated, before noticing that she was palming a rather small, almost invisible, but still noticeable bruise on her arm. How did I not notice this before? he thought to himself. Though Barbara Lake’s private life was none of his concern, his thoughts still wandered on why she had that bruise. An abusive partner? No, Jim would have mentioned that otherwise. Clumsiness? Unlikely, the angle and spot of the bruise was too odd of a position to be accidental. Before he could think twice about asking, he ultimately asked, “What happened?” He too, was somewhat surprised he had uttered that, but now that the question was out, he was genuinely curious about her answer.

“I, uh-” she stuttered, “It’s nothing really…”

“Really?” Walter quirked up a brow. “Looks like quite an injury to me, Ms. Lake.”

“Please, I’m a medical professional,” she reassured him. “But, thank you for the concern — and I told you before, call me Barbara.” Barbara gave him a grateful smile.

“My pleasure, Barbara.” He smiled back.

Barbara didn’t notice that her glasses started to slip off the face of her nose. It quickly started to slip off, her sudden reaction was to catch it. But it was also the sudden reaction of the man that stood beside. For a mere second, both their hands cupped Barbara’s cheek. Walter fake coughed as he looked away to fix the lapels of his jacket. And for a second Barbara felt herself blush the slightest bit.

Walter had never taught himself to be close to humans, he only did so if it involved his guise — which means his human line of work. A lot of human interaction as a school professor, yes, but to fraternize with one is a different story. Usually, when a changeling’s affiliation with a human becomes too close, the Order orders them to cut them off else they will have to get rid of them themselves. Most would choose to be obedient and choose the former, those who think they could convince the rest to change are unfortunate enough to have the latter be forced upon them. Archuero, for a second crossed his mind. No, he needed to get his head off the gutter, the woman was only to abide the third rule of the changeling. She could — should — be nothing more, he needed to get close to Jim.

“I, uh, never really got to thank you for ‘last time’,” Barbara began, breaking the awkwardness that quickly became of them.

“‘Last time’?” Walter had to ask.

Barbara cleared her throat. “Or ‘first time’, I should say…” she said, “The car batteries…” She tried to jog his memory.

“Ah yes,” he said as he remembered that exact scenario. “You don’t have to,” he stated as he waved a hand through the air, “It was nothing, just a simple act of humanity.” It felt wrong to say something he never had the chance to truly enjoy, or have, no less.

“Still.” She was insistent. “Please, it’s the least I could do.”

Walter thought for a while, but it didn’t need much thought to see that this could greatly work in his favor. “If you insist,” he finally answered.

“So, uh, coffee? Dinner?” she asked, “An appendix removal?” she jokingly added.

“Coffee would be great, I know of this new place they have down by the 7th.” he said as he chuckled at Barbara’s attempt at humor, “And a raincheck on the appendectomy, please.”

She laughed, “Okay then.”

“When would you be free for coffee, then?”

“Wait,” she mused. “What’s today, again? — I’m sorry, I lose track of the days.”

Walter shook his head with a grin on his face. “Thursday, I believe.”

“I have my next off — unless someone screws up my schedule…” She tried to remember her ever-changing schedule. “Saturday.”

“Then, let us keep in touch before then. Assuming you still have my number.”

“Of course,” she assured him.

“Mom!” Jim called up, rushing towards Barbara and Walter. “Oh, hi Mr. Strickler,” he also greeted as he arrived to meet his mother and teacher. “So,” he began, panting, “How’d I do?”

Walter wasn’t entirely paying attention at Jim’s performance, hence, he couldn’t really tell. But nothing an easy lie could fix—

“You did great, honey,” Barbara said, beating Walter from saying it first.

Jim gave an unsure look. “You really think so?”

“Of course, Young Atlas.” This time, Walter had beaten Barbara from saying it first. It wasn’t the first time Barbara heard Walter call her son that nickname, he’d mentioned it when they talked before, but she never really got the chance to ask why. Hence, a mental note of that.

Before Jim could thank his mom and Walter, the bell for the passing period rang.

“Oof,” Toby commented at the sound of the bell as he was right behind Jim, “That’s our next cue, Jimbo.”

“As it seems, Mr. Domzalski,” Walter commented. He turned to Barbara. “We should really go back to our respective areas and I assume you are in need of rest, it was a delight to talk to you, Barbara.”

“Likewise, Walter,” Barbara answered. For a second she could have sworn she heard Toby whisper ‘since when did they start calling each other by first names?’ before seeing Jim give a rather obscure shrug. “And Jim, you really did do a great job,” she said as she patted him on the shoulder. “But, if- when you get casted, don’t let this negatively affect your grades.”

“Promise,” Jim reassured her.

“Good. Well, I’ll be going then…” She said. “Bye kiddo, love you.”

“Bye mom.”

And with that, Barbara had left the same way she entered. Though now, she didn’t lose her way and quickly found the exit. She stopped for a second and silently watched Jim as he entered the boy’s locker room once more, probably to change, her mind supplied. She continued on her way out and finally got to the parking lot, she got in a car and— Oh no.

“My purse!” she blurted out, “Where- ugh- is it?!” she exclaimed to herself as she checked her pockets and surroundings, but nothing came up. I must’ve left it inside, she thought to herself. She got out of the car as quickly as she got in, she rushed to the theater to see if she left it there. She walked as if she was being called into the ER. When she arrived, there was no purse. She retraced her steps in her head, she had the purse after leaving the boys’ locker, but she didn’t when she arrived at the theater. “On the way,” she mused.

She went back to retrace her steps from the theater to the locker, finally! she found it lying on the floor. As she leaned down to grab the purse, she heard a loud thud that sounded like someone was being pushed against one of the lockers. She couldn’t help but take a quick peek at what’s going on. Her heart nearly dropped at the sight of a tall blonde boy, pushing Jim, pushing her son against the blue lockers.

“Don’t worry about the injuries, Lake,” she heard the blonde boy say as he shoved Jim harder. Barbara nearly charged forward before the boy continued. “I heard your mom was a nurse,” he said. At this point, Jim's brows furrowed as his eyes narrowed at the blonde boy. Jim clenched his fists and broke free bully as he kicked him on the knee. Barbara was supposed to oppose against such violence but she couldn’t help but smile.

“She’s a Doctor!” Barbara heard Jim shout as he punched the bully on the face, causing them to fall on the floor and lose a tooth. As much as Barbara admired her son’s, she knew it was wrong. She was about to charge in until someone from behind called her.

“Oh, uh, Ms… why are you still here?” the man asked, “I thought all the parents already left?”

“Oh, sorry, I- uh- lost my purse, but I found it.”

“Oh that’s —“ he cut himself off as he saw one of the students on the floor with a bleeding mouth. “Hey! What happened here?!” he demanded as he charged forward. Barbara thought that it would seem best just to leave it to one of the faculty’s members to deal with the problem at hand, it would also save Jim the embarrassment that he was very close to having.

Barbara went out once again, this time she checked if she had everything she needed at hand. Her purse contained her license and she had the amulet in her back pocket. She got in the car and drove herself home, hoping that she could catch a little more than a quick snooze. At the road, her mind keeps going back to Jim standing up to someone. Sure, he was being bullied and the blonde boy looked like he badly had that coming, but still. Though she couldn’t help but think about the fact that what if she stands up to Draal again, to let them realize that she could do it just as much as all the previous trollhunters could. If she was destined to carry the mantle, she has to prove that she can carry the mantle. It was settled then. She took a turn that definitely did not head home. She parked the car near the trees as she went through to get to the canal. She had only the horngazel and amulet with her this time.

Barbara looked for Blinky, at her success after searching at the local ‘glug-center’, Blinky was somewhat surprised. “Lady Barbara, you’re back! Have you rested? Are you ready for training now?” he quickly asked.

Barbara chuckled at the six-eyed troll’s enthusiasm. “Yes, but before that… have you seen Draal?”

“Well,” Blinky said as he pointed at the group of trolls on the other side of the room. “Why?”

“I have unfinished business.” Barbara walked at the group of trolls and they all went out of the way until she was face to face with the one and only Draal ‘the Deadly’.

Draal scoffed. “Are you here to hand over the title?” Draal half-jokingly said as he nudged one of his companions and they all seemed to have enjoyed the blue troll’s humor.

“No,” Barbara said firmly. “But, I’m here to tell you. You, me, rematch.” she leaned on the table, putting on her weight and almost causing the drinks to tip over. “Next month, so I can have enough training.”

Draal fell in silence. The only thing that ran in his head was the thought of what the woman was possibly thinking?! Barbara gave a smirk as she stood up straight and turned to leave. Blinky’s mouth hung open as Aaarrrgghh’s face could be seen with worry. Barbara left with the confidence that she could defeat Draal. Draal was left in silence with the thought of having to vanquish the Trollhunter. Blinky thought that it would be great for Barbara to accept her mantle and even challenge those who have opposed her, though Aaarrrgghh thought otherwise.

Barbara’s thoughts went back to Jim. “One hit,” she breathed.

Chapter Text

It was two days ago when Barbara decided that she has to face Draal — again. Though she didn’t feel like she was ready, it had to be done. Besides, no one is ever truly ready. She met up with Walter as promised, and they shared a few good minutes — or it could have been hours since neither of them kept track of the time. There was something about him that Barbara found interesting, though they kept it casual. For a few moments in their conversation, she got to vaguely share about the trouble she’s been having because of her job and her new side-job — which she decided to simply call ‘volunteering’. Walter also seemed like a good listener, he had listened to her and gave her a few advice. They had a good moment casually sharing each other’s work-stories. As much as a student jumping out of the second floor just because they wanted to escape a quiz seemed unlikely, Barbara still enjoyed Walter’s tales. She enjoyed it as much as He did when she told him about her horrifying ER stories. As they talked, they moved from one topic to another. He didn’t elaborate on the bruises that have yet to be healed, but with a concerned look and tone, he told her just to simply be careful the next time around. Everything went smoothly, it was all as casual as anyone would expect it to be. Personally, for the brief she had known Walter, it felt as if he was a great man. It came as a surprise to find out that he was a bachelor, with his personality and demeanor. It was all casual until the time came that they needed to depart. Walter took Barbara’s hand just like the second time they had met, and brushed his lips gently against her knuckles. For a second there was a tingling feeling and she blushed ever so slightly. It seemed as if Walter enjoyed their time as much as Barbara had since he requested if they could meet again another time, though there was no date on when they’ll meet because of Barbara’s ever-so-changing schedule, they would just keep in touch via text.

A week later…

“Tighten your grip, Lady Barbara!” Blinky said as he mentored Barbara in her training, she was getting better everyday. Barbara seemed to handle Daylight more lightly that she had a week prior, she was a rather fast learner and Blinky admired her determination. Claire was there too, for some reason. Barbara had decided to let the teen tag along, as long as she stayed out of trouble.

Barbara moved at the side of the forge to avoid the obstacles that have been laid for her. “Wait, I- I need to take this,” she explained to Blinky as she held up her ringing phone, the six-eyed troll nodded. Her helmet opened up as she accepted the call. “Hello?” she answered, hoping that it wasn’t Wanda.

“Hey mom,” the caller answered.

She was relieved when she heard her son’s voice. “Hey, kiddo. Why’d you call?”

“Oh, it’s just because you left early and you left your lunch… again…” Jim explained. “I just wanted to know if you’re alright… maybe take a break from all the extra hours?”

Barbara felt the words that Jim said, if only she could tell her about her new-found world as well as her new-found duty. She looked around and saw Blinky and Aaarrrgghh who were working hard in order to train her to protect their kind. “I’m sorry, honey… But I can’t, not for now, at least.” She was somewhat hurt by her own words as she couldn’t find enough time for Jim the past few days.

“Oh, ok… I understand, mom. Love you, be careful out there. Also, we have a field trip today and I might hang out with Tobes later. Bye!” With that, Jim hung up and Barbara could only give a sigh. Jim was so honest with her and she couldn’t tell him without the possibility of putting him in danger. She couldn’t help but feel that she made her son feel abandoned. His deadbeat father had already left him in such an early age, she didn’t want Jim to feel that kind of abandonment again. But Barbara now has a sacred responsibility calling for her. Once I finish this fight… she thought to herself.

“Trollhunter, Trollhunter!” A female troll that was rushing into the forge called out.

Blinky turned to them. “Ah, Bagdwella,” he greeted. “What brings you here?”

“Where is she? Where is the Trollhunter?” she asked.

“What could possibly be the problem now?” Blinky asked passively.

Bagdwella threw her hands in the air as she exclaimed, “Gnomes! They’re infesting my shop!”

“Those vile vermin again?!” Blinky said. “You’re shop has a problem…”

“I can see that,” Bagdwella answered unenthusiastically.

Barbara approached the two half-bickering trolls. She saw that Bagdwella was somewhat distressed. “What’s the problem?” she asked.

Blinky cleared his throat as he gestured at the other troll. “Lady Barbara, Bagdwella here has an infestation problem.”

“Gnomes!” Bagdwella blurted out.

Barbara raised a curious brow. “Gnomes?’ she asked, “can’t someone else handle that?”

“Please, a Trollhunter answers every call!” The she-troll remarked.

Barbara looked at Blinky who was just as unsure as her. “I mean… it’s just those little guys, right? I doubt it’s going to take any longer than an hour.”

“Very well, then. It is your call, Lady Barbara.” Barbara nodded, following Bagdwella who offered to take them to her shop. Blinky gestured at Aaarrrgghh and Claire to tell them to come along.

It was a quick walk from the forge to Bagdwella’s shop, which was indeed infested with gnomes. The tiny creatures were fast and could easily slip from one place to another. One of the gnomes tried to take Claire’s phone but she quickly kicked it off and it started running away after making a few noises. There was more or less 20 gnomes visible and running around.

“Oh dear…” Blinky said as he tried to avoid the gnomes that were scattered all over the shop. “This is much worse than the last time.”

“Which is why this time I called the Trollhunter,” Bagdwella stated.

Barbara cringed at the sight of what the gnomes have done to the troll’s shop. “Ooh… That’s a lot of gnomes…”

“Well, Trollhunter?” Barbara looked up at Bagdwella. “I’ll be back soon, I have orders to take care of… do you think you can deal with these before the end of the day?”

Barbara took a quick glance at the shop full of gnomes before looking back at the troll. “We’ll, uh, try?”

“Good,” Bagdwella said, relieved. “I’ll be off now.”

Bagdwella went her way, leaving gnomes to the Trollhunter and her companions. “So,” Barbara began. “How exactly do we do this?”

Blinky mused for a second, he shot up a finger after walking around for a few minutes. “Aaarrrgghh and Claire, grab a sack,” he ordered, then looked at Barbara. “Gather as much gnomes as you can, we’ll put them in the sack when Aaarrrgghh and Claire comes back.”

Barbara nodded in agreement with Blinky’s plan. WIth that, they got to work. Barbara grabbed a few gnomes despite their attempts to bite her. Her armor carried a lot of weight, she took it off in order to move faster since the gnomes were also quick on their tiny feet. Barbara was already trying to hold on to about four gnomes when Claire and Aaarrrgghh thankfully came back with a large sack that looked like it could fit all the gnomes. With all hands on deck, they managed to catch nearly all of the gnomes. Though Bagdwella’s shop was a mess, at least the little pests were gone — well, most of them.

Barbara rubbed her hands to get rid of the dirt that she managed to acquire from catching the gnomes. “Well, that… was…”

“A lot of gnomes…” Claire supplied

“Well, then,” Blinky said as Aaarrrgghh was rubbing off the dirt that formed on the six-eyed troll’s back. “We should head back to your training, Lady Barbara.”

“Right,” she agreed. She tried to get the amulet that she swore she had out in her back pocket, but it was no longer there. She tried to check her other pockets but it wasn’t there. She was beginning to worry. “Wait, have any of you seen—“

Barbara was interrupted by a high-pitched chuckle that came from one of Bagdwella’s tipped boxes. Barbara stepped a bit closer as she leaned down and squinted, only to see that one of the gnomes is carrying her amulet.

“Hey!” Barbara exclaimed, alarming the gnome. She jumped in to try and catch it but the little creature was quick and it slipped away. “Ugh! Come. Back!”

The gnome taunted her for a second but when Barbara charged in for the second time, it slipped into a hole too small for any of them.

“No!” Barbara exclaimed, putting her hand inside the hole in an attempt to grab the gnome that took her amulet — only to get bitten. “Ack!” she exclaimed in pain.

“Careful now, Lady Barbara!” Blinky said as Claire went to Barbara’s side.

“Are you okay Dr. Lake?” Claire asked with concern. Claire was still persistent in calling her ‘Dr. Lake’ despite her offers to call her by her first name, but it was otherwise fine.

“I’m fine… it didn’t even puncture through,” Barbara reassured everyone. “Besides, it wasn’t the pain… it was just the surprise.” She tried to lighten the mood, but the gnome still had the only thing she could defeat Bular with.

“How do we get it back?” Claire turned to Blinky and Aaarrrgghh as she and Barbara are still fairly new to Trollmarket and how things worked.

“The little vermin is smart enough not to come out only to be caught…” Blinky tried to think of a solution, “and we do not have enough time to wait for it to come out. The only practical solution is…”

“Furgulator,” Aaarrrgghh supplied.

Barbara and Claire looked at the two trolls with puzzled expressions. “The… fridge-uh-later?” Claire tried to say.

“Furgulator, Claire,” Blinky corrected.

Barbara came closer to the two trolls. “What is it?” she asked.

“Shrinks things,” Aaarrrgghh conveniently explained it in simply two words. Barbara quickly caught up on what Blinky was planning to do.

“Wait…” she mused for a second, “so you plan to shrink me and go after the gnome?”

“Precisely! I’m glad you see where I am going with,” Blinky gladly stated.

“Is that even physically possible?” Claire had to ask, “I mean, how?

Barbara held back a chuckle as she looked at the confused teen. “I mean, we're in a cavern full of trolls and I have a magic amulet… it's just full of surprises from there.”

Claire giggled. “I guess I haven't seen it all yet.”

Yet.

“Come on now, Ladies,” Blinky said as he gestured to the two women to follow him. “We must work fast!”

 

They quickly walked to the six-eyed troll’s library of a dwelling and Aaarrrgghh picked up a contraption from the far corner of the room. Said contraption had what looks to be a door — an entrance — and a lot of lights, it looks like Barbara could fit in it just perfectly.

“So,” Barbara started, “How exactly does this, uh, shrink… me…?”

“Well, uhm…” Blinky was tapping his fingers together on both pair of hands. “You get in, and we shrink you.”

“Haven’t tested on humans before,” the krubera nicely put it.

Claire and Barbara didn’t seem as surprised as Blinky had mentioned that they were two of the first four humans who have ever been to Trollmarket and they highly doubt that the other two would risk to shrink for whatever reason. “How about on other trolls?”

“Erm… No?” Blinky’s response was more of a question than that of a reassuring answer.

“No?” Barbara raised a brow. “So you’re telling me that you’re going to shrink me in this fridge-inator—“

“Furgulator.”

“—Without testing it on a living being before?”

The two trolls glanced at each other for a brief moment before turning back at the Trollhunter. “Well, it seems to be our best option right now,” Blinky stated. “We’ve tested it on other objects before,” he said reassuringly, “I doubt it will be any differ to you!”

“How does this even fit to the science?” Barbara had to ask herself, though it was loud enough for everyone else in the room.

“Maybe the magic bends the rules of quantum biology and shrinks the space inside and in between the atoms,” Claire stated in a matter-of-factly manner which caused Barbara and the two other trolls in the room to look at her with confusion yet with astonishment. “Ant-man,” she briefly explained with a sheepish laugh.

Blinky cleared his throat, catching everyone’s attention. “So, shall we test it? Every other choice we have will consume precious time.”

“It’s now or never, then,” Barbara said in a firm tone. She took a deep breath before stepping a foot in the furgulator. She observed the hollow insides of the contraption, it was only full of tiny holes that illuminated an orange glow. Then, she stepped her other foot in. Blinky closed the door slowly and took a rock he called an “anthracite” and put it in a space one the furgulator.

“Wait!” Something suddenly came over Barbara. “What if this doesn’t work the way we want it to?” she asked, her voice somewhat muffled.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Lady Barbara,” Blinky reassured as he tapped Aaarrrgghh’s shoulder. “We work best under pressure.” Though Claire gave a slight grimace as the machine started to creak and rumble.

“Wait why— ack— is there so much smoke?” Barbara asked between coughs.

No one answered her, but the creaking and rumbling of the furgulator continued. “Woah!” Claire exclaimed, “I don’t think it’s working! We should get her out of there!”

“Aaarrrgghh, quickly!” Blinky instructed. Aaarrrgghh quickly went into action quickly opening the entrance of the contraption.

Barbara felt nothing change at all, though she couldn’t really see what was happening with all the smoke that appeared inside of the furgulator. She checked herself if anything felt different but nothing seemed to have changed. “Sorry, boys… I don’t think it— Oh God.” Barbara was perturbed when she looked up only to see that everything and everyone seemed to have become gigantic. Blinky picked up Barbara with a hand.

“The Furgulator functioned perfectly!” the six-eyed troll exclaimed.

“So,” Barbara started, “what are we waiting for?”

The two humans and two trolls went back to the hole near Bagdwella’s shop. Blinky carried Barbara the entire way and the troll set her down at the entrance of the hollow space. Barbara looked inside and the hole seemed to deepen farther than she had expected.

“So, I just find my amulet and go, right?” Barbara asked.

Blinky nodded in agreement. “That is the plan, Lady Barbara.”

“Wait… I don’t want to suddenly enlarge, how long does this last?” Barbara sked, gesturing at herself. It would certainly be a setback if the effects of the Furgulator wore off midway through the hole.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it Lady Barbara,” Blinky said to ease the Trollhunter. “The Furgulator’s effects would likely last for most of the day, or the entire day for that matter.”

“Wait!” Barbara yelped. “The entire day?”

Blinky blinked a few times, a little surprised by Barbara’s reaction. “Well… yes, at most.”

“I still have a job to go to!”

Blinky gave a sympathetic yet apologetic smile. “Well, that’s a problem for later…” he tried to soothe Barbara’s worries, “right now, our problem is this gnome.”

“He’s right, Dr. Lake,” Claire agreed. “The sooner you get the amulet, the sooner we can figure out how to reverse the effects of the Furgulator in time.” She smiled. Claire noticed that Barbara was shrunken and without armor, with quick thinking, she took a pencil that was still in Badwella’s shop and a round Papa Skull pin that she kept on her shirt. “Dr. Lake, take these.”

“Thank you, Claire,” Barbara thanked the teen for giving her something to get creative with without her amulet.

Barbara took a deep breath before entering. Blinky was distantly teller her not to touch the hat gnome’s hat. Though she didn’t question it any further since a lot of things didn’t make any sense at this point. She went in deeper into the hole, which to her size felt more like deep cave. She yelped as she bumped into the head of a beheaded doll.

Barbara took a sharp breath. “Creepy gnome,” she mumbled as she was beginning to see a bright blue light that was illuminating from the next turn. It could only be the very thing she was looking for. She walked slowly towards the next turn and saw that the gnome seemed to be having breakfast with a gnome that had no flesh but only bones. They used the amulet as a table. Something about the sight of it made Barbara’s stomach curl despite the many times she had operated on a living body. The gnome accidentally tipped off the skull of the deceased gnome, rolling over to Barbara and causing her to yelp. This, of course, attracted the little creature’s attention. It bared its teeth at the sight of her.

“For a small thing, you sure are a big problem.” Barbara gave a grave expression, determined to take back what belonged to her.

The gnome quickly charged at her but she was ready. Barbara shielded herself with the round Papa Skull pin that Claire had given her and gripped it tightly with her left hand as she held onto the pencil with her right. The gnome bit the pin, which Barbara did not expect, and threw it off to the side with its mouth. Barbara backed off as she held the pencil with a defensive stance.

“C’mere you little shit!” she taunted, in which the gnome pounced at her as it bared its teeth. She took the pencil in front of her but except for backing off, the gnome decided to grind the only weapon Barbara had with its pointed teeth. “Oh crap,” Barbara came to a sudden realization. She quickly threw aside the half-eaten pencil at the gnome’s eyes, blinding it for a mere second and giving her time to reach the amulet-turned-table. She didn’t even know if it was to work in her size, but she had to try. Holding the amulet, she chanted the incantation and a blue light illuminated from the amulet. With a blink of an eye, the amulet shrunk in a size that fits Barbara perfectly. The gnome whimpered at the sight of the metal cladded woman. Barbara with her helmet opened up — still having her glasses intact, for a magical reason — smirked as she pointed Daylight at the gnome. The gnome was compliant with Barbara and no longer fought back, knowing that she had daylight.

“What’s taking her so long?” Claire started to ask, worried of the many possibilities that could have happened to Barbara.

Blinky leaned in closer to take a better peak in the hole on the wall. “Patience, Claire. Let us have faith in Lady Barbara.”

Just as Blinky said that, there was a blue light that was starting to appear from the depths of the hole. It was Barbara, in front of her was the gnome, the gnome had his hands in the air as if he was being arrested. Barbara couldn’t help but grin, after all the brief yet worrying battles she had over the past week or so, she couldn’t help but feel a little sense of pride and accomplishment from defeating the gnome. Blinky quickly took a little cage and Barbara directed the no-good gnome to go inside and it obeyed her.

“So,” Barbara started, “what do we do with this little—“ she stopped herself and looked at Claire who probably won’t mind curses, but still, “—thing?”

“Well, rule two would apply to this at the moment,” Blinky answered. Barbara’s grin faded at the thought of killing a creature, though she had tried to overcome it by thinking about what was best for her son and for her home. But, what could this thing probably do more than steal pocket-sized objects? Blinky noticed Barbara’s hesitation and decides not to push her. “But,” Blinky suddenly stated, “I see that you, Lady Barbara, seem to have been worn out by your encounter with this critter. I’ll simply let someone else ‘take care’ of it.”

A slight smile came over Barbara. “That’s kind of you, Blinky. Thank you.” She hopped on to Claire’s open palm as the teen offered to pick her up. “What about this?” Barbara asked as she gestured to herself — to her size.

“I’m afraid you have to wait it out, Lady Barbara,” Blinky explained. “But since this would be the first time it was tested to a person, the effects would likely differ…”

“So, you’re saying I could stay like this for a shorter amount of time?” Barbara had a bit of a relief to hear that.

“Uh… yes. But keep in mind that it could also elongate the effects.” Barbara’s second of a relief was suddenly gone.

“I guess I wait this out, then…” Barbara mused. “Claire,” she noticed. “Don’t you have school?”

“Oof!” the teen exclaimed, “Thanks for the reminder Dr. Lake! Will you alright here?”

“I can look after myself, Claire,” she said, with a sense of admiration for the teen’s concern.

“If you say so,” she giggled slightly, “I’ll be going now, bye!” Claire placed Barbara on top of a rock and went off, practically running to the exit as she realized the time. Barbara remembered Jim telling her that they had a field trip today so Claire wouldn’t be as late as she thought she was.

-


-

Claire, admittedly, was almost late. But the teen was quick on her feet and got to school in just the nick of time. It almost crossed her mind that the school field trip was today. At the arrival to the museum, she simply took in a deep breath and tried to enjoy herself outside of home and Trollmarket.

The field trip was a wee bit dull, but not until Mr. Strickler decided that the students would be more interested in roaming the museum on their own — with a call time, of course — this, in return, caused the Curator in the Pink, Maroon-ish dress to glare at him. Toby caught this and was somewhat amused by it and tried to tell his best friend. Jim had been practicing for Romeo the past three days since he was finally casted after Ms. Janeth had a hard time choosing between him and Steve.

“So, dude,” Toby started, as they entered the gallery. “It’s kinda cool how a human is protecting a world of trolls.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed, “but Draal’s still kinda pissed.” Jim laughed at the thought of Draal talking to him over the phone about how upset he was, Barbara nearly caught him. It certainly would have been a hard time trying to explain to her who or what he was talking to. “He kept telling me about how he literally kicked the guy’s butt in less than 3 minutes and the amulet still didn’t call to him.”

“Kinda sad, man… I mean, when you think about it,” Toby stated as he took out a nougat nummy.

“I think that’s why troll’s aren’t so salty about humans being in Trollmarket, don’t you?” Jim asked curiously as he gladly accepted the nougat nummy that Toby handed him.

“Yeah I— Ugh…” Toby tried to give Jim a half-decent answer but his wrist started itching with the new wrist-watch he had acquired.

Jim noticed Toby’s irritated wrist. “What’s up?” he asked, pointing at the source of the irritation.

“Oh, this? My new Chubby Tracker.”

“Another one?” Jim asked, confused — though it was mostly about the reason behind his best friend’s decision to get another one of those.

“Yeah… I was kinda bumbed me out so I decided to get a new one,” Toby explained, taking off the itchy thing from his wrist.

Jim tried to hold back a laugh, “Yeah… no. That thing almost got you killed.”

“Ah ah,” Toby shook a finger. “Keyword: almost.”

Jim shook his head at the remark. “Whatever, Tobes.”

“Hey, uh, Jim… could you hold this for a sec, just for a sec.” Toby handed the tracker to Jim. “I think I need to wash my hands or something… Getting kinda too itchy. Be back in a flash.”

Jim shrugged and took the tracker from Toby as he ran off to the men’s room. Jim went to see the costumes display, only to find out that Claire was also there. The play’s Juliet-to-be was carrying a handful of books. Jim watched her and he unconsciously settled down the Chubby Tracker on the description table of one of the displays as his legs began to move to Claire’s direction.

As Jim approached Claire, he noticed that she seems to be quite distant despite how she looked like she was observing one of the costumes and the bags under her eyes were visible from where he stood. Jim tried to act as collected as he could, he’d only talked to her during the play rehearsals, but it was better than the dead silence of before.

“What light through yonder window breaks?”* Jim tried to sound cool by quoting one of the famous lines of Act Two in Romeo and Juliet. He tried to lean on the glass case of one of the displays but he was a few inches off, consequently, letting himself tumble. Claire noticed this, and thanks to her great natural agility — and a few trainings with Barbara — she quickly dropped the books and caught Jim by the waist mid-fall.

Jim huffed out a breath and gave a sheepish laugh as he tried to stand up with the help of Claire. Claire gave his hand out to Jim and he gladly accepted. “You, uh, good?” she asked.

Jim finally got himself to stand up straight, he hesitantly let go of Claire’s hand that he had only noticed was in his own. He looked away slightly when he felt himself blush slightly as he combed his hand through his hair. “I’m uh… Oh—“ he cut himself off as he noticed the books that have fallen on the floor. “Let me, uh…” Without finishing his words, Jim leaned down to pick up the books and handed them to Claire.

Claire gladly took the stack of books and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “Thanks, Jim.”

“N-no problem, heh.” Jim was slightly embarrassed that the scenario didn’t happen the other way around. “So, I see you have books. Why—“

“Oh, Hello there!” Revs came into the scene from behind, cutting Jim off. “Oh, oh dear,” he chuckled forcefully, “I see Romeo and Juliet are already flir—“

“Hello, Revs,” Jim, folding his arms, interrupted before the TA could finish his remark. Claire seemed to be amused by the Shakespeare references that the older boy was throwing out. “Wait, why are you here? Isn’t this a Sophomore field trip?” Jim had to ask, “You’re not even in our class.”

Revs gave an amused smirk. “I’m a TA.”

Claire raised a suspicious brow, not at all convinced by the answer. She stepped forward to stand beside Jim. “That’s not an excuse…”

“Let’s just say, I was given an assignment to do.”

Jim stepped closer for another question, Reverent holding his ground. “What kind of assignment?” he cocked his head to the side.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the TA gave another smirk. The answer made Jim think for a second as he straightened his posture.

“Jim! Jimbo!” another voice — Toby — cut through their conversation. “They’re calling us back in the gallery.”

“Welp,” Jim said as he put his hands together. “They’re calling. We should answer,” he told Revs before glancing at Claire and giving a smile.

“Yeah,” Claire agreed, “we should go.”

“Wait!” Revs exclaimed a little louder than he had intended. He cleared his throat, “no plans… or anything?” Clarie, Jim, and Toby looked at each other in their surprise.

“No…?” Toby answered, breaking the awkward silence that became the four of them.

“Oh,” the TA answered as he cleared his throat again, “I see… see you guys in rehearsal then.” Jim nodded, almost forgetting that Revs was casted as Tybalt as he was the only one who auditioned for the villain.

The three sophomores went their way to the gallery, leaving the TA to himself. Revs was now alone in the costume hall, mumbling to himself when he noticed a green creature move behind the glass that shielded one of the displays. “The heck…” He approached closer in curiosity. “Where are you—“

“Waka chaka!”

“Goblin!” He nearly yelped when a small green creature jumped in front of him. “Don’t ‘waka chaka’ me you little—“

“Waka.. Chaka?”

Revs gave a low growl. “What do you mean ‘what am I doing here?’. What are you doing here?!” he said in a whispered shout, “And what’s that thing?” he pointed to a black, bracelet-looking, watch thing that was in the goblin’s possession. When the goblin simply stared at him without an answer he massaged the bridge of his nose. “Ugh, nevermind… just- just—“ he was cut off as he heard footsteps rushing in from behind. “Shoo! Just shoo!” he shoved the goblin away from sight. He turned back to look at who was running, though it was only Eli which gave him a slight relief. But to think that he knows how obsessed the small, skinny kid was, that would jeopardize his plans if someone kept snooping on him. Better safe than sorry. He waited until no one was in the hall and that no goblin was in sight until he made his way back to the gallery.

-


-

Barbara never felt short her life considering her height was always a little more than average, but today, she had a more literal shrunken feeling. Though she would never let anyone make her feel small, the fact that she was the size of an action figure clearly annoyed her. She stayed in Trollmarket until the effects of the Furgulator would wear off, then she would have to rush to work and make up a half-believable excuse at the least.

The Trollhunter groaned as she wandered inside the Heartstone Hall in which Vendel was treating a wounded youngling. Barbara’s curiosity got the best of her and she couldn’t help but watch. She found herself climbing to an elevated position where she can see Vendel and the youngling perfectly. She watched with awe as Vendel did his magic — quite literally. With fascination, she watched Vendel the moment she got there until he finished off. Barbara observed as the youngling left, almost as if nothing had happened to them. She was going to leave herself until there was a loud, obvious cough and she looked back to the white-haired troll looking at her.

“Spying, are we? Hmm?” the elder troll asked rhetorically. “Get down from there.”

With no words and without any second thoughts, Barbara obeyed Vendel’s orders. She went down and Vendel took her to his table.

“I don’t suppose you’re injured.” Vendel scoffed, “What are you doing here, Trollhunter?”

“It’s not like I can do a lot in this size,” Barbara said as she crossed her arms, tapping her foot restlessly. Vendel turned away from Barbara, fixing the books and crystals he had used earlier. She sighed, “I know it’s the size of the fight in the dog that matters, but—“

Vendel turned to her with confusion. “The what?”

Barbara waved a hand. “Nevermind… it’s a human analogy,” she explained.

“Well,” Vendel said, as if waiting for more, “tell me.”

Barbara let out a small huff. “They say that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

“That sounds rather inspiring coming from a human,” Vendel remarked. “Though humans are rather inspiring themselves.”

Barbara gave a ghost of a smile before sighing once more. “I just don’t know if the fight in me is big enough… It’s obvious that my enemies are physically formidable I just don’t know if—“

Vendel scoffed, cutting of Barbara. “Some Trollhunter you are.”

“Excuse me?”

Vendel looked at Barbara dead in the eye. “You were chosen to wield the mantle, yet you put yourself down.” He stomped his Heartstone staff as he came closer to Barbara. “Never, in my many years, have I seen a warrior like that.”

“I—“

“The fight is there, you simply have to awaken it. Instead of complaining, try to unlock your potential.”

“But I’ve been training my behind off every off-time I have from work!” Barbara argued, “I don’t even have time for my son anymore.”

“Pah!” The troll exclaimed. “Not just training, Trollhunter. You have to know your purpose. You have to fully embrace being a Trollhunter, you don’t do it for one individual person, you do it for everyone.”

“I… never thought about it like that… Jim, he’s— I just want him to be safe but I was chosen to protect everyone...” she trailed off, suddenly feeling weird. She couldn’t keep her balance, causing herself to fall down. She suddenly felt a bit dizzy, she looked at her hand and it was growing back to a normal size. The rest of her body parts followed until she was on her full size again.

“Please get off my table,” Vendel — who she forgot was there for a second — stated.

“Oh, right.” Barbara stepped down from the table before taking out her phone — which was also in proper size — and looked at the time.

Now, time for her other occupation to worry about.

Chapter Text

“Darn, Jimbo,” Toby said as he walked alongside Jim on the way to Trollmarket. “I really thought we could at least get a glimpse of that new rock collection but I have a feeling the curator lady doesn't like me…”

Jim snorted. “How could you say that?”

“She glared at me, dude!” Toby explained, throwing his hands in the air.

Jim shook his head and held back a laugh. “Yeah, sure, maybe because you wouldn’t — hold up, red light — stop bothering her with the rock collection.”

“Because! Rocks, geodes, and all that cool stuff!”

They made their way to the canal. “There’s a lot of those in the Market, Tobes. And Draal’s literally made of stone,” Jim stated, though only loud enough for Toby to hear.

“It’s not the same! Vendel would never let me get my hands on those!”

Jim raised a brow. “And the museum lady would?”

“I, uh… good point.” Toby gave Jim a shrug as they went into the canal. Jim pulled out a horngazel which made Toby slightly puzzled. “Wait, Draal gave you a horngazel?!”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jim said as he gave a shrug. “I mean, I gave him a phone and some life advice and he gives me the key to an entire society of trolls…”

“Eh, seems fair.” Toby’s remark made Jim give out a short “Pfft” and a snort.

Jim shook his head as he held back a chuckle. “Sure, Tobes… whatever you say.” He drew a semicircle big enough for Toby and himself and opened the gateway to Trollmarket. They were silent along the way and the rest of the trolls seem to just mind their own business even with humans around. They’re surprised on how fast the trolls adjusted to humans making their way in Trollmarket, they simply thought that the new Trollhunter helps in the course of making amends. They wasted no time and went straight to a friend whom they would never have dreamt of being close to, but the past week proved otherwise. They went to the troll pub where Draal and his company would usually be but he wasn’t there, so they checked the only other place they think Draal would be.

Jim opened up a half-shredded curtain into Draal’s dwelling, there was an orange crystal that illuminated a low light as they entered. “Draal? Are you here?” Jim called out.

“Inside,” A voice — who could only be Draal — answered.

Jim and Toby stepped inside only to find Draal grimacing at a caged gnome, the gnome in question was trying to bite itself out of the cage with no success whatsoever. “Uhh,” Jim began, “what’s that?”

“It’s a gnome, Flesh— I, I mean Jim,” Draal said. “Forgive me, habits,” he added as an apology to calling Jim a fleshbag. He has tried not to do so to the boys, as well as the two other humans that have become the normal guests of Trollmarket.

“Why do you have a gnome?” Toby asked. “And in a cage too.”

“Rogue gnome.” Draal set the cage down on the stone floor. “Blinky asked me to ‘take care of it’ for them as the Trollhunter seemed to have a little problem.”

“A little problem?”

Draal nodded. “That’s how Blinky put it.” He sighed, as he stared at the caged creature. “This is all they think I’m good for right now, but I’ll show them what I am capable of once me and the Trollhunter battle each other again.”

“Woah, wait,” Jim interrupted, “‘again’?”

Draal turned to Jim and nodded. “Yes, she challenged me to a rematch about a week ago…”

“‘She’?” Toby suddenly blurted out. “Makes sense,” he shrugged.

“I admire her perseverance, honestly,” Jim remarked. “But what now?”

“Now,” Draal started, “I must take care of this vermin.” With an annoyed groan, he picked up the cage once more and glared at the creature. “I should be training right now,” he mumbled to himself, though it was loud enough for the two boys to hear.

“Say, uhm,” Jim said before clearing his throat, “we can help you with that.”

Toby looked at Jim, raising a brow. “We can?” Draal also glanced at Jim with the same questioning look.

“Yeah… I mean, you seem busy… and we don’t have anything better to do anyway,” Jim explained.

Draal hesitated for a moment, but if two humans could handle it earlier, why can’t two handle it now? He gave Jim the cage and the blue-eyed boy handled it with both hands.

“What are we supposed to do with the little guy?” Toby asked as he peered into the cage.

Draal gave a shrug. “Blinky said ‘take care of him’, so I suggest taking care of him.”

With that, Jim and Toby said a brief goodbye and took their leave. They went straight to Toby’s house as Jim promised he would stay there for a sleepover, they still had the gnome with them. As it seems, they have vastly misunderstood what Draal told them when he said to ‘take care of the gnome’.

 

“I actually can’t believe you lost it!”

“Look, Tobes, sorry! Again…”

Toby groaned, though he could never stay mad at Jim — even if Jim did lose Toby’s second chubby tracker. “You better be…” he mumbled.

Jim was feeling a wave guilt go through him with Toby’s barely-audible words. “Look, Tobes… I’ll, uh, look for it? Yeah…”

Toby quirked a brow at Jim at gave a small smile “You better!” Toby brushed off Jim’s nervous laughter and took a glance at the cage Jim was carrying “So, like... Draal was ‘babysitting’ this thing?” Toby asked for clarification.

“I guess so,” Jim answered. He peered at the gnome that was making a gibberish noise as it tried to bite its way out. “Aww… look, Tobes, the little guy must be hungry.”

“Wait, what do gnomes even eat?” Toby gave Jim a questioning look.

“Uuhh…” he trailed off, “...y’know what? Nevermind that, let’s at least get him out of that cage.”

“Where do we put him—“ Toby cut himself off, “Wait, don’t answer that! I’ve got an idea,” he enthusiastically stated as he ran off to the other side of his room to grab something. He slid out a dollhouse, it was big enough that it nearly reached his own height.

Jim narrowed his eyes. “Uh… why do you have a dollhouse in your—“

Toby raised a hand, stopping Jim mid-sentence. “Don’t ask.” He set the dollhouse on the side of his room and gestured Jim to come and bring the gnome. “See?”

“See…?”

Toby facepalmed as he eagerly explained to Jim, “A little home for a little gnome, Jimbo! — wow, that even rhymed.”

“Heh… nice,” Jim agreed to his best friend’s idea. “I should probably take him out.” Jim carefully opened the lock as the gnome inside tried to snip his finger with it’s sharp teeth.

“Carefully now, Jimbo.”

Jim gave Toby a glare. “Dude! He’s the one that tried to bite me!”

Toby, unimpressed by Jim’s words, crossed his arms. “Well,you could be scaring him.”

Jim simply rolled his eyes and continued his attempt to open the cage, in which in a few minutes he managed to successfully do. The gnome didn’t hesitate to run out, but since the room was locked-in close, he only had a chance to run around the room until Toby caught him in a net that was conveniently placed under his bed — Toby had been keeping that since he found out evil trolls exist just as much as good one’s does.

“Feisty one,” Toby commented as he brought the net closer. They waited a few moments until the gnome calmed down, but it still continued to speak a high-pitched gibberish as if it was complaining. The gnome was in awe at the sight of the dollhouse and kept pointing at it, Toby complied.

-


-

“So, tonight?” Strickler asks, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he fixed a pile of both graded and ungraded papers. He sat in his office, the blinds closed and the door locked.

Otto, on the other line corrected him, “Tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow night?”

“Ja, ja. The paket should be sent to the Order—“

“The Janus Order?!” Strickler could only pinch the bridge of his nose. “I thought my orders were to send it straight to the museum so Nomura could take care of it?”

“Apologies, Stricklander, though I didn’t really get a memo—“

Strickler gave an annoyed groan before suddenly uttering, “Excuses!” He gave out an exasperated sigh. “Just make sure it does actually make it here, yes?”

“Ja, mein freund, ja.” With that, Otto hung up.

Great! Now he has to come by the Janus Order even when he had no business being there — not unless there was an emergency meeting, or maybe a package that needed to be delivered. He, of course, had to do it himself. Nomura had to organize the goblins in the museum for added precautions, his assistant had a price on his head — or rather, for his head, Otto was still on his way to find other pieces of the bridge, other changelings simply cannot be trusted as far as the centuries go. He lets out yet another exasperated sigh and leaned back in his chair, after the call ended, he skimmed through his contacts in hopes of finding someone he can order to re-deliver the package — someone who would think twice of stepping out of line, of course.

Through his skimming, he saw a glimpse of one ‘Barbara Lake’. He remembered acquiring her number after she texted him about the details for the Saturday… da- meeting they had. He made a few plans to meet with her again, though her schedule was… not as manageable as his.

Walter’s mind wandered back to when he and Barbara met a little over a week ago — before their Saturday meeting together — at the school, he never saw her enter the premises but she was suddenly right behind him. It was also suspicious that she had a bad bruise on her arm, all of the scenarios he could think of can’t seem to fit. Strickler put his fingers together and rested his chin on it as his elbows rested on the desk — after settling down the phone. In addition to all the mystery, there was the damned amulet and Jim. If Bular’s stories were to be true — which he now highly doubts — then how could it be possible that he saw an all-too-familiar blue light from where only Jim and Tobias was present? There are too many dots that simply won’t connect. Strickler groaned in annoyance at his own thoughts, there was simply too much to deal with at the moment. He took in a deep breath to clear his thoughts. Right now, just grade the bloody papers, Stricklander, his inner voice suggested. Problems for tomorrow are for tomorrow.

-


-

 

And then tomorrow came. Though the boys were expecting to be woken up by an alarm clock, they certainly did not expect to be woken up by what seems to be shattering porcelain.

“Dude! That was my Nana’s vase!” Toby exclaimed as he quickly took a broom to sweep the shards away. “Bad Chomspky! Bad!”

“Chompsky?”

“What? It fits.”

Ugh!” Jim, who was chasing the tiny trouble-maker around the bedroom, gave out a frustrated groan as he crashed against Toby’s dresser. “Well, it’s not like he’ll listen to us even if we named him!”

The gnome taunted with a high-pitched cackle, after putting his tongue out at Jim.

 

“Jimbo?” Toby called out as he barricaded himself against the door to prevent the gnome from.

“Kinda busy here, Tobes!”

“We’re gonna be late for school, dude!” Toby exclaimed. “We even have our oral test in Spanish today!”

Jim paused and put his hands in his hair. “Oh no! I totally forgot, Señor Uhl’s gonna kill us!” The gnome went through Jim’s leg, nearly tripping him. Jim saw the pillow and quickly thought of a plan, he took off the pillowcase from the pillow and timed the gnome. He caught the gnome in the pillowcase but the little creature didn’t cease to struggle. “That’s not going to hold for long!” He exclaimed as he ran to Toby, opened the door and shoved both of them out. “Go, go, go! Lock it!” They quickly closed the door before the gnome could catch up.

“That… was… close…” Toby managed to utter out as he was heavily panting.

“But you know what’s not close?” Jim asked as he caught his breath. Toby gave Jim a questioning look. “School, Tobes!”

The gnome — Chompsky, as Toby named him — chewed his way out of the pillowcase Jim ‘trapped’ him in. He saw Toby and Jim rushing out of the door but he was a second too late. Though, the boys may have underestimated the gnome as he took a fallen stool and turned the knob. He sipped out of the door without making any sounds, the two boys downstairs were still in a slight rush. Chompsky turned in an attempt to escape but a cat jumped into view. The gnome bared his sharp teeth at the feline but the cat was taking none of it, the cat hissed and showed its claws. Without warning, the cat pounced at Chompsky causing him to jump off the stairs. The formidable feline did not cease to end its chase with Chompsky, it pounced at the gnome which sent Chompsky looking for refuge in the nearest enclosed place he could see — but the adrenaline may have blinded the gnome, not realizing that he jumped right into one Jim Lake Junior's bag.

“Crap,” Toby breathed out as he looked at the time [7:35]. The two boys ran downstairs to get ready before they retrieved their bags — in which they now thankfully not regret leaving down there. They quickly took their bikes from outside, Jim paddling as he puts on his helmet and Toby whose helmet wasn’t even secured in, and they took the canal — because it’s not like there are any other creatures-under-the-brige they should worry about. Just a little after the bell rang, they finally made it, slipping in the hallway and quickly finding their class.

In a merciful twist of fate, Señor Uhl was caught up on something. The boys easily slipped in the now-full classroom, with only about two or three other students noticing. Among the students who noticed was Claire, she giggled in amusement at the sight of Jim, Jim gave a sheepish laugh in return. Toby and Jim hurried to their assigned seats before Señor Uhl came.

The class felt like it went swiftly as Uhl called up the anxious students one by one to present. Claire, with no surprise, nailed it and received praise from Señor Uhl. Mary, however, broke down after being given a little more than what she bargained for. Steve wasn't even present since he had his appointment for his tooth, Señor Uhl gave Eli a B- after stuttering through the whole presentation, Toby was next. Jim was getting anxious, he hasn't been called yet and Señor Uhl wasn’t kidding when he said that they should be ready at all times. Sure, Jim had time to study a few days ago but he didn't get to review on what to say and now he can't risk having any sort of mental block. As he tried to mentally prepare for his turn, the creature that silently crawled out of his bag was left unnoticed.

“James Lake Junior,” Señor Uhl called out.

Jim saw Toby approaching his seat — which was conveniently next to his — and gave his best friend a sympathetic smile.

“How’d you think you do?” Jim whispered as he leaned closer to Toby.

Toby gave Jim an unsure shrug “Probably failed.”

There was a loud attention-catching cough. “James. Lake. Junior, please come up here now.” Jim turned to look at his Spanish teacher who was now glaring at him. Jim visibly swallowed as he went in front, having a presentation in front of everyone in the class was none of his concerns. Jim built up a good enough self esteem after all the previous years of presenting, but screwing this up that could possibly lead to his grades slipping and his mother worrying was another story. Not to mention that she would probably convince him to take a break off the play.

Jim collected himself and looked at Señor Uhl when he was ready to begin. His presentation went more smoothly that he anticipated, though what he did not expect — yet again — was to be interrupted three-quarters through the oral verbal test. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mary, who sat near the back of the class yelled “Rat!” which sent everyone else into panic. The said ‘rat’ was now beginning to ravage the classroom.

Claire stood up, perturbed. I don’t think that’s a rat, she mused. “Out! Everyone! It could be infected with RBF!” She can’t let anyone realize that the creature that was starting to terrorize the class was not a rat. Señor Uhl, who may be dubbed as ‘Unforgiving’ in the class, still cared for the safety of his students, he quickly got everyone out… mostly everyone. For some reason, Claire had noticed that Jim and Toby stayed behind. Everything was happening too fast that she couldn’t send a text to Barbara, not that she would get to the school on time because of her job anyway. Protect the boys, then.

Jim took his bag and hit the gnome which sent it off flying to Claire’s direction. She let out a small yelp as she dodged the flying gnome. Claire joined Jim and Toby on the other side of the room, she grabbed a meter stick as Jim held on to his bag while Toby used his spanish book as a shield.

“Sooo.” Toby thought quickly as an attempt to not accidentally expose trolls. “What is that thing?? Heh?”

Good, Claire thought, they don’t know. “I have no idea, but I’m sure that it doesn’t like us.”

“We should probably catch— I mean, get rid of it,” Jim said.

The gnome stood back up, once again trapped in an enclosed room with teenagers. This time, there were three, but that did not stop the no-good gnome from baring his sharp teeth at the teens. Jim, Toby and Claire went on to their battle stances, in which none of them questioned how each other knew that — though, there were much better priorities.

Oh, it was on.

 

Everyone was panicking in the Hallway. Señor Uhl was doing a headcount but gets lost every five students because of how scattered they were. As much as Revs would love to, this was simply hard to ignore as he passes by the hallway in order to run a few errands and give out a few papers.

“He- Hola, Señor Uhl… I- uh… what’s, err, happening?” the TA asked as he approached the Spanish teacher.

“There’s a rat in the classroom and it could potentially have rat-bite fever!”

Revs was both perturbed and slightly puzzled as there hadn’t been any case of any rabid nor infected animals somehow finding their way into school property before, the only possible explanation was that the critter was smart enough to enter on its own. He frowned; unless, of course, someone brought one in. But why would anyone bring a ‘potentially infected’ creature in-campus? he mused, Unless—

“Guys,” uttered out a short, skinny boy with glasses — Pepperjack, “has anyone seen Jim or Toby?”

Unless it wasn’t a ‘rat’. Revs’ curiosity took over him, things added up too well to end up otherwise. As the Spanish teacher went back to the headcount, and other students busy — either posting about what’s happening or simply in a mindless panic — Revs slightly opened the door. The crack was small, yet enough to see what was happening inside. His eyes narrowed at the scene and he whispered, “That… is not a rat.” He immediately closed it when he realized that Claire was charging near the door, a muffled crashing sound came after which made him wince slightly.

 

For some reason, no one knew how, Toby managed to get tripped by a creature that was barely a foot tall. He fell near one of the desks, tipping one of the bags and spilling its contents. One of the said ‘contents’ was a Sally-Go-Back doll in which the gnome immediately grew interest in. The gnome quickly approached Toby, who put his hands up in defense. Though the gnome didn’t come to hurt him, but instead went to the doll. The gnome twirled it around as if to dance with it and Jim saw the perfect opportunity.

Jim charged forward with his bag opened and caught the gnome just in time before Señor Uhl realized that the trio was missing and abruptly opened the door. The Spanish teacher’s jaw hung at the mess the classroom has become, but more importantly, at the fact that three of his students were in a room with a possibly infectious animal.

“Awesome!” Eli exclaimed. “you caught it!... Wait, what is it?”

Toby and Jim looked at each other before Claire came in with a great improv. “A rat, obviously,” she stated.

“Yeah, like- erm- in a weird breed,” Jim added. The gnome inside didn't resist and stayed quiet, which gave Jim a slight relief. “I should probably take him- uh- it out.”

“That would be a good decision Señor Lake,” the Spanish teacher agreed.

Jim went out to take a better peek at Chompsky, the gnome managed to fall asleep as he snuggled the doll. Whoever owned that won't seem to get it back anytime soon as it seemed to be the only thing that calmed it down. He came back to the classroom saying that he threw it out — though he only kept the gnome in his locker for the time being. To his dismay, Claire’s face paled and she looked worried other than the impressed expression Jim was expecting.

Jim, on the way to his seat, passed Claire. “You alright?” he had to ask.

“Yes?... Yes, I'm fine. I just don't know how that thing got here…”

Jim cleared his throat. “heh, me neither.”

Claire glanced at Jim with a lopsided smile, he couldn't tell what he was thinking, but she seems like she knew more than what she’s letting off. “Though I have a feeling…” she started, “I might need to visit my doctor.”

Jim gave a confused laugh as he proceeded to his seat. All outside noise was cancelled out as he thought thoroughly about what she said. “And I have a feeling… this is going to be a confusing day,” he muttered to himself.

-


-

The day went by fast and she was surprised that there were fewer accidents today than there was yesterday — not that Barbara was complaining, this did come in her favor. Though, she had to cover the hours she missed the day prior, giving no time whatsoever for her training. She was both mentally and physically tired. She had recieved a couple of texts from Claire telling her about a gnome that — for some unexplained reason — got to her class just this morning, though Barbara decided that she would deal with that later as right now she was currently driving home. The sun already set a few minutes ago, there was traffic on the main so she decided to take the alternative route.

Of all the accidents that the good doctor had to treat, she reminded herself of precautions in order to avoid certain accidents, though today was the day she may have forgotten those precautions. It was a split-second reaction, but she managed to hit the breaks before her car hit a pedestrian who was crossing the road. She felt her car hit the man slightly, she gulped in fear as she rushed out only to see…

“Walter?” her eyes widened, “Walter!”

A soft chuckle escaped Walter. “I certainly did not expect being run over today, but, expect the unexpected, as they say.” He stood up straight — though his leg did hurt a bit — he was holding a re-taped package box.

“Are you — Oh my god, you’re leg! — are you alright?” She quickly ran to his aid, to check if anything was broken.

“I’m quite alright, Barbara,” he assured her, though she wasn’t taking any of it. She lightly tapped the part of his leg where she assumed she hit him causing Walter to wince and tried — and failed — to hold back a hiss.

“Sure, ‘alright’,” she scoffed. “Yeah, no…” she bit her lip, “where are you going? Maybe I can give you a ride.” She gave him a silent apology with a sympathetic smile.

He took a better look at her, she was pale and the bags under her eyes were more visible that when they last met. “I- you look tired, Barbara…” he studied her closely, “I don’t mean to postpone your well-earned sleep.”

“Oh, I’ve had enough,” she answered. “And besides, your leg…”

“Is still attached to by body,” he joked as he quirked a brow. He tried — and failed — to hold back a soft chuckle when he glanced at Barbara, arms folded, looking at him with the eyes of a doctor and not someone who had recently almost ran him over. He cleared his throat, shifting glances from his leg to Barbara. “Don’t worry, I’ll live.”

Barbara chuckled as she shook her head, approaching Walter who was confused at what she could be planning to do. She grabbed his arm — still holding the box — and dragged him to the side of the passenger’s seat, he had little resistance to the doctor’s pull as he was also slightly limping. She opened the door and gestured Walter to get inside.

Walter gave Barbara an apologetic look. “You don’t have to—“

“Nope,” she was quick to disagree, “doctor’s orders.”

Without any more arguments, Walter agreed and went in the car with compliance. Barbara followed in a few seconds later.

“I’m glad you finally agreed,” she said, starting the car’s engine once more.

“Well… I could no longer resist since you were very insistent,” he remarked before clearing his throat and adding, “also, we were — are — creating quite the traffic.”

Barbara quickly realized what Walter said and quickly turned around to see a few cars avoiding her’s as it wasn’t really on the side. Luckily, rush hour was over and there were only a small number of cars on the street at this hour. She set her car aside before mouthing an apology at Walter. “So…” she cleared her throat, “where to?”

“Just the museum,” he answered smoothly, “dropping this off, is all.” He raised the box he was holding into Barbara’s view.

“I’ll drop you off there, then.” She gave him a genuine smile before going back on the road on route to the museum. There was a few minutes of silence eyes meeting each other with no words spoken. “So, what’s in the box?” she asked out of curiosity.

It took a moment or two for Walter to finally answer, “It’s for a future exhibit.” He glanced at the box and for a second was lost in a thought. “And I really do think this piece will help change things.”

“That’s- uh- nice to hear…” she said, trying not to sound too tired. “By the way, how’s the leg doing?”

“It’s fine,” he answered truthfully, “in fact, I feels like you never hit it.”

That last statement made Barbara grimace slightly, making Walter realize that he probably never should have said that.

He cleared his throat before opening his mouth. “I- erm, Young Atlas seems to be doing justice to Romeo—“

“He got the part?!” Barbara abruptly asked, staring wide-eyed at the person on the passenger’s seat.

“Well, of course, after — as Miss Janeth put it — his ‘breathtaking audition’,” Walter explained. He looked at her closer, her brows were furrowed as if Jim wasn’t as enthusiastic “Young Atlast haven’t told you?” the words seemed to have slipped out of his lips, but there was no taking that back now.

“No.” Her voice was low and the tone of dismay was clearly audible. She looked at him, he became silent realizing that he made the conversation somewhat uneasy for the both of them.

Walter cleared his throat. “You know…” she took a quick glance at him before turning back to the road, “When I told you I wanted to see you again, I never meant like this.” He gave a rather awkward chuckle keeping his gaze at Barbara.

She gave a witty smirk. “Well, you never specified if we should see each other again at the cafe or I should almost accidentally run you over.”

“Fair enough,” he chuckled.

Chapter Text

Weeks. Weeks have gone by since Revs suddenly called Strickler after Barbara dropped him off to the museum — after a few detours, of course. He reported that there was, apparently, a gnome that entered the school premises and that none other than Jim, Tobias and Claire took care of it during the events. The tiny problem was almost enough to convince Strickler that Jim truly was the Trollhunter, but Bular's hunches had to be kept in mind. The brute still refused to believe that James Lake Jr was the Trollhunter, which led Strickler to gather evidence for proof. But he had to give it to the boy, he was more slippery than he initially thought. No evidence had been gathered yet, especially when given the fact that he had not seen the occurrence first-hand — and he only saw a light in the locker room but not Jim in the armor itself. Thus, after visiting Nomura, he ‘borrowed’ a few goblins from her to investigate Jim’s case further. Though there was still no additional news about him other than the one from a few weeks ago.

But, it still worked in Strickler’s — and by extension, Bular and the other changelings’ — favor. The Trollhunter made no moves yet and the project for Killahead bridge is successfully kept in the shadows, just under their noses. Everything was working well, as long as the Trollhunter was dormant — or unready for battle — the Order could continue their process of collecting pieces for the bridge.

 

“Fragwa!” A low English voice echoed through the dark, abandoned warehouse. Tall and standing, yet not even his silhouette was visible through the darkness. “Did you find anything?”

The goblin — Fragwa — who was wearing a marker-drawn mustache, took out a pair of dirty white socks from behind.

A low annoyed growl escaped Strickler at the sight of the small creature's incompetence. “Anything useful,” he clarified.

Fragwa shook their head. No, of course not, Strickler mused. Fragwa simply stood there, staring at Strickler, waiting for a command.

“Dismissed.” With a single word and a wave in the air, the goblin went hurrying off. Even with the rate that they would likely finish rebuilding Killahead before the turn of the next school year, they would still need the amulet to activate it. The amulet of which is in the Trollhunter’s possession. The Trollhunter, in which they do not know the identity of… yet. Nevermind, he’ll try again tomorrow — though it would be the goblins that would be doing all the spying, but still.

-


-

Though it has been a while since Jim accidentally misplaced Toby’s chubby tracker somewhere in town, his best friend didn’t really cease to mutter about it every now and then. Granted, he sacrificed a few nougat nummies in order to buy that — though Jim thought that Toby had way more savings, but there was always more to his best buddy, he muses. Barbara caught Jim’s frustration in this during a dinner — in which they were surprisingly together and no emergency popped up — and asked what the little fuss between him and his best friend was about. Jim openly told what happened, though he wasn’t entirely sure how it happened. Barbara gladly said that she could help where she can — outside her busywork, of course.

Though as the day passed by, hope for finding the tracker was somewhat lost. The boys decided to note it off under ‘someone probably already picked it up’.

 

“I mean, we’ve retraced our steps like… seven times already,” Toby stated, though his tone wasn’t nearly as disappointed as the last six times. He and Jim were heading home from school, they proceeded with pushing their bicycles as Jim suggested so that they ‘would probably not miss it if it was there’.

“Eighth time’s the charm?” Jim said, but in an unsure manner.

Toby looked up at his friend with a smirk. “Dude, I told you, it’s fine. I mean, it’s not like losing that’ll change anything.”

“But you liked it!” Jim suddenly blurts out, “and it was yours, and I lost it!” The feeling of guilt in his voice was audible as he throws his hands up in exasperation. “I just kinda want to make up for that, y’know.”

Toby chuckles at Jim’s remark, though his friend missed what was so humorous about what he said. “Dude,” he finally uttered after losing his breath in laughter, “you make lunch for me every day, every day! You’ve repaid me and more, Jimbo.”

Jim couldn’t help but smirk. Toby was truly more than the best friend he’d ever dream of having. “Thanks—“

“Nope!” Toby interjected as he took out two nougat nummies out of the back of his backpack that was freely hanging on the handles of his bike. “Thank you,” he said as he handed one of the chocolate bars to Jim.

Toby was about to take a bite when he suddenly slipped. It wasn’t a normal puddle — in which he would normally slip in — it was some green goo that was splattered on the floor, as if something got run over by a vehicle — and a big vehicle at that, based on the size of the wheel track.

“Aughh…” Toby uttered out, disgusted, “what the heck is this?!” Jim pulled up Toby’s bike that fell down as he slipped. Toby went ahead and tried to smell what the substance was but his face subtly turns green as a wave of nausea hits him.

Jim looked at Toby with a mix of worry and curiosity “So…?”

“It smells worse than the insides of a roadkill!” Toby exclaimed “But definitely roadkill.” He was on the verge of releasing his earlier meal back from where it entered.

Jim raised a curious brow. “How do you even know what roadkill smells like?”

“Let’s just say… Nana’s not the best driver out there.”

Jim cringed slightly at the statement. That would explain the deceased raccoon near their house a few days ago. “Okaaay… But what do you think it is?”

“Mmm… I don’t know,” Toby answered.

“Tobes!” Jim suddenly blurted out.

In a surprise panic, Toby exclaimed as well, “Jim!”

“Why did you- why did you yell?”

“I yelled because you yelled! Now, what is it?” Toby explained before asking Jim.

“Ah, sorry — anyway, what if it’s a ‘troll thing’?” Jim pondered, which made Toby muse about it as well, “Quick! Grab a sample or something, and we can show it to Draal when we go to Trollmarket!”

Toby shot up a finger. “Good idea, Jimbo,” he praised, “But I am not touching that again!”

Jim rolled his eyes at Toby’s remark. “Fiiine… Do you at least have some container?”

“I think? Let me check…” Toby began scrounging in his bag in search for a good enough container to hold the green goo, at least enough until they get to Trollmarket. Jim patiently waited for Toby as he tried to wipe away what he could from the part of Toby’s bike that was covered in the goo.

“Waka…”

Jim shot his head up and quickly took a 360 look-around. “Did you hear that?” Jim nudged Toby who was still busy looking viable container.

“Hear what, Jimbo?”

Jim was now warily looking around. “Like- like a noise- an animal, I’m not sure…”

“Okay?” Toby gave his attention back to his bag, “You sure you’re alright there, Jimbo? Don’t act too paranoid, dude, it’s just a—“

“Chaka!”The ‘noise’ was louder this time.

Both Jim and Toby’s eyes widened. “Yep! There is definitely a noise,” Toby uttered out.

The two boys noticed a pair of yellow eyes with red irises staring at them from the shadows of the bushes. And low growls with audible ‘waka chaka’s being uttered by the creature. With fear crawling over both the boys, the creature didn’t hesitate to crawl out. As the last remaining sheet of sunlight gave light to the small cat-sized creature, it was clear that it was something possibly connected to trolls. It had green skin and slim limbs, it acts almost monkey-like, it had a marker-drawn mustache and carried a rather unsettling grin.

“What in the living hell is that?!” Jim exclaimed a little louder than he intended.

Without breaking eye contact with the little green whatever-that-is, Toby and Jim backed away slowly. “Jimbo, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. But sometimes I hate it when you’re right,” Toby said to Jim who was too busy internally panicking to listen to him.

The creature didn’t wait for consent, it started charging towards them. Not unlike the last time they were chased by a creature they weren’t yet familiar with, the two hopped on their bikes, wasting no time, and peddling away as fast as their legs could allow.

“Where to, Jim?!” Toby asked, a little behind Jim.

Jim thought for a while. “My house!” he finally answered, “It’s nearer!”

There were no arguments needed, they quickly went on the route to Jim’s house. Toby’s house was just as near but it takes him nearly forever to find the keys to the house, his Nana might also be home, which is something they don’t really need right now. For short little things, the creatures proved to be quick on their feet. The creatures were persistent in catching up on Jim and Toby, but the two boys were not ones to give up that quickly. They eventually reached the house with a considerable amount of distance away from those little gremlins.

The two boys both threw their bags on the kitchen counter as Toby followed Jim to get a knife to defend himself with, in the case of the creature was able to follow them back to Jim’s house.

“Why do we have to use the steak knife, Jimbo? I mean, there's a lot of bigger ones—“

Jim sushed Toby mid-sentence, “No Tobes! Those are my knives!” he explained, “Y'know, the one I use to cook our food. So unless you want green cat-monkey-thingy goo on tomorrow's sandwich…”

“...I get it, Jimbo,” Toby answered with a deadpan expression.

Jim handed a less sharp steak knife — though it can still cut — to Toby. “This will have to do for now. Mom's getting new ones anyway.”

The boys prepared themselves in case of an attack. They locked and barricaded the rooms upstairs, made sure the front door was locked, and the two waited in the kitchen near the backdoor in which they have entered. If the small creature followed them by their trail, it would surely lead it to the back of Jim's house, and thus, they waited.

A few moments of silence and vigilance passed before the two boys heard creaking coming from the backyard’s door and then shattering glass. Then it all happened so fast. The goblin was successful in invading the house — it was either they were bad at barricading or the goblin was really good at breaking and entering — but it didn’t really matter ‘how’. The green creature attacked Toby and gave him a few scratches, luckily Toby didn’t panic — as much as Jim expected — and tried to fight the creature off. With the help of Jim, they were able to pull it away from Toby’s face at threw it at the door frame that led to the living room. Jim gripped the knife tightly in his hands as the creature shook its head, trying to gain its senses back. When it did, it didn’t think twice about charging Jim. Jim held the knife close and tight, like how Draal had taught him — after showing a few signs of how he could definitely not handle a weapon, thus, a few lessons — and how the weapon is an extension of your body. He closed his eyes and swung the knife at the creature the best he could and gave his best attempt to slash.

And then that was it, no creature landed on his face, just a few splatters of viscous liquid on his face.

Toby’s loud gasp caused his eyes to open and realize that he slew the creature… and made a mess. His hands were shaking, this… the adrenaline — and latter victory — felt great, but to slay a creature that well threatened him and his best friend had a mix of guilt and pride in it.

“We should…” Jim scanned the kitchen, “clean this up.”

The two boys worked together as best as they can manage and clean up the mess. They took a piece of cloth with the gooed remains of the creature and put it in a resealable plastic bag. Jim took a sticky note and put it on the fridge, in case they don’t come back early enough to make an excuse to Barbara on why the door’s glass was broken.

“Should we bring this to Draal?” Toby asked.

“Definitely.”

With no time wasted, the two boys left their bags, got on their bikes, and quickly headed to Trollmarket. At this point in time, it was normal for the trolls to see humans just simply invite themselves in. The two boys shortly found themselves in Draal’s dwelling, in which he was doing vigorous push-ups — which surprised all of them.

Draal quickly got on his feet as if in offense. “Why—“

“This!” Jim pulled out a bag that contained a piece of cloth with green goo on it before Draal even had the chance to question it. “I-It’s from a freakin’ thing!

Draal was completely puzzled. “I do not follow…”

Without explaining to Draal what he had seen, Jim took out the cloth and held it close to Draal’s face. The cloth was close enough that Draal could smell it. And he immediately realized what it was.

“What in Deya’s name are you doing with goblin—“

“Goblin?!” Toby blurted out, cutting Draal off.

Draal nodded despite Toby’s unwillingness to listen, “Yes, goblin.”

“But… why was this one after us?” Jim asked.

Draal looked away, finding for an answer but came up to none. “I… do not know,” he shrugged, “perhaps it was just a coincidence?”

Jim wasn’t convinced but Toby’s reply somewhat reassured him. “Well, me and Jimbo did stumble on goo that looked just like this goblin’s…” Toby paused to assess what he had to say, but nothing came in mind, “ah… you get what I mean.”

“Yeah… that, that makes sense,” Jim said his thoughts aloud.

“But,” Draal said, though louder than he anticipated, “We can never truly be sure. I suggest you wait here for a few hours, just to make sure that there are no more of these creatures after you.”

The two boys obediently nodded in agreement at Draal’s reasonable suggestion.

-


-

Barbara’s body ached, though not as bad as the previous weeks, but it still ached enough that she had to cut her training session short. She came home to find that her son wasn't, but what somewhat relieved to see their bags laying on the countertop. She made herself some tea, though it wasn't the outcome she wanted… at all. She came to rest on the sofa for a few minutes but something in Toby's bag started to ring, his phone, Barbara presumed. With a small groan of annoyance, she finally decided to stand up and take a peek on why the device was going off. When she took a look at it, it said something about his ‘Chubby Tracker’ — in which Jim explained was ‘lost’ — and how the device was somehow earning points. Perhaps someone had picked it up? And they decided to use it? Barbara sighed, she knew better than to just let it be. Jim told her how bad he felt about losing Toby’s tracker, and Toby himself is a really great kid because she’d known him since he and her son have been little kids.

Barbara took out the phone that seemed to show the location of the tracker. “Museum,” she silently told herself.

Like the responsible mother that she is, Barbara took her keys and went to see who might be in possession of her son's best friend's tracker. It didn't take long before Barbara was at the museum’s entrance, looking for the person who manages the place. The guard, who just about to leave, told her that she should make it quick since the museum is about to close soon as well. With a sigh, Barbara proceeded.

The museum was rather dark, half the lights were already off, though Barbara couldn’t blame anyone — mainly because it was her choice to come, also, there was no one else there to actually blame — other than whoever has Toby’s tracker, of course. A few minutes later, the curator in a purple jacket and a long skirt in a slightly darker shade told her that she was the only one there and that Barbara must have mistaken. Barbara was tired, her body was still relatively fresh from training, she didn’t want to argue. Without another word, she left the doors of the museum, to be locked by the curator from the inside.

As Barbara went back to her car, she saw continuous rustling from the bushes near the window of the museum. Curiosity got the best of her. Despite her tired state, some form of instinct told her that she should see to check what seemed to be happening. When she got close enough, she found a few blinking eyes that didn’t belong to any known creature around town.

“What the…” Barbara uttered to herself.

She found that they were sneaking in through an open window at the side of the museum. Her mind wandered back to the person in the museum. She could be in danger, she mused before immediately pulling out the amulet. Barbara crouched so that she won’t be spotted by the approaching creatures. She waited them out as she silently planned what she was going to do and prepared herself for any possible scenario.

But more questions clouded her thoughts as she mindlessly watched the creatures enter the crack of the window one by one. Why were they here? Why were there seemingly so many of them? Why this place? there are too many pieces yet to be put together.

As she watched the last of the creatures enter, she immediately made her move without hesitation. Barbara followed the creatures through the same way they entered. When she entered, she got her armor and helmet on in case Sanger found its way to her — or rather, she found her way into danger.

The museum would have been pitch black, but her armor illuminated a bright enough light that let her see her way around. Barbara could have sworn that the creatures went in this way, but somehow, it seems like there is no track of them anywhere. That is, until…

A drop of slime-like goo from the ceiling alarmed Barbara, she shot her head up only to find that the creatures were right above her head. Another drop fell on the lenses of her helmet which made her lightly wince, but it was easily wiped off. It seems like they were nesting in the goo that was dripping. Barbara stayed calm, she didn’t want to wake the creatures and create more trouble for herself. Barbara saw the curator enter in one of the exhibits. She followed closely after, but was blinded by a sudden flash of a bright magenta light. It blinded her for a second. With her eyes still recovering from the flash, she heard a cold-blooded cackle that gave a chill to her spine. When her vision finally adjusted, a magenta-colored troll… a troll was before her.

“Well, well…” they smirked, “and here I thought Bular finally found a sense of humor… but it turns out he wasn't kidding after all...”

Barbara pulled out daylight as the troll’s claws crept up to the khopesh that was on her back. Barbara took to her battle stance — one she had been practicing to perfection — as the troll took out both her khopesh.

“Who- What… are you?” Barbara stuttered as she points daylight at the she-troll.

The troll gave a callous smirk as she slowly inches towards the Trollhunter. “I, Trollhunter, will be known as the one who saves my kin.”

Barbara was puzzled at the remark, “Your… kin?”

The smirk on her face turned into a scowl, coming closer to Barbara. “Of course they didn’t tell you,” she scoffed.

Barbara felt herself move backward as a wave of questions flooded her mind.

“but don’t worry, Trollhunter, I promise after this, you… will… never… forget.”