A little history – Back when I started writing I took a ‘Writing for Beginners’ class and each week we had to write a short story for our homework. Sanctuary was one of those homework stories, and the one that gave me the seed for Genny and her Spellcrackers world! So here it is (with a tiny bit of tweaking – wow, was I comma happy back then!). Enjoy!
© Suzanne McLeod 2003/2016
The two giant figures pounded systematically at the carved oak door. He knew they couldn’t break it down but he also knew they wouldn’t give up. Clay trolls were single minded like that. In fact these two looked like they were lucky if they had the one mind between them.
‘Can I help?’ he said, pitching his voice over their thudding.
The two boulder-like heads turned as one to stare down at him. Not that he was short at just under seven foot but they were just that huge. Someone had used a ton of earth making them. For a moment he wondered who. And why. Then his dismissed the thoughts. Wondering about things wasn’t his job.
The one on the left, he thought it might be a female, grunted, ‘Looking. Girl.’
‘Try down Pickering Lane,’ he replied cheerfully, ‘You might find one there, if you’ve enough readies.’
Two sets of painted glass eyes stared dully back at him. But then his insult hadn’t exactly been noteworthy. And it wasn’t like magic-made trolls could truly be insulted.
Left troll grunted again. ‘Girl. Fourteen years. Short. Red hair.’
‘Great description, pal. You won’t find her through there though. That’s Sanctuary.’ He grinned at them, showing his blunt human-looking teeth. ‘And since you’re disturbing its peace, it’s time to leave.’
They ignored him and returned to beating on the heavy door.
He didn’t know if the girl they sought was there or not. Regardless, they wouldn’t get in. Sanctuary only admitted those who needed it. Even he’d never been inside and it had been his task to watch over the door for the last five hundred and forty three years. Because, of course, those who were in need of Sanctuary were often hunted by those who were the cause of that need.
And, entertaining as it would be to watch the two trolls pound themselves into little more than mud – the left one’s fists were already down to battered stumps and the right had lost all his fingers; he was evidently made of thicker stuff – the old wyrm, his boss, would scorch his hide if he let them disturb Sanctuary’s peace much longer.
He stepped up behind the two hulking trolls and grabbed a claggy ear in each hand. He yanked their heads down level with his face.
‘Time. To. Leave,’ he said. ‘You don’t want to see my temper now, do you?’ The old clichés occasionally worked when dealing with intellectually-challenged, animated mud.
Right troll punched him in the gut. Hard. Hot breath escaped his mouth. Looked like they weren’t going to go easy. But then he’d known that. They’d been pulled from the earth, and earth was nothing if not enduring. But it was mutable. Only before he could change it, he needed to stoke his temper.
He let out an old sigh. There was too much rock round here and not enough metal for him to react quickly. A handicap he’d agreed to live with when he’d taken the job. Still, at least it was a handicap he’d learned to work around.
That didn’t mean it wasn’t going to hurt.
He banged the trolls’ heads together. Hard. The dents he made seemed to have no effect other than to leave their heads lopsided. Left troll kicked his leg, breaking his shin bone with an audible crack. The pain spiked the smouldering temper in his gut and started it on a slow simmer. Steam trickled out his nostrils. Right troll grabbed his throat, dangling his feet off the ground. Squeezed. The steam turned to stuttering puffs. He ripped their ears off, smashed them into their faces, rearranging their noses and mouths into featureless blobs. If they could talk then they needed to breathe. If they couldn’t breathe then maybe they’d cease and desist. Or, with luck, maybe just cease.
Left troll kneed him in the balls.
Or maybe not.
His body tried to double up with the pain, but the troll crushing his neck got in the way. He made claws of his fingers and ripped out the troll’s glass eyes, threw them down and felt a moment’s satisfaction as they shattered on the rocky floor.
The troll let out a muffled angry squeak and dropped him.
He fell, curling up in agony.
Both trolls ignored him, the left one resuming her steady battering on the door. The right one, after plucking out one of her eyes and sticking it in his mangled face, joined him.
As he healed, he used the pain to feed the heat building inside until it was boiling, desperate to gush out of him. He got to his feet, tapped the trolls on their massive shoulders and stood back out of reach. ‘Hey, guys. At least try a different tune.’
They stopped and slowly swivelled to look at him.
When he felt he had what little attention they were capable of, he opened his mouth wide and roared. The jet of flame and anger engulfed the trolls’ giant bodies and the air filled with the acrid stench of burning.
He kept roaring until only indistinguishable lumps of charred earth were all that remained. Reaching out he broke off what might have been a foot, or possibly a kneecap. He bit a chunk off and chewed.
‘Crispy-fried mud troll.’ He swallowed. ‘Not my favourite but could be more palatable with some chilli sauce.’ He hooked a small bottle out his jeans pocket as he nudged the softly glowing embers with his foot. ‘Told them, they didn’t want to see my temper.’