“Ye are upon Robin Hood’s ground, and should he find you seeking to rob an honest craftsman, he will clip your ears to your heads and scourge you even to the walls of Nottingham.”
—The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
A herd of deer, caught leaping when the spell of ice struck, hung from the branches of the forest, suspended in the air three feet above the undergrowth; a groundhog and squirrel had scampered to a stiffened escape beneath their glistening hooves. The fur on a doe’s back shivered as a gust of wind tinkled the petals overhead. Their eyes did not suffer the freeze and continually darted back and forth beneath a thin pelt of frost, frantically searching for a way out of the wood that had been enchanted for more than a year. The trees’ shaggy gray arms lay like bridges upon the earth about the forest animals, and the higher limbs stretched the height of the great oak, bearing a silky white flower fringed in lavender. This blossom yielded the most coveted balm in all the land—the ingredient that gave potions and elixirs their strongest potency—nettil oil. Branches towering toward the heavens, and those low to the ground, shimmered with a uniform silver hue, lacquered with ice. The entire forest had been placed under a spell cast by Ankathata, an aggrieved witch.
Three trolls, standing on the verge of manhood, unexceptional in appearance and manner, came running through the green meadow, its lush carpet dotted with springtime wildflowers that grew to a precise line where the meadow met the trees in this place. The lads chased a lamb, whose fleece was matted and shaggy, up and down the slopes, not daring to venture too close to the frozen nettil forest. Grass swayed in waves and broad undulations all about them, the wind off the Faun River rolling in, then receding.
“Grab her by the back leg!” Marrow called, eyes on the lamb’s hind. His ears popped tall, their pointed tips going erect with excitement.
“I give up,” Frahn gasped. The tips of his ears wilted the slightest bit. Huffing, he collapsed on the ground, breathless from the chase. He leaned back upon an elbow and crossed his ankles, stretching himself long. “She won’t speak today, anyway,” he said, plucking a strand of grass, catching it between his teeth.
Brahm cast an insolent look in the direction of the lamb. “Yeah, I’ve not heard her talk in days—dumb animal!” Raising his mouth’s palate to make a nasal quality, he bleated, “Bah-baaahd lamb!”
These lads—Brahm, Frahn, and Marrow—were not the trolls of legend, monstrous creatures that terrorize only to be turned to stone, but three of a race of law-abiding citizens, fine tillers of the soil and apt fishermen, an earth-loving people guided by a tendency toward peacefulness, directed by a moral compass that pointed in the direction of goodness. It was their race that most suffered the consequences of the ice freeze in the land. They certainly fared worse than the gnomes of KinTotem, uppity urban folk dwelling in the north, and worse than the kints of the Eastern Straits, an elfin people living along the Ocean of Ogles, and worse than any dwarves mining a mountain or other scatter of men throughout Wir. But when united, these troll lads were without a care, transported to a place of euphoria at being together, the despondent state of their homeland melting away as they ran through the meadow or waded a creek, pounded ales in public houses, smoked shrooms, or schemed how to snag a kiss from one of the virgin maidens or men of the Village Ror . . . (End of Preview)
COMING IN 2019 — A collection of eerie shorts to thrill and chill you. Even the bravest reader will check behind their chair to make sure something’s not creeping up on them . . . Read excerpts below
The icicle hung, a dagger
The girl walked beneath
It dislodged, fell, and stabbed her
Now she’s ashes in an urn by a wreath
The curtain at the window, long and white, rippled as the wind blew. Little Johnny, thinking it a ghost, batted his arms in fright. And into the curtain he flew. Convinced the ghost had gotten him, he pinwheeled his arms furiously—so fast the curtain spooled them tight. It twisted up to his throat. Little Johnny no longer draws breath. And the body of a child lies still beneath the window while the curtain ripples in the wind once more.
The ghost that glides the halls of my grandfather’s house doesn’t frighten me nearly as much as the Grandfather Clock that stands at the top of his staircase. Oh, the ghost might give me a chill as he glides past; but he merely brushes my arm and is gone. He doesn’t harass. He never hounds. But that Clock! Make it stop! Its hour hand, its minute hand are maddening. Every tick, every tock, how they mock!
Tick Tock. Tick Tock. To the grave you will go. Time is not your friend.
Tick Tock. Tick Tock. One day you will drop, as sure as I will stop.