The troll didn’t move. I looked back toward Vaughn and Samita to see how they were doing, noticing that only two goblins were standing.
Vaughn electrocuted one as it nocked an arrow to its bowstring. The other pulled a sword, charging Samita. She held her staff out, probably readying a lightning bolt of her own. As the goblin passed another goblin that was lying unconscious on the rock floor, it slipped in a puddle of some liquid (probably urine), and its feet shot into the air as it fell backward.
Its helmet fell off, and the back of its head hit the floor.
It stopped moving.
I boggled at the improbability of it all, and remembered that Samita had bound a spirit of probability to her ring. My sister Rachel told me she’d seen someone attack Samita and get hit by an anvil. It couldn’t have been pretty.
Haley muttered, “Yuck.”
I decided that my guess about the puddle was almost certainly correct, but couldn’t rule out the possibility that she was referring to the entire scene. Goblins lay scattered across the floor, many of them burned, some dripping blood. The unconscious troll drooled, and began to snore.
In midst of that, Amy held her arms and spear upward, letting loose a shriek that lingered in the air even after she closed her mouth.
Then she shrank. Sort of.
It might be more accurate to say that she began to fade around the edges, leaving only the the part of her that was really truly her. The faded image of “Troll Bloodmaiden” hung in the air, still screaming, while the darker middle became shorter and shorter. In the end, Amy (as Bloodmaiden) stood alone, armor glistening black, and the gem glowing extremely bright at first, but then recovering its normal glow.
Amy shook her head. “That was a trip.”
I turned back to Haley, and checked out her manacles. The lock didn’t look like it would be particularly difficult to pick. Of course, there was an even simpler way to solve the problem.
I tapped the metal with my finger. It felt solid. “Can you break them?”
Haley could hold a few tons over her head.
She flexed her muscles, her forearms and hands turning to a grayish substance, straining against her bonds, but not breaking them. “No. I think they must be magic.”
“Huh. Do you remember which one had the key?”
Haley frowned for moment, but then said, “The one that ate bacon yesterday and has a slight heart murmur.”
“Uh…” I began.
She rolled her eyes. “I know you can’t tell. I’ll find him and you can get the key.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Amy said. She’d walked up as we talked.
Haley turned toward her. “That was amazing. You really became a troll. I could smell it. Was that shapeshifting?”
Amy shook her head. “I wish it were that simple. I was sucking its essence into me. The Bloodlords created the Bloodmaidens so that they could resist invasions from the Chaos lands. They couldn’t ever predict what creatures would be coming next so they gave our line the ability to take the powers and form of their foes. The only flaw was that the stolen essence might overpower them.”
Haley nodded. “And that’s why you gave it up?”
Amy gave a look down the hall toward Vaughn and Samita. “That’s it. It was tempting to keep it. I’ve got a feeling we’ll need a powerhouse before this is all over, but I couldn’t. The essence of a magical being like that is too risky.”
“Without a doubt,” Samita said. “There’s a reason we don’t do blood magic.”
Amy took a breath. “I know. You don’t have to tell me again. Practically every wizard I’ve met has told me the same thing. But for all they say, it’s not that bad with straight mortals. I’d have died three times over during the invasion this spring if I couldn’t do it.”
Talking a little more precisely, and a little louder, Samita replied, “But what you’re saying when you’re telling us that is that you took their essences to maintain your own life. It’s a first step down a very dark road.”
Amy’s voice rose a little higher. “They were there to destroy the planet. I feel like I had a more productive use for them, and it’s not as if someone wouldn’t have killed them anyway.”
As Samita’s jaw dropped, Amy added. “Besides, they regenerated–which meant that I regenerated. So I didn’t need nearly as many as I would have.”
Vaughn talked over Samita’s reply. “I know the two of you don’t see eye to eye on this, but you both know we still don’t have a plan, right? And we’d be better off getting up the stairs before the goblins wake up, right?”
“And my key,” Haley added. “Unless either of you can magic the manacles off?”
They couldn’t. Haley and I spent the next few minutes searching for the keys. We did find them, and I even sort of recognized him. We’ll call him “Puddlemaker.” I had to search his pockets, and avoid putting my foot into goblin pee at the same time.
I pulled a ring of keys off the goblin’s belt, hearing them clink together. A couple minutes of trying later, I put the correct key in the lock, and the manacles clicked apart.
Vaughn stood next to us while Amy and Samita talked something through next to the stairway. Haley rubbed her wrists, asking, “What’s next?”
“No idea,” Vaughn said. “We had to sneak down. Earthmover specifically ordered everyone to their rooms. We don’t think the fairies control everybody. Samita said it was the wrong kind of fairies for that. It’s mostly ‘little people’. The problem is, it sounds like they’ve got a few big guns and as we went down here, it sounded like they were calling people to the offices. So, I mean, it’s anybody’s guess who is working for them. The only one we’re confident we can trust is Rod, and that’s because it’s hard to use magic on a troll.”
“You got it,” Amy said, joining us. Samita walked beside her.
“Be prepared to fight anyone,” Samita said. “We think we have countermeasures, but you’ll have to hold them off.”