Last week, our challenge from Chuck Wendig was to write a cliffhanger. This week – predictably – we have to choose someone else’s story and complete it. Even more predictably, I chose Rebecca Douglass’s cliffhanger – in the continuing saga of Gorg the Troll . Best read it first… then read on. It’s 1025 words.
Gorg in Pursuit of Bale (part 2)
A mountain goat dashing past him startled Gorg out of his predicament. He moved first one foot, then the other, cracking the weld forming between his body and the cliff itself. He shook his head to clear it of the utter confusion that had nearly led to his paralysis. Shards of rock skittered down the cliff to fall like snow into the water below.
Gorg started the long climb into the gorge.
He didn’t stop at the lake’s edge. The ice-cold water seeped into cracks in various parts of his body but once there formed a second skin preventing him getting colder. As his head went beneath the surface he wondered if he could hold his breath long enough to cross to the other side. Just as long as he was starting to come up when he needed to breathe, he’d be okay, he reasoned.
It was a long way down.
The surface was a silver thread above him.
He was still going down.
He needed to breathe.
He turned round and clambered up again as fast as he could, breaking the surface and dragging in huge gasps of air.
He could not cross the water.
Hours of trudging along the side of the lake had finally squeezed all the remaining water from the crevices in his body. Gorg had no alternative to walking around the lake. He needed to follow the wind to find Lord Bale. Lord Bale the Artichoke-hearted was in a balloon, and the balloon was travelling on the wind. Gorg had followed the wind for days, and continued in his original direction when the wind changed. Now Gorg’s direction had changed and his simple mind dictated he follow the line of the lake. When he got to the end of the lake, he decided it was time to follow the wind again.
That meant he didn’t need to cross the lake, not even the stream that tumbled over the pile of rocks and embedded tree stumps, long bleached by meltwater and sun, that dammed the valley.
Although he didn’t recognise the change of direction as such, Gorg turned around and set himself on a path parallel to, but the reverse of his original one.
A shadow crossed his path and he looked up, shading his eyes against the westering sun. A balloon! Surely Lord Bale’s balloon?
It was low, losing height rapidly. And not too many miles ahead.
Gorg quickened his pace, walking with renewed vigour now his enemy was in sight. Bale, who had commanded the deaths of his family. Bale, who had created this everlasting torment that enveloped Gorg as he travelled the world in search of revenge. It was Bale in the balloon that was bumping over the sandy plain, surrounded by the mountains that Gorg had been traversing for so long.
The balloon stopping bumping along, the gas bag sagging like a drunken sailor over the side of his ship. Small figures climbed out of the cabin underneath it, and three or four clambered up ropes at the side. They were attending to something. The seams of the gas bag, maybe. Below them one figure stood, legs wide, arms akimbo.
Gorg had little interpretation of the scene. His understanding of balloons was limited to them lifting off and floating with the wind. He had no concept of why one would come down when the wind was still blowing, nor why or how people would get it moving again.
He had no plan of how to kill Lord Bale, other than with his bare hands. They were his most powerful weapon, after all. He strode forward, confident that with Lord Bale watching his underlings, he would be oblivious to Gorg’s approach.
The underlings were climbing back down the ropes again, gaining the ground and returning to the cabin. One stayed by Lord Bale’s side, pointing up at the gas bag, which was now inflating again.
Have you ever seen a troll run? It’s a rare sight. As in, not often seen. Now, as Gorg realised that time was of the essence, it became a rare sight as in a treat for the eyes. Imagine a small mountain with legs like rocky tree trunks; the equivalent of muscles are designed to bear weight steadily, not to spring into action and lift the knees and bring the feet through any faster than a walk. Periods of suspension while jumping from one foot to the other and transferring the weight through were unheard of in troll folklore.
Gorg hadn’t heard of it either. His entire focus was on reaching Lord Bale before the balloon left the ground. Fortunately his mind paid no attention to what his body was doing. It was so unnatural an action that, had it taken notice, it would have stopped in its tracks and Gorg would have fallen over, powered by the inertia imparted by mass and velocity.
The balloon reached full inflation. Lord Bale and his companion moved towards the cabin. The underling stood to one side to assist Lord Bale up the steps into it. He caught sight of…
“My lord! Hasten! There is a monster of incredible proportions attacking!”
Lord Bale swung round to see what his companion was talking about, lost his footing and fell to the ground.
In a tangle of robes, ropes and rescuing hands, Lord Bale wasted valuable seconds extracting himself from the foot of the ladder.
“You!” he cried, as Gorg lunged towards him, hands outstretched, aiming for his throat.
They closed on thin air as his crew whisked Lord Bale up into the cabin and the balloon lifted off once more into the air. They scraped along the dirt underneath the balloon as Gorg continued in a straight line, his massive weight causing the sand to behave like a fluid, carrying his weight in almost frictionless flow along the desert floor.
Gorg experienced the sensation of surfing for the first time in his life. It was not an experience he savoured, since his frustration at losing Lord Bale once more overcame everything else. Except Newton’s Laws, which stopped his passage through a collision with a boulder.
(c) J M Pett and Rebecca M Douglass 2013