Trolls: Dårlig and Feige
Chapter 14: Otrera Beldam
The atmosphere outside may have toned down, but inside Otrera Beldam's house, nothing was toned down for Dårlig.
He was beyond scared. The room Otrera had him wait in until she readied his bath was not guarded, but she still had at least one Rat patrolling one hallway, and for someone with murophobia like Dårlig, she must have known he'd stay put.
The venom she had injected in him stung him from within at every move he made that the venom deemed wrong. Once, after being put in the room, Dårlig tried to run for a window, but as soon as he began to run, his muscles failed and he hurt even more when he had only enough energy to crawl. He tried breaking the wall by hammering it with a lounge chair, his arms failed him and if a Rat didn't come in to put him back in his place, he'd be on the floor for a long time.
As what seemed like endless time flew, Dårlig just resorted to curling himself in a corner. How could have been so stupid? Why could he not see through the charade that the so-called philanthropist was in reality an Aracdame? He should have listened to Feige from the beginning, her mere spite towards Madleb Arerto should have been a sign to him. The Rats purposely chased him when he came back to Bergen Town. The Hexe sisters had told him that the Aracdames were hunted down to the last one by his ancestor. Dårlig knew that whatever Otrera Beldam had in store for him, it was most likely out of revenge, but what seemed to disturb him the most was how beyond creepy her 'sweet nature' is now that her true colors were shown.
Honestly, right now, he wished he'd be in a cold, prison cell rather than being some 'house arrested' guest waiting with fear for the bath the murderous host had in store.
Speaking of the devil, Otrera opened up the door. She had gotten rather thin, the heels of her shoes were replaced by giant sewing needles, her hair had more volume, and small cracks were beginning to grow on the skin underneath her right button eye.
"Your bath is ready," she said in a tone that sounded like she was trying to keep herself together in a calm, sweet demeanor, but that she was also quite tired.
"I'd rather die," Dårlig said flatly.
"Too bad." She grabbed him by the arm and forced him to walk with her down the hallway and into the bathroom five rooms away. Unlike the living room from earlier, the bathroom was a mix of gothic, creepy, and comfortable. Everything was black with white outlines, it was like walking in space. The carpet was soft to walk on, the curtains were made of lace designed like spider webs, and the bathtub was king-sized and outlined like a button. Warm water filled it, iridescent bubbles formed mountains above the surface, and a rainbow of scents like cinnamon, lavender, vanilla, clove, and roses came from it. Dårlig wished they didn't make the bathroom smell so nice.
He spotted a pile of folded clothes resting on the sink. Next thing he knew, Otrera pushed him so that he was kneeling on the ground and his back faced her. Dårlig bit his lips as he felt his shirt being pulled up. He heard scissors snipping. In close to two minutes, he was trying to cover himself with his bare arms while the cut remains of his clothes stained the carpet.
Her right hand tapped on the sink, creating an unnerving sound of clock-like drumming. Dårlig gulped and slowly sat in the bathtub. He bit his lip. He didn't want to admit it, but the warm bubble bath was pleasant, and he did not want his warden to know.
Well, given the smile she gave him, it looked like she already knew. "Pleasant?" She asked as she rolled up her sleeves. Her thin hands grabbed a bucket that she dunked into the bathtub.
"Not of you," Dårlig said bitterly. He shut his eyes before Otrera could pour the water on his head.
"I don't expect you to," Otrera said. Man, why did she have to sound so amiable? "It's one of the rare times when I put a victim in a 'no-choice' situation."
"Rare?" Dårlig scowled. Otrera just smiled as she squirted shampoo out of a red bottle into her hand. She rubbed it and began to move her fingers leaking in shampoo through Dårlig's hair.
"Let me tell you the story of my life," she said as she went through the Bergen's hair. "I lost count of birthdays, but I was born like at least a thousand years ago. My mother, best known as the Beldam, was by far the best of all the Aracdames. Not because she was their leader, but because she knew how to survive. I was the only one of her 3,999 eggs that she spared."
"That's barbaric," Dårlig said. "Why give birth if you'd just kill off your offspring?"
"Eh, Aracdame biology." Otrera shrugged. "Some spiders actually eat their babies. But what do I care about my devoured siblings? An Aracdame chooses the one and only of her many children to carry on her legacy, and since Mother spared me, I was clearly her favorite." Otrera got up to wash her hands from the shampoo. "Aside from mates, Aracdames only show real love to their children. Mother loved me dearly, I loved her, and she raised me to be just like her. She's have me play along whenever she taught me how to lure children by posing as their better mothers."
"You mean fake delusions of what they wanted in their life?" Dårlig scowled. "Sew them buttons over their eyes and they become just another record in your list of meals?"
"Hey, some of us have tough diets!" Otrera pointed a sponge at him. "Unlike you Bergens, who can survive a life of misery and eat Trolls to be happy only once a year, my kind practically starved! Do you have any idea of how hard it is to find the right prey or wait for one, spy it, and create the perfect web to lure those flies in? My mother had to wait multiple generations to find her meals and lure them in!"
"And considering your records, you were beyond hungry."
"Quite." Otrera squirted soap on the sponge. "Then one day, just when Mother praised me for sending in my first spy doll to a potential victim, our Aracdame village was assaulted." He forced the sponge under Dårlig's chin and squeezed it, making him feel uncomfortable as fluids went down his chest. "Ten points if you know who was at the lead."
"M... my ancestor," Dårlig said.
Otrera forced the sponge onto the skin underneath his chin. She slowly dragged it down and back up, as if she were taking her time polishing a marble statue.
"Mother didn't believe the stories of the Assassin the first time we heard them through gossip, but as the news of more of our executed peers grew, so did our fear. When your ancestor finally arrived at our village, the last checkmark of his to-kill list, Mother had me and a crate of her knowledge in a well hidden bellow our basement. 'Stay here and don't come out until it is absolutely silent,' she told me."
"And when you did come out, you found out she was dead along with the rest of your village," Dårlig said. "And you decided to gain your revenge by killing me. Though why wait this long?"
"My life isn't just about you!" Otrera retorted as she lifted Dårlig's right arm up to scrub it. "Since hunting got harder for me ever since everyone knew why my kind was dangerous, I decided to pursue my mother's knowledge. Her biggest discovery that she kept hidden from the other Aracdames. Immortality!"
Dårlig's eyes popped as she moved on to his left arm. Rather frightening, since Otrera pulled him to be closer to her.
"No more hunting, no more targeting just virgin pre-teens, and no more hiding! I would live forever without having to worry of who I'd eat and when to prolong my life! Naturally, the research process was very hard because there's a main factor to it." She cupped his cheeks and forced him to look at her right in the button eyes. "I need a virgin whose been exposed to twelve Troll gemstones. I failed at finding a potential victim in Willywaffle Wonka, given that consuming his soul would have added sweetness, so I returned to Villainapolis, posed as a blind philanthropist and spent the next years spying on who could be the one. I nearly would have gone with Naomi Abyss..." She tightened her grip on Dårlig, making him wince, "... but the plan changed... when I found you."
"M... me?" The Bergen choked.
"I felt that it was a sign that my task wasn't for naught! How perfectly delightful was it that when I first saw you at the Brewing Cupcake, I not only caught the revolting scent of your ancestor's blood on you, but I sensed the presence of the exact number of Troll gemstones in your stomach! Not even digested, purely intact, and an untouched flower! I disposed of my previous victims since they were no longer of use to me, and for the past few days, my goal was to isolate you from the others. I left that doll clone at your door so that I could spy and see how I could 'hypnotize' you to appreciate your 'Other Chef' so that after I posed as King Branch and tricked Wonka into murdering your joy-rock girlfriend, you'd be heartbroken to run into my house!"
A saddened expression fell on Dårlig's face.
"Now you see, I won," Otrera grinned. "In two days, when the solar eclipse rises onto our destination, I'll have devoured your soul and nothing will stop me from living off for all eternity without hunger weighing me down! And for your sake, I do hope that you have a physical death," she then said viciously, "because if you survive while I become immortal, than I can guarantee, Dårlig Bergen, that you will wish I killed you when we first met rather than being trapped in a fate worse than death!"
In Bergen Town
Sean was still hugging his sister tightly, Willywaffle and Gladiola said nothing due to the ominous time, and everyone stared at Cerulean Blue as the Bergen Chef gave him a cup of hot chocolate. Cerulean's parents and big brother, the Troll family that specialized in making colorful compounds out of seashells, were beyond happy that he made it out alive, but also comforted four other Troll families since Cerulean was the only Troll among the first five disappeared to have returned.
"I had a fight with my brother Azure right after the Troll Tree disappeared," Cerulean recounted his experiences. "When I went to cry in my room, I heard a knocking on my door and I found a buttoned-eyed doll that looked like me. The note said my brother made it for me as an apology."
"And you fell for it?" his brother widened his eyes. "You know I'm bad at sewing!"
"Yeah, I guess I kind of figured it out later. You and Mum and Pop were out, so I played with the mini-me... and then I noticed a doodled door without a handle appearing out of nowhere near my bed. I used my scrapbooking scissors to pry it open, and it led to this tunnel. I crawled through it, and I thought I got back to my bedroom on the other side."
"But it wasn't your real bedroom," Willywaffle guessed. "It was one of the fake realities Otrera made to lure you."
"I still can't believe that you managed to resist her," Shan Yu said rather impressed. "Children of your age get easily tempted."
"I don't blame them, her stuff was pretty impressive." Cerulean nodded. "She made me think she and my Other Pop were more mellow and the Other Azure was much nicer to me. She cooked seafood, waffles, and ice cream for every meal, and she offered me amusement through my own carousel, an ocean full of seashells to collect, blue cotton candy ponies and so on... On my second visit, she gave me time to think about her offer of getting my eyes switched for buttons."
"Did you tell her no right away?" Willywaffle asked.
"I said I wanted to sleep on it with her, but she refused having me in her room. That set me off because my parents always let me in. I... got curious and waited until she was out of her house to pick the lock of her bedroom. It's where I found out that she devoured my friends Sue, Cashmere, and Joy Choy. Turns out that Otrera Beldam likes to keep silhouetted portraits of the victims she 'stitched on' and hang them in her room. I tried to escape, but she destroyed my way out and trapped me in the snow globe. She said I'd stay trapped in there until I could decide: buttons or freeze to death."
"Sue, Cashmere, and Joy Choy?" Queen Poppy said. "Those are two of the girls and the other boy that went missing!"
"What about our daughter, Lily Pearl?" One of the worried parents asked.
"Lily Pearl? She was the next one lured after me. I think she refused the offer as well. I saw her in the room where Otrera stashed her snow globes on the chimney. She tried to do the same to Lily, but for some reason Lily had a steel pole hidden in her hair, so she hit Otrera with it."
"So she escaped?" The parents sounded relieved.
"Actually, Otrera sedated her. She then gave her to Asina, that blonde human who tried to attack us with her whip."
"So one of the Coachfolk joined in with the last Aracdame," Willywaffle said.
Just then, Hun soldiers burst into the throneroom and rushed to Shan Yu. "Sheriff, we searched everywhere! Madleb Arerto's house is nowhere! It vanished!"
"That evil witch!" Feige tightened her hair in an angry fist. "I knew she was suspicious from the beginning!"
"We're sorry that we didn't trust your judgment," Shan Yu apologized to her. "To think I let the one creature I exiled back in. And now she must have escaped somewhere I do not know."
"Maybe not," Cerulean said. "Those freaks talked a lot in the snow globe room. They talked about leaving the city on one of Asina's boats after she collects her last batch of brats and then they'd use her island to go to some uncharted area where Otrera will perform the immortality ceremony."
"Pleasure Island, of course!" Willywaffle snapped his fingers. "If Asina can move it so that the authorities never find it, than she must use it as Otrera's ride! And where Otrera is, we'll find Dårlig!"
"And how do you expect us to find a moving island when the authorities couldn't?" Feige asked.
"Use kids as homing device!" Naomi jumped on Sean's lap.
"Oh, no..." Sean gasped.
"What? Pleasure Island only takes in children. Bad ones, right?" Naomi slid down her brother's lap and landed on her feet. "What if two kids managed to get in Whip Girl's boat with the other children, the boat takes them to the island, and while you use a spell to see where the kids are and what they see, they find out where the witch locked up Mr. Bergen?"
"Naomi, if you're suggesting to volunteer to pose as a naughty kid so that you may sneak into Pleasure Island, then forget it!" Sean snapped. "You nearly got buttons on you, I'm not going to risk the chance of you turning into some animal!"
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but she's right," King Branch said. "Otrera wants to take Dårlig somewhere, and Asina wants to bring kids on her moving island."
"And let's be honest, greedy as she is, that Coachfolk won't resist the possibility to adding two potential victims to her list of merchandise," Willywaffle said. "And two kids happen to be familiar with resisting Otrera Beldam..." He eyed at Cerulean and Naomi, who gave volunteering smiles.
"NO!" Cerulean's mother pulled her youngest son away. "We already nearly lost him!"
"But I have to!" Cerulean protested as he tried to pull of his parent's grasp. "The Bergen saved my life!"
"That Bergen is a murderer and the son of Chef!"
Feige's cheeks burned.
"So?" Cerulean pushed himself of his mother's grasp. "What happened to 'No Troll or Bergen left behind'?"
His parents sighed in defeat. "Way to break them, bro," Azure said. "Bringing in the princess' main motto."
"You have a motto?" Willywaffle looked at Gladiola. She lowered her head and said nothing.
"You used to say, princess, that no Troll or Bergen should be left behind," Cerulean said, "because it doesn't matter the size, the past, the inner and outer twists, and the opinions you have, everyone deserves to find the happiness trapped inside them!" Cerulean went on. "So yeah, maybe he was Chef's kid and lied and killed, but he wanted to be happy with the Troll he loved. And the fact that he saved two little kids from a child-eater rather than saving his hide should show that he's worth giving a chance!"
Gladiola and some others smiled. Feige turned and looked startled when she saw Shan Yu actually crying and pulling out a grey handkerchief to sniff on. Some Huns actually pulled out their phones to record the speech. "Aw, that was beautiful," Willywaffle said.
"Boom." Cerulean and Naomi fist-bumped.
Sometime later, back in Villainapolis
A blonde human boy and a purple-haired little girl, both around seven-years-old, hid in an alley. The little boy poured from an old sack a bunch of items that he and his friend stole: fruits, money, and books from which the girl just tore the pages.
"Boy, I love to tear things apart!" The little girl said out loud. After ripping out all the pages of one book, she threw it away and managed to make it land perfectly in the nearby dumpster.
"It's kinda boring, stealing and throwing away the same stuff!" The boy whined. "I wanna have fun!"
"My, what a good aim," a voice said from the shadows of the alley. The little girl ran behind the boy and the two looked nervously as Nora stepped out of the shadows. "And you two are bored? My, you must be naughty children!"
"So?" The little boy said. "What is it to you?"
"Nothing." Nora shrugged. "But I heard that someone is interested in giving some unique children like you a nice vacation where for a few days, you can be as naughty as you want!" Nora crossed her fingers, and just like that, two tickets appeared in her hands. She handed the two children the tickets and smiled as she sneaked back into the shadows of the alley. The human brats waited a little while before going back to the main street and asking a local shopkeeper if they could use the bathroom. The shopkeeper gave them the directions, and as soon as the two small things locked themselves in the bathroom, they pulled up their sleeves. Bracelets made of Feige's hair were placed on their wrists. They rubbed it and the polyringler magic revealed them as Naomi and Cerulean.
"Good one, kids," Willywaffle said through the communicator that he had given the pair.
"Eh, I feel like Naomi sold it the most," Cerulean complimented Naomi, making her blush. She looked down at the ticket she had received.
"'Your ticket to a one-way trip of pure fun and lessons are nothing. Bring this with you at the Dragon Port at midnight sharp. No parents must escort you,'" she read out loud. "Wow. Kids must be dumb today."
"That's kind of hurtful," Cerulean said rather hurt.
"No. Dragon Port is the only port near the black market crooks' block that can't be accessed by the bay's walking docks."
"Yeah, we did kind of destroy the docks so that the authorities wouldn't find a shortcut," Willywaffle chuckled nervously.
"There are black pearls stitched to the ticket," Naomi added.
"OK, kids. Be careful. The pearls will guide you to the Dragon Port. Keep acting like your bad kids who really want to go to a fun land, but at the same time remain sane. I don't know how she'll do it, but Asina will try to tempt you with anything before she transforms you into whatever animal she can think of."
"I still have some Everlasting Gobstoppers." Naomi went through her pockets and pulled out four wrapped up Everlasting Gobstoppers. "We can eat those to avoid any enchanted food."
They split the candy in half, stuffed them in their pockets, and used their polyringler bracelets to get out in their human disguises.
The end of the rain had caused the fog to rise. The black pearls on the children's tickets glowed in the dark, and as they got closer to their destination, the light increased. Naomi held Cerulean by the arm since the fog did scare her, and her hold tightened when they got to the Dragon Port.
Many of the planks were severely damaged , spider webs grew from the poles, and ravens made their nests here. The bay's waters looked so dark and foggy, it was like being exposed to the darkest part of the usually beautiful body of water.
"H...hello?" Cerulean called out. "We're here for the boat ride to fun!"
Something moved out of the fog and nearly startled them by grabbing their hands. Turned out it was just Asina Cocchiere lifting them to the safest, still in shape area of the docks. A black yacht was boarding people on it. On the right side, a dozen children were climbing on the main deck, and on the left side, some shadowy men were hauling goods into the storage room.
"I'm so glad you two could make it!" Asina said with an eager tone as she took their tickets. "What's your name?"
"I'm Louis and this is Suzanne," Cerulean lied.
"Ah! And since you are here, I bet you've been really bad children!" Her smile widened, revealing her straight teeth.
"Oh, yeah!" Cerulean nodded. "We stole, we ripped book pages, we threw away food after only taking one bite..."
"I drew a caricature of my brother on his butt," Naomi said. Cerulean and Asina blinked at her. "What? I used permanent marker on it! You can ask him!"
"O...K," Asina said, visibly disturbed. She had them join her on deck with the other children and clapped her hands to gain their attention while her men prepared the yacht for its departure. "Listen up, my sweet, naughty devils! We are off to the most exciting and fun adventure of your lives! In two to three hours, we will arrive at a youngsters-only island resort! So enjoy this night as the last one with any rules!"
"What kind of rules?" A little boy with pimples called out. The men threw in an anchor and soon enough, the yacht was beginning to leave the dock.
"Only two," Asina told the boy. "First, do not try to jump off the boat until we have arrived at our destination! This is no funny business!" Her tone got serious. "We do have marine security on the island, and I've seen many times when devils like you jumped off my yacht and accidentally got eaten alive by the staff!"
Some of the children gulped. Cerulean and Naomi glanced at one another in doubt.
"Second rule, since we are mentioning staff, is that the left side of the yacht is staff only. The rest of the yacht is free for all of you to relax on until we arrive, but where me and my men go to chill, that's off limits."
Cerulean and Naomi nodded at each other.
"Can I go to the bathroom?" Naomi raised her hand and shouted out her question, making Cerulean slap himself on the forehead.
"Second level down, the bathroom are gender neutral," Asina sighed.
Naomi took an early lead. "I'd better go check to make sure she doesn't have food poisoning or something," Cerulean said.
"Your friend's kind of... how can I put it?" Asina rubbed the back of her head.
"Oddly unique in a disturbing way? Yes, yes she is." Cerulean sighed. He followed Naomi, who dragged him inside the bathroom and locked the door. After they made sure nobody would hear them, Naomi pulled out a red conch seashell. As it rested in her palm, she waved her spare hand above the seashell.
"Shell of the sounds that float, make me hear all on boat!" Naomi whispered. Faint red vibrations came out of the seashell and discreetly went over the ship before returning in less than a few seconds. Like a radio, it repeated all the sounds it picked up all the sounds on the yacht: the children, the cook stirring in his pot of soup, the engines running on the waves...
"Is my Aracdame guest well settled?" Asina's voice said in the conch.
"Yes, mistress. She is well settled in the guest cabin," a man's voice said. "She's in a rather bad mood, though. Word from her pets says that her boyfriend, the hollowgast, got murdered by the enemies."
"Dang it. And the Bergen?"
"She had us chain him in her cabin even though the venom she stuck on him keeps him from fleeing."
"Just make sure that the brats stay away from the staff zone of the yacht and that no one gets near my guests' cabin. When we arrive, take them through the servants' entrance of the island."
"And the brats? The norm?"
"Naturally. I welcome them to my island, the sea monsters distract them, and I leave them to amuse themselves until they lose humanity."
The seashell stopped glowing. Naomi stuffed the seashell back in her pockets. "That's what she meant when she said that the marine security 'ate' the kids that tried to swim to the island. The 'marine security' staff is actually full of sea monsters."
"At least we know the Bergen is on the yacht," Cerulean said.
"How on earth will we get him out?" Naomi asked. "We can't sneak in Beldam Junior's cabin and I don't think we'll be able to sneak along the servants when we arrive."
"Yeah, Asina will make sure all the kids go in the island," Cerulean pondered. "I guess until the adults catch up to us, we'll have to keep pretending to be naughty kids. We'll just have to see where the island employees come and go."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. An island where you come in as kids, and you come out as animals to be sold out..."
Naomi took a while to think before she snapped her fingers. "Maybe the Bergen will be kept in the area where they stock the animal kids!"
"Man, these kids are good," Willywaffle commented as he used his spyglass to spot the yacht leaving. "Jane, are we good?"
"Ready as I'll ever be!" Jane Hook straightened her hat and started barking directions at her crew while she dealt with her steering wheel. Soon enough, her pirate ship sailed out of its hiding spot and the pirates and rescue team made their way on open water to save Dårlig.