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Posted on April 9, 2012

Here are the two chapters where Wensen takes centerstage. It is an emotional turning point in the story and will begin to get Flenn in over her head. The joy of writing about Graham and Flenn in different chapters has helped both characters become more elevated and complex. It's also added terrific layers to their relationship. I'm proud of the character development happening in GRAHAM2.

Chapter 39

The trek to the cave took longer than expected. By the time they arrived, Flenn could see Elder Kreisk was pale and out of breath. The older gargoyle leaned on Humaska as they took the last few steps leading to the cave together.

Flenn glanced down the wide stone steps carved into the mountain itself. The majority of the village stood together in a clearing below. Only the troll prefects had accompanied them up the steep stairs. The Flying Mummy and Laroonae, who had chosen to fly there, landed closer to the cave entrance. The two younger trolls dressed in green appeared to take offense at the pair's closeness to the cave. They rushed forward and pulled the outsiders back to the top of the steps. Laroonae said nothing at the rough treatment. The mummy slipped out an apology, understanding he had overstepped his bounds.

On the trip there, Prefect Sig had told her about the Cave of Contemplation. The Final Arbitrator closed themselves off from the rest of the village for five days and pondered the issue at hand. Ot's father had followed through on his duty with honor. Flenn wondered why Ot had not said anything when she had come by all worked up about Blord. He could've at least told her his people were working on a solution. Of course, she was an outsider and according to Prefect Sig, while their people were open to all seeing their own government at work out in the open, they were not accustomed to inviting outsiders into their decision-making process. Ot might have wanted to tell and been sworn to uphold some vow of secrecy. That sounded right. Ot was not one to withhold information.

Flenn examined the cave. The entrance was blocked by a large boulder. It was held in place on the slight incline leading to the entrance by two large stone wedges. Thick straps made from intertwined wa-wa vines further braced the heavy stone. The vines, in turn, were secured by sections of scaffolding. She saw the vines ran through a series of pulleys. The ends of the vines farthest from the boulder were attached to several wheels and axles that were turned by large black levers.

It was a series of simple machines combined to create a complex one. It reminded her of Graham's Level Five science project where he had had to design a series of simple machines to perform a simple task. Her brother had needed her help to build a machine that in the end raised a small flag. It had been a lot of fun working with him on it and they had both discovered their strengths complimented each other. Flenn had been the brains, coming up with the means to do it, while her brother had been the builder. He had a knack for anything involving making models while she had been the planner, more paper and pencil. The machine before them was much larger than the rinky-dink gadget they had worked on.

Prefect Sig motioned for the two younger officials to man the black levers on either side.

He looked at his visitors and said, "Wensen will come out as he was put in. He had food to last him more than the allotted days. There are fissures that allow adequate air to circulate and he has been given a sufficient number of water sacs. He will come out nourished and with a clear mind. He will deliver his decision as the first words out of his mouth. Do not communicate with him until he is done. While he may not show it, being cut off from others will have taken a toll on him. But through closing himself off, it is how he can be assured his verdict is meaningful and clear. It is our way."

Prefect Sig didn't wait for their acknowledgement. He waved for the young prefects to unseal the cave. "As the oldest prefect, I order the Cave of Contemplation to be opened once again. May the wisdom of the ages absorbed into its walls have aided to inform Wensen's thoughts and helped him come to a profound conclusion."

Flenn had never met Ot's father before. She was surprised Ot's family had not mounted the steps. She wanted to look back and see if he was down below with the rest of the trolls, but her attention was too caught up in watching how smoothly the simple machines worked together to move the heavy boulder away from the entrance. It rolled back onto the two sloping wedges, grinding into the large stone triangles. As the boulder loomed closer and closer, Flenn wanted to fly off. She saw the older prefects stood between her and the approaching boulder. They didn't flinch or slip out of the way.

The boulder came to a halt about three feet away. The wa-wa vines that cradled it were stretched to their limit, but did not snap.

The prefects at the levers slipped large chucks in place, locking the lever from moving and insuring the boulder would not slip further on the dual wedges. They joined the prefects in red. All four trolls slipped their hands into their opposite sleeve and waited.

The cave entrance was large. Her father could easily fit inside even with his wings fully extended. She saw the distinctive glow of will-o'-wisps illuminated the interior.

Everyone was silent.

A minute passed. Another. Flenn counted to one hundred.

Wensen had still not appeared at the mouth of the cave.

She so wanted to fly in and move things along. Was it customary for the trolls to have to wait so long for their Final Arbitrator to emerge?

Prefect Sig whispered something to the other older troll. Both looked worried. Neither moved forward.

It was clear from their reactions they had expected Wensen to have walked out of the cave and uttered his decision by now.

Somebody had to do something. Flenn had a terrible feeling. Something had happened to Ot's father.

A faint cough and a raspy plea, no more that a murmur, leaked from the cave. "C-Come... "

All four prefects gasped.

The plea was louder, but still barely audible. "Help... "

The younger prefects raced to the cave's mouth.

Prefect Sig sucked in a sharp hiss of air.

The younger prefects froze in place in reaction to the elder's sudden inhalation.

Another cough issued from the opening.

Prefect Sig closed his eyes and delivered permission to enter with a nod.

The two prefects disappeared down the slight decline of the cave. Prefect Sig and Prefect Nomble held back.

Flenn wanted to ask them what could have happened, but knew her voice would not be appreciated. Her father slipped his firm hands onto her shoulders. She looked up to see him send her a smile of reassurance.

There had been no further coughing.

Flenn thought she heard the voices of the young prefects who had entered, but couldn't be sure.

Seconds later, both exited the cave. They waved the elder prefects to come with them. Flenn thought she heard one whisper the words medical attention, but couldn't be sure.

Her father and the mummy took a few steps closer to the cave. She knew what they were thinking»Would they be breaking the law if they entered to help?

Flenn had to see for herself what was going on. If she snuck in, the punishment would not be as bad. They couldn't possibly issue a cruel punishment to a young child who let her foolish curiosity get the better of her? They might not be so forgiving if her father or the mummy stormed in.

She decided it was worth the risk.

She launched into the air and flew toward the cave entrance. Almost as if he had known what she was going to do before she had done it, her father's hand shot up and snagged her by the legs. He stopped her cold, but in no way harmfully. Her flapping slowed and she plopped down on the back of his hand. He held her aloft, his fingers wrapped around her ankles with authority.

"Not needed, Flenn." Her father didn't look at her. His eyes were on the cave. "See for yourself. They are coming out with him."

The two older prefects walked out first. Both looked back at what their younger counterparts carried.

Ot's father was not malnourished. Neither was he injured physically.

The troll who had locked himself away for five days was literally a ghost of his former self. He looked just like the mother troll Flenn had seen on her first visit to the village, only worse off. He was almost completely transparent.

"What happened to him?" her father asked.

"We did not think this would happen, but we should've. It is truly a sign of how dire our plight is. He has been away for too long, away from his people, away from sustaining belief." Prefect Sig waved for them to step aside.

"He is too weak to deliver his verdict. Out of the way! He must be seen by his fellow citizens. They must deliver their faith to him before it is too late."

The shorter prefect in green, Ringle Flenn thought his name was, screamed, "My hands are slipping through him. Hurry!"

They shuffled the nigh immaterial troll forward. Both prefects hoisted him higher for the village below to see.

Prefect Sig slid up next to them and shouted, "Citizens of Newholm, awaken your thoughts and prayers to one of our most honorable. Focus your love to Wensen Gleeblehut. He cannot be abandoned."

Flenn slipped from her father's grasp, glided to the edge of the steps and stared down at the trolls. All eyes were drawn to Ot's father. She saw Ot and his mother racing up the steps, breaking convention she was sure and running toward their loved one. The young troll, she could tell even from a distance, had tears in his eyes. She wanted to call out to him, but the lump in her throat prevented her from doing nothing more than an awkward croak.

Flenn tore her eyes away from him and flew back to her father, burying her head in his chest. His massive arms folded around her as she sobbed and sobbed.

Chapter 40

Her father's soothing voice drew Flenn out of her misery. She looked at Ot's father. He was still transparent, but not nearly as much as before. She slipped out of her father's arms and took a step toward the fallen troll.

Ot and his mother were now by Wensen's side. The two prefects had lowered him for his family to get closer. Ot swung his arms around his father.

"I can feel him. He's still solid," The small troll shouted.

Ot's mother placed a comforting hand on her husband's brow.

Flenn kneeled next to Ot. She directed all her thoughts toward the ghostlike troll. She wanted to add her belief to him like she had done with the troll mother. She had reverted back to being solid because of Flenn simply talking to her.

Several minutes passed with all eyes on the weakened troll.

Wensen coughed.

Ot said, "It's not enough. He's still see-through. What else can we do?"

The harpy stepped forward and dropped to one knee beside Flenn. She reached out her clawed hand. She didn't latch hold of Wensen, but waited for Ot and his mother to approve her participation.

Ot gave the harpy a sheepish smile. Again, the harpy had a glamour that Flenn couldn't see. She appreciated how clean and beautiful the harpy kept her feathers, but she didn't feel compelled to give Laroonae puppy dog eyes like the males she encountered. The harpy had some sort of attractive magic about her.

"Please help," Ot said.

Laroonae wrapped her long fingers around Wensen's wrist, being careful not to scratch him. At least he was no longer immaterial. That was a good sign. He was solid, but still transparent.

Laroonae spoke in a whisper. "It is a pleasure to meet you Wensen. I have only spied trolls from afar. You are a brave and kind man." She nodded at Ot and his mother. "Your family is here. Your village is down below. They are all giving you comfort and support. I, an outsider, am here too. I am sharing my belief with you. Don't leave us. You still have much to accomplish."

Laroonae's voice caught. She waved away tears and continued. "Your people need you. You must mend."

Wensen said, his voice weak, "Thank you. It's nice... to have a visitor such as yourself... here."

"Tell me about your people. What do you do? How do you interact with your family?"

Flenn found the harpy's phrasing awkward, but she understood what she was doing. Getting the troll to tell her about himself and his people would help her form a more concrete opinion of trolls. That in turn would add her fuel to the troll's sputtering fire.

Wensen's eye welled. He understood what she was doing. He shifted his weight and looked into her large eyes. "We are simple farmers, always communing with... the land. On Earth and in Cascade, the earth is our church. Everything good and plentiful comes... from her rich soil. My people... we stuck close to her for many generations, clinging to caves and bolt holes so we could curl up in her embrace each night. Eventually, we moved out into the light, but still our relationship with the earth was kept close. It's why our homes have dirt floors and all our bedrooms are always on the first floor. Most second stories are for storage or activities that are not time-consuming. We don't like to be away from the ground... under our feet for long." He coughed.

"Sounds much like my people's connection to the air."

Wensen smiled. "Yes, I would imagine so." He cleared his throat. "My family is amazing. My son, he is never afraid... of where friendship will take him. He is bold and loving. My wife, she... is a pillar of hope and adoration. I am... a stronger man for marrying her." His eyes slipped to his wife.

As Ot's mother smiled back at her husband, Flenn saw Wensen's yellow coloring return. His skin looked less transparent. It was working.

"And did you miss them while away in your cave?" Laroonae took Wensen's hand and directed it into his wife's open hand.

In response to his wife's touch, Wensen sat up, his strength returning. "Yes, very much so. They were on my mind while I toiled away at my decision. I thought of their future, our future."

Wensen's eyes were more alert. The troll glanced at the prefects huddled around him. They had drawn closer during his exchange with the harpy.

"And what did you decide? What salvation did you unearth?" Laroonae smiled.

Flenn liked her words. They were so keyed to who the harpy was talking to.

Wensen rose awkwardly to one knee. His looked whole once again. "To do whatever it takes to ensure the longevity and prosperity of my people. I cast my vote for reaching out."

Laroonae shuffled back as Ot's family helped Wensen to his feet. The troll stood with renewed confidence.

Prefect Sig shouted to the villagers below, "We will hear what the young gargoyle and harpy have to say. We will initiate immediately steps to ensure that never again will any one of us be neglected or diminished, that we will all stay anchored to our beloved earth and walk on its firm land for centuries to come."

The crowd cheered. Her father and Humaska cast wide smiles at Flenn. Even Elder Kriesk appeared in step with the mood of the circumstances. A grin rippled across his wrinkled features.

Wensen stood straight, his yellow complexion rich and enlivened.

Matching the troll's vibrant skin, Flenn saw Laroonae's tail fathers were just as bright. Their thick yellow streaks touched with hints of orange told Flenn what she needed to know about the harpy's mood – she was happy.


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