Torin steepled his fingers and contemplated his options. There were few choices left to be made for the good of the kingdom; most had already been carried out. It had taken him years to set all the pieces in place to overthrow the current ruler. Making deals with smaller groups he’d once thought beneath him has become second nature for Torin. Realizing that he had been on the same path as the ruler he meant to overthrow had been an unwanted revelation, but it had made him change for the better. It would make his country better. And the pain his mother, the current ruler of the Trollkin and the most vicious creature he’d yet to meet, had inflicted on him in his younger years had driven him to do what would eventually bring freedom to his people. Torin looked out toward the distant mountains and remembered what it had been like, before his mother had viciously torn him from happiness.
Ten years ago Torin had taken a chance and left his people. He’d learned that over the distant mountains there were another tribe of people who had wondrous powers. There was a mystical veil at the base of the other side of the mountains that separated the two worlds, and only very powerful or gifted members of the Trollkin could pass that barrier. Every so often one of the Others passed through the veil into their land. The Trollkin and the Others looked surprisingly similar, but the Trollkin were larger and more apt to use their fists rather than their words if those rare encounters happened. The Other who had passed into their land and eventually became an accepted part of Trollkin society was named Ryan. He could see things before they happened and therefore became very important to Greksal, the Trollkin ruler and Torin’s mother. Ryan was never allowed to travel on his own without an escort, but many times Ryan would be left with Torin and his siblings while Greksal dealt with the warring clans of the Trollkin. Ryan had told many tales of the magic of his land: flying vehicles, very fast carriages, medicines that could cure virtually anyone, and little boxes that could show you anything. The part of the stories that appealed to Torin were those in which anyone could go to universities and become whatever they wanted. If I could only escape to Ryan’s land then I could go to the schools and learn instead of being told how to kill other Trollkin he mused. For that was the extent of his learning so far – Greksal had no intention of giving up her position of power to her son and was training him to lead her hoarde. Torin was an accomplished warrior, but he felt no joy in what he was taught. He began his plan to abandon his people and begin life anew.
It took a year to perfect his plan, but with Ryan’s help Torin was able to escape. Ryan had written letters to his family and had asked Torin to deliver them for his help in creating the escape plan. While Ryan was relatively happy with his life as a sage amongst the Trollkin, he regretted being unable to say goodbye to his friends and family. Ryan carefully wrote out the addresses of his people and told Torin not to deliver the letters until he understood the world of the Others. Ryan also helped Torin perfect his glamour so he looked like an Other instead of a Trollkin. Without his disguise, Torin would never have been able to exist in the Otherworld without raising questions.
The journey across the mountains took two weeks. It took Torin much longer to begin to understand how the Otherworld worked. He was able to find a person Ryan told him to contact who helped teach him the ways of the Others. Eventually he understood enough to apply to a local school the Others called a University. He had to make up much information to get accepted, but with his magic and the coaching of Greg, who had begun to look on Torin as a younger cousin, he was able to begin attending classes. After some time, Torin began to work at a library in the town where he took classes. He took buses as he did not want to drive a car himself, even though Greg had offered to teach him. The bus made it much easier for him to observe the world of the Others and it never failed to amaze him.
One night while he was working at the library Torin met a lovely girl. The talked and both laughed over their unusual names – she was known as Talia. They began spending more time together and one night Torin brought Talia over to the home he lived in with Greg. The three had a wonderful night watching movies and talking. After Talia had left, Greg looked over at Torin. “You know, I think you’re ready to try living on your own. I’ve been checking around and I found this great little apartment that isn’t far from the University. You make enough money for it and it would give you more time to spend with Talia…if you think you’re ready for that…” Greg cast a questioning glance toward Torin.
Torin sat down on the couch and thought for a moment. “If I move out into this apartment does that mean I no longer get to see you? I’ve grown very fond of your advice and friendship and would hate to lose it.”
Greg smiled and shook his head. “Are you kidding? You’ll probably see me all the time. You’re the closest thing to family I’ve had since Ryan disappeared into that netherworld of yours. Speaking of which….are you going to tell Talia about where you’re from? Because if that ever came out without her knowing about it, there could be a problem.”
Torin clenched his fists and sprang up from the couch. “I left that life! When I crossed the barrier I used enough magic to confuse even the most adept of my mother’s mages. Talia does not need to know where I came from! The person I am now is the one she knows and that is all that matters.”
Greg sighed and shook his head, “If you say so. But I just don’t see how you think they’re not going to look for you. You’re a prince in your world.”
“My mother has never seen her children as princes or princesses. She sees them as little pieces she can use to further her power. She will not care that I have left, but I do wish I had been able to help my brothers and sisters. They don’t deserve what she could do to them.” Torin’s shoulders slumped and his glamour dropped. It always amazed Greg that Torin really didn’t look much different from anyone else. The height and sheer size of him gave way that he was not human, but Torin was so adept at his glamour that he rarely dropped it. “Do you really think Talia would want to be anywhere near me if she saw me as this? No, I am not going to tell her anything. And neither are you.”
Greg held his hands up placatingly. “Okay, if that’s what you really want to do, that’s what we’ll do.”
More time passed and Talia moved into Torin’s apartment with him. They spent two years living together, spending time with Greg when they had free evenings, and being a normal young couple. Torin was close to attaining his degree and Talia had two semesters left when his two worlds collided.
“Are you sure he’s in that building” Greksal growled to her senior mage. “It took you so long to find a trace of him that I am beginning to think you may be growing too weak for your position.”
“He’s there,” the mage replied. “I would not be foolish enough to waste your time with this if I were not sure.”
“Well then, it’s time I brought my son home. And he will regret running away and leaving his position.” Greksal smiled cruelly and the mage silently clenched his remaining fist.
Talia was in the kitchen when she heard the front door being knocked on. Loudly. She went to the door and smiled politely at the tall woman standing on the other side. “Hello, is there something I can help you with?”
Greksal stared at the Other standing in front of her. A growl emanated from somewhere deep in her chest. “I am looking for Torin. Where is he and why are you here?”
Talia took a startled step backward. “I live here! Who are you and what do you want?!”
Greksal smiled and tilted her head to the side. “You really don’t have any idea who I am, do you? That explains why you’re still standing in front of me. My dear son has much to answer for,” she growled as she pushed into the apartment as if Talia weren’t even there. Once inside the apartment Greksal glanced around with disgust. “As if anything this world had to offer would ever replace the position I granted him. He has made a grave mistake in thinking he could ever escape his duty.”
Talia was shaking in fear and outrage. “What the hell do you mean, you’re Torin’s mother? He told me his parents were dead! And what world are you growling about? And why the hell are you so tall?”
Greksal turned her back on Talia. “You are no longer of any interest to me, Other. WHERE is my son?”
Torin walked into the open apartment door as Greksal was speaking. He immediately grabbed Talia, placed her behind him, and raised the baseball bat he kept in the living room as a weapon. “You cannot be here Greksal! I left you and that world far behind and I will not go back!”
Menacingly, Graksal advanced on the two. “Did you really think you could leave? With no consequences? You are my son! You have been trained to lead my hoarde! There is no leaving that. Move aside and I will dispense with this Other so we may return. There is much training you need to properly lead the hoarde now that you’ve gone all soft in this Otherworld.”
Talia was terrified and didn’t understand what was happening. Torin was doing his best to keep himself between her and Greksal, but she wasn’t fully cooperating. “You cannot DISPOSE of people here like you do the Trollkin, Mother. There are laws here that protect people. If you tear her to pieces like you usually do in court, the people here will shoot you with weapons that WILL kill you. I am no longer the leader of your hoarde. Surely in all this time you found someone else to kill for you.”
“Of course there are others, but I did not appoint them. I appointed you,” Greksal snarled. “And NOONE who I have appointed is given the choice to leave. Your life is MINE, boy. And now, so is this one’s” she added with a cruel smile at Talia. “I give you a choice since you say the Others here will kill me if I harm her. You come with me and take up your duties again and I will not harm her. But, you must wipe her memory of all the time you spent together. If you choose to stay here I will bring my hoarde to the barrier and our mages will find a way to invade. It is your choice, my son. Erase her memory and leave or stay and watch many, including her, be ripped apart. You know I will do this,” she added with a smile. “I have no reason to fear retribution and I so love a bloody battle.”
Torin had made the decision to keep Talia safe. He had erased her memory of him as she pled with him to tell her what was going on. He had laid her on the couch, locked the door, and walked out with the person he hated most in both worlds. And he vowed to end his mother’s reign.
It had taken him five years to pull the plan together. During that time he was able to protect his siblings and get them into positions far from their mother. He now had many allies who would lay down their lives to end Greksal’s. Because in the end, it didn’t matter what happened to him. As long as Greksal’s reign of terror was ended, Torin felt his life had been worth it. He fully expected to die in battle. And a bloody battle it would be. But he had also created a secret group of mages who would help Trollkin who wanted to learn of things other than war get through the barrier. He had created a world for his people where they could choose their own positions. It was the best thing he could hope for.
Sighing, Torin got up from his desk. He strapped on his weapons and left his room for the last time.