Disclaimer: Trollhunters belongs to Guillermo del Toro.
Hey guys, it's been a little while, hasn't it? I really don't have any excuses, so i hope you can all forgive me. I can promise that the next chapter will not take this long.
Also, someone asked me about the sudden soul-bond. And no, it was not for the sole (heh) purpose of plot. Merlin is the type of guy who really doesn't care about feelings, societal taboos, or even lives in the long run. He's the type of good that would remove everyone's free will if it meant peace; the type that sees the line and screams past it in a jet. Something that would usually be a hallowed bond between husband and wife would be disregarded if it meant better performing soldiers. Of course, Morgana didn't give up her body without a fight, so he never did get to make any more amulets.
Jim sighed as he closed the back door behind him. He felt bad about leaving without giving his mom a proper goodbye, but he left a note explaining that he would come back later. For now, he was going back to Trollmarket for his usual lesson with Vendel.
He hadn't slept well. Or at all, really. The grisly sight was still all he saw whenever he closed his eyes. At least he knew that NotEnrique was probably still going to show up. Running a hand across a horn, he tried to convince himself that it was a sight he would have to get used to soon. It wasn't like it was the first time he had seen someone died, but there was something about the presence of actual bones, blood, and intestines that hit so much closer to home than the death of a troll did. When AAARRRGGHH! had died, there hadn't been any disgust, nausea, or reactions like that. His stone body reaching out a hand tortured his dreams for a long time, but not in the same way that the dead-eyed purple-covered corpse was.
At least his musings had taken him to the entrance of Trollmarket. Jim briefly squeezed his eyes shut, Gladys's mangled body briefly flashing across the blackness before he forced it away. It was time for him to apply his favored system of not caring for his own health to push back his problems.
Jim descended the crystal staircase, a light hunch to his back. Many of the trolls that would usually greet him with a dip of the head, a brief call of his name, or a cheerful smile stayed away from him instinctively, and for that he was grateful. He wasn't in the mood for small talk.
There were no detours in his path to Vendel's dwelling inside the Heartstone, but he briefly paused outside to leave Nightfall with the guards as usual. One of them, Nurk if he remembered correctly, eyed him closely, but let him in anyways. Once inside, Jim waited to be summoned by Vendel as was normal for them now.
The elderly troll gestured at the seat in front of his desk. "Come. Sit."
Jim walked up to the chair and sat. He attempted to keep his sleeplessness from affecting him, but he could tell from Vendel's raised eyebrow that he probably did a bad job. So, he got right into it. "The bridge is in the correct location, and the imp that I told you about will be coming on schedule. When I got there, Bular was… ridding himself of the changeling that was killed by us last time."
Vendel sat down, staring at him. "You are troubled."
Jim debated whether he should dismiss it or tell him. Eventually, he went with his usual option. "It does not matter."
"Clearly it does, or it would not be troubling you. Now tell me."
Jim sat silently for several seconds, casting his vision downward into his now fidgeting hands. Angrily, he fisted them, before meeting Vendel's eyes. "Bular ate her. I am well aware of trolls old eating habits, and that the Gumm-Gumms continued those eating habits, but I was not prepared to see it in person. I will get over it."
The elder nodded, stroking his goatee. "Your reaction is not one of weakness. Trolls are disturbed by the consumption of our own species, hence the naming of Gruesomes and the fear of Ettins. It is good that you are revolted by such things; I would be concerned if you reacted otherwise."
While that did lift a certain pressure from Jim's chest, the bile still rose every time the image reappeared. "Can we move onto the lesson?"
"Yes. How much of that book have you read?"
"I have read up to 1912, where the Huldufólk cut off all communications east of Germany."
"You've essentially finished the book, then. Little happened past that point that we are aware of, only minor events in the rest of western Europe. Find 1937, that is the only other part that you need to read. The fall of the European Trollmarket."
Jim nodded. "Is there anything else I need to learn etiquette-wise?"
"No. Most of it is instinctual, and I have confirmed that you have these instincts. You know well enough how refined of a race trolls are politically."
"Not at all?"
The half-troll sighed, and asked, "I'm going to be doing most of my diplomacy with Eclipse aren't I?"
"Oh, most definitely. I do wish you luck, and I'll probably be seeing you off."
"Everyone else will be there too."
"Exactly. I want you to be able to see their faces too."
They both chuckled. The half-troll was left slightly astounded; he never thought that he would be sharing laughter with Vendel of all people. There were a lot of things he ended up doing that he never thought he would, though, like fighting alongside Strickler. And having a tentative acquaintanceship with Morgana. Jim shrugged internally, deciding to relish being able to definitively add the cantankerous troll to his group of friends. "I will see you later, elder. Thank you for teaching me." Jim stood, lifting his chin to the old troll.
To his astonishment, Vendel stood and lifted his chin back at him. "It was an honor to teach you, James Lake. I expect great things from you. And before I forget, here." He handed Jim a paper letter, just like one that would be mailed. The half-troll blinked, then took it. The address read as something in French, Le Magasin de Massage de Fu. He looked back up at Vendel. "There is a human in Paris, a guardian of magic stones. He is one of the few who knows of trolls and is not a changeling. He may be able to point you in the direction of the Inferna Copula."
Jim nodded. "I will put all of my effort into surpassing your expectations. Goodbye for now, elder."
"In due time, Trollhunter." The goat-like troll sat back down, pulling out a crystal from under the table and began to examine it.
Jim left the Heartstone, feeling much better from his conversation with his newest friend.
Looking around outside the Heartstone, Nightfall's comforting weight back on his hip, Jim reflected on his new life.
Tomorrow, or the day after, he would be leaving Arcadia for a long time. It was something that needed to be done for everyone to grow; there was no way around it. Still, though… he would miss Trollmarket.
The trolls had successfully grown on him, what with him pounding several of them into the rocks and the grace with which they accepted their defeat. Apparently, the only thing they had really had against him was his fleshbag state.
They were probably going to be disappointed when he revealed himself.
Grog was something that he wouldn't miss too badly, but it was a nice drink. It was more the companionship that it provided that he would miss, the way he could just talk and more often listen to the other trolls and their lives. Sometimes, it was nice to know what he was fighting for.
As Jim walked through the market, the trolls all readily greeted him with nods and calls of "Tarmek!" They could tell that he was soothed, and one child even walked up to him to ask him how to fight. The mother quickly grabbed him back, but Jim laughed and waved it off. Sometimes, it was the little things that made him smile the most.
He stopped at the library, eyeing it and committing it to memory before walking in. Not that he would ever be able to forget it.
Something just felt wrong, walking back into the library. Like so much had changed. It was probably because he would be leaving soon, as soon as he could guarantee NotEnrique as a friend. That would only require a day or two, and the imp would be arriving tomorrow. The half-troll sighed as he opened the hidden trapdoor, descending to the room that Blinky and AAARRRGGHH! had given him. After a final check on Claire's emotions, he collapsed on his bed. Maybe he could find more rest amidst their comforting musk and the way it permeated the cavern.
"You seem disturbed." Morgana floated above him, staring up into the expansive sky that the dreamscape had become. Jim walked up behind her silently, tilting his head. It looked like she had tried to imagine how stars looked, and they all had the same appearance as a torch, flames licking up like hair. Closing his eyes, Jim imagined them the way he knew them, awe-inspiring spheres of color with arcs of flame and gently reaching tendrils larger than the Earth itself.
He heard Morgana gasp, and he opened his eyes to take a look at her face. She was staring at the sun in awe, mouth hanging open a tiny bit. The half-troll smiled to himself, then sat back on nothing. "I am."
"By what?" she asked softly, still not taking her eyes off the red giant he had created.
"Bular. My first time seeing a troll actually eat someone. I wasn't ready for it."
"Oh, child. No one is ever ready for violence. It's something that creeps up on you, slowly becoming more and more a part of you until it becomes casual." She turned to look at him, flipping over and laying her chin on her hands. "I pray that you never experience that yourself."
He snorted. "Who would you pray to?"
When she didn't reply, Jim flicked his gaze over to her, only to see her frowning down at her fingers. "I suppose I wouldn't," she said softly. "I lost my trust in the gods of man long ago."
They simply floated together, sharing in a companionable silence. Jim enjoyed that about her; she was much quieter and more contemplative than the rest of his friends. It wasn't that he didn't laugh at their energy and draw his own from it, but sometimes it was good to take a moment to relax and think. Jim closed his eyes, imagining a pulsar for her.
When he opened his eyes, he took a moment to pat himself on the back at the spinning white majesty before them. Looking to Morgana, he took pride in her enraptured expression. "And what is this?"
"A pulsar," he said. "A rotating neutron star shooting out beams of electromagnetic radiation." At her lost look, he chuckled. "A spinning sun," he simplified.
"Magnificent," she breathed. "Man discovered that stars look like this?"
"Yeah, but actual space science has really only been a thing for the past hundred years or so. This is a relatively new discovery."
Morgana stretched a hand out towards it. "My changelings never told me of such things," she said. "They only ever informed of political climates, human weapons, and their own agenda." Focusing on Jim, she asked, "What else has mankind found?"
"So many things. It would take months to tell you all about it. The most amazing advances, though, have probably been in medicine, though I am a bit biased. My mother is a doctor, after all." Thinking of his mother brought a sad grin to his face. Leaving her would be the hardest thing he would ever have to do, even if he knew he was coming back eventually.
"What could be done to make medicine better?"
"Well, we don't bleed people, for one. That'll kill the patient before it does anything else. What diseases do you know of?"
"The worst I know of is the Black Death."
Jim nodded. It was about what he expected. "Almost completely cured."
Her head whipped towards him. "How?" she demanded.
"Antibiotics. Diseases are caused by tiny particles called cells, too small for the eye to see. They attack and kill the cells that we're made of, which is what makes us sick. But with the medicine of today, it's a simple matter to kill the cells. Even infected wounds are fairly easy to treat if you can get to a doctor."
"What of smallpox?"
"Gone completely. We cured everyone of it, so it doesn't exist anymore. It'll never infect anyone again." The half-troll grinned at her flabbergasted face.
"Incredible, that man can change so much in so little time. A mere four hundred years, and disease is a thing of the past?"
"Not quite, but it's not as bad as it used to be. In wealthy countries, anyways. Poor countries and communities like town slums don't have access to much medicine, so it's very dangerous for them."
They simply lay in a shared quietness, appreciating the other's presence. Eventually, Morgana sighed. "So many changes in so little time."
Jim knew that she wasn't talking about the human race anymore. "I seem to specialize in it."
"How do you do it?"
The scene in front of them changed. Instead a majestic star, Jim saw himself, running to his friends trapped in magical bindings and jumping into the way of what was surely a death-dealing blow before everything turned white. "How do you cope with it? You were the Trollhunter for less than a year before you did what no Trollhunter before you dared to hope to accomplish. You sacrificed your life, not once, but twice, and were willing to do so many times before that. Then, when your life wasn't ended the first time, you lost your humanity, you turned around in a moment and defeated two of the most dangerous trolls of all time together. How?"
Jim drew his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on them. Anger and the echoes of pain not long past flowed through him, but he sighed and pushed them away. "I don't know. I know my friends are part of it; if not for them, well… I don't like to think about that. But otherwise…"
-A statue in armor, a dark portal flowing, scraps of dull metal glowing on the ground as he screamed to the heavens-
"It had to be me," he muttered. "Someone else might have gotten it wrong."
Morgana didn't respond before he woke up.
The first thing that Jim noticed when his eyes opened was that he had summoned his armor in his sleep. Frowning, he forced it to retract back into the amulet. There hadn't been an incident like that since his earlier days, and only about a week following the whole Darklands idiocy.
Must've been the flashback.
While it wasn't like they were new, they weren't usually so intense. Jim chalked it up to technically dreaming and pushed himself out of his bed. He stretched a bit, ridding himself of the lest vestiges of exhaustion as best as he could. Finally, he drew himself up, cracking his neck to each side, and trudged up to the library.
When he poked his head up, he was met with the scents of the entire team. Taking a second to blink and make sure he was awake, he pulled himself up fully, closing the trapdoor behind him. Toby immediately noticed him, running up to him and hugging him. Claire took a couple seconds to follow him, hugging him from the other side.
"Jimbo, are you okay?" Toby asked him, not letting go.
Jim gave him a half-hearted grin. "Yeah, I'm fine now. Don't worry about it. I really should've seen something like that before now; not really sure why I didn't see that coming."
Claire frowned up at him. "How in the heck would you see a rock-monster eating a shapeshifting rock-monster coming?"
The half-troll shrugged. "Strickler made a comment about how he would rather be crushed like a troll than eaten like a fleshbag once. Don't remember the context, but the connotations should've been pretty obvious."
The entire library was silent. Darci and Mary were looking at him in disgust, and he belatedly realized that they might not know what the whole deal was. Blinky put a hand AAARRRGGHH!'s arm, while the large troll looked like he was somewhere else, before shaking himself off.
"I'm sorry, could you back that up like two miles and start at the beginning?" Darci asked, holding up her arms.
Jim looked to the two humans by his side. "You didn't tell them?"
They both pulled away, Toby shrugging. "We weren't exactly sure what happened in the first place, so, no."
"Oh. Well, you guys remember Gladys?"
"The dentist changeling lady?" Mary clarified.
"Yeah, Bular ate her." It still made him squeeze his eyes shut. Not ass bad as before, but he attributed to the fact that any sensation as a troll was dialed up to a thousand.
He felt Claire pushing against his soul, offering comfort. He took it gladly, basking in her glow and putting a hand over the one she put on his arm.
"Are you okay?" Darci asked after a second. Mary looked like she was actively trying not to lose her lunch, but Darci was just looking at him with concern.
She raised her eyebrows. "Senseless acts of violence, especially taboo ones like cannibalism or killing a child, are much more mentally damaging than regular killing. And yes, I know it's not cannibalism," she said, raising a hand to stop Blinky's prepared interjection. "But seeing something that can think and talk and is shaped similar to a human eat someone, especially someone you're familiar with, would be traumatizing."
Jim shrugged. "I don't have time to be traumatized. Anyways, Claire, have the changelings made their move yet?"
Claire narrowed her eyes, and he got the distinct feeling that she would want to talk about it later. "I think they have," she said. "I can't find my Little Suzy doll, and Enrique has been acting really weird."
"Then I'll be by your house as soon as I can. I've got a couple people around here that I want to say goodbye to." He turned to Blinky and AAARRRGGHH!.
The three waited until Toby and Claire had herded the other two out of the room. AAARRRGGHH! sat in front of him and Blinky leaned on his arm. "Leaving already?" rumbled the Krubera, a hint of sadness in his voice. Jim's heart ached, and Claire did nothing to ease it. She was probably a little angry herself.
"You guys need to find your own way without me. I mean, look at you! Blinky, you're so much more confident than I remember you being at this point. AAARRRGGHH!, there's really not many ways that you can improve. But there's so much ahead of you and Claire, so much that I might stifle by being here. Besides, if everything goes well, we'll have one of the greatest hunters of all time on our side."
Blinky sighed, but moved forward, embracing Jim. "Will we at least be able to see you off when you do leave?"
Jim leaned into the embrace, doing his best to lock his foster father's scent into his memory. "Yeah, it'll probably be in a day or two. I do have to get all the supplies I can; I'll probably be stowing away on a boat or something."
Jim gave a slight yelp when he felt himself and Blinky being picked up, and he looked up into AAARRRGGHH!'s smiling face. "See you when you come back, brother."
"Not if I see you first." The mossy troll put them both down, and Jim walked to the entrance of the library before he turned back and waved to them. The two trolls grinned, waving back at him.
It was several hours later that Claire walked into the Lake house. Jim had been playing games with Toby for a couple hours, and she walked right into the middle of them in a round of Smash Bros. "Hah! Daylight is no match for the legendary sword Ragnell! Eat aether, Jimothy!"
Jim growled back at him. "I would beat Ike's ass in real life, Toby. Stop spamming aether!"
Claire smiled, and Jim's head swiveled to her. She realized that she was projected her emotions but shrugged. They'd figure out how to control it later, when he came back. Apparently, it might be muted by distance, but they weren't entirely sure it would work the same if they were linked by the amulets. Claire wasn't sure if it would be good or bad if they couldn't feel each other.
On one hand, it could be distracting in situations where distraction would be bad, but at the same time, she didn't want to lose her rock. She sighed mentally. Now wasn't the time to worry about it. What would happen, would happen, and there was nothing they could do about it.
She was jarred out of her thoughts by Jim groaning, and she saw the screen reading out that Toby had beat him. Toby jumped up on the couch, doing a little victory dance. "Sword users are broken," the half-troll moaned.
"Everything good in here?" Claire asked, grinning at the two.
"Toby no-lifes at this game and thinks that its okay to beat the crap out of me in it."
"Excuse you, it's called skill, practice, and dedication." Toby jabbed at Jim's side, making Claire snort when Jim nearly went through the couch to get away from his best friend.
Claire hummed, laying across the couch, her back on Jim's legs. "Mind if I play?"
Toby grinned, holding out a controller to her. "Just so you know, I've never lost to one of my friends, and I'm not about to start now."
"Toby, I'm the only person you've ever played against."
The boy waved his arm around. "Details."
Claire rolled her eyes at their antics, picking her favorite character, Mewtwo. Toby snickered at her choice, immediately going back to Ike. Smiling secretly to herself, Claire didn't move from place draped across Jim's legs while Toby sat up, concentrating on the screen.
Two minutes later, Toby was demanding a rematch, Jim was cackling, and Claire was grinning widely as the screen displayed her win. "How?" Toby demanded. "What is this? I am the god of this game! Who do you think you are?!"
"A non-believer," she retorted. Jim doubled over, gasping for breath as he laughed even harder. It took him a full minute to stop, with the other two grinning at him, Claire letting his own amusement and affection pour into her own. Eventually, the half-troll was wiping tears from his eyes, doing his best not to devolve back into laughter every time that he looked at either of them. Claire swung herself up, situating herself in his lap and leaned her back into his heaving chest.
Jim wiped a final tear from his eye and breathed, saying to them, "That was fantastic. Thank you, sincerely, for that."
"Glad to know that you find amusement in my demise, Jimbo." Toby crossed his arms and turned away from him.
Jim grinned, saying, "Don't be like that, Tobes." Then his grin turned sly. "There's room in my lap for you too."
"You stay away from me!" the boy cried, batting away Jim's reaching arm.
"Claire, help me!" She rolled her eyes but grabbed Toby's shoulders and dragged him over as he struggled. Jim situated both of them together in his lap and hugged them close, despite Toby's protests. Eventually, his best friend gave up and was situated on his lap next to Claire, where Jim drew them both in close and breathed deeply, laying his head on top of them. "I'm gonna miss you two," he whispered.
"Just us?" Claire asked, trying to stifle the fear and heartbreak welling up within her. She knew Jim still felt it, as he pushed a feeling of reassurance at her and drew them in closer.
Toby snorted. "More like just me. You're a savage, crown-stealing evil woman." Claire glared playfully back at him, aware of the tears in the corner of his eyes. Suddenly, it struck her that Toby had never been without Jim before, not since he had moved here after he lost his parents. Frowning to herself, she resolved to try and include him as best as she could in her own friend group. He didn't deserve to be alone because Jim had suddenly become stupid, in her opinion.
"I'll miss mom, Blinky, and AAARRRGGHH! too. Heck, I think I might even miss that old grouchy goat Vendel," Jim grinned down at them, enjoying their snickers.
"You know, you could always just, I don't know, not leave." Toby's tone was hopeful, but he knew Jim too well. Claire hadn't even really known him all that long either, but she knew him well enough to know that he was damn stubborn.
"You guys need room to grow," Jim told them, as gently as he could. "I'm way too overprotective; I'd never let you guys get into anything remotely dangerous if I could help it. C'mon, Toby, you've always wanted to be a hero! You're finally gonna get an awesome war hammer, and if you play your cards right, the girl of your dreams!"
"Yeah," Toby said, quietly. "But I don't want those at the cost of my best friend."
Jim sighed. He let Toby and Claire roll down to his sides, where they leaned against him. Silence permeated the room for a bit, until the half-troll spoke up again. "You know I'm coming back, Right? You can't get rid of me that easily."
"My parents were supposed to come back too."
Both Jim and Claire winced at Toby's crushed voice. The half-troll hugged Toy to him, saying, "I'm bringing a phone. Just a flip phone, but I'll call you every day. Alright? You've gotta be my eyes and ears here, Tobes. I'm counting on you to keep my mom safe."
Toby sniffled against him. "You know I will."
Jim nodded, not saying anything else as Toby tried not to cry and Claire watched them both, feeling like she was intruding on a private moment not meant for her eyes.
Once Claire had confirmed that her parents had left, Jim got a text from her saying that he could come over.
Toby, being Toby, made a joke. "Ooh, look at that, Jimbo getting invited over once the parents are gone. You're moving up."
Jim just sighed, not even bothering to respond.
Leaving through the backdoor and jumping through the trees, he made it there in less than two minutes. Brushing all the leaves off him as he walked up to the front door, he carefully knocked, wand waited for Claire to open the door.
As soon as the door swung open, Jim smiled down at Claire, only to yelp as she grabbed his mane and tugged his lips down to hers. Mentally, he shrugged, and hoisted her up by the waist.
When they parted, Jim raised his eyebrows at Claire. His cheeks were burning, but thankfully hidden by his stone skin. Hers was not, allowing his the wonderous sight of Claire blushing heavily while stammering. He pushed his amusement and affection at her, laughing at her affronted face.
"I just – I wanted to do that at least one more time." She finally got out.
The half-troll nodded. "I'm always happy to kiss you."
She giggled. "Yeah, I know."
Claire stepped out of the way so Jim could step in her house, and his ears twitched as he heard thumping upstairs, much louder than a baby laying in a crib should be able to generate. He grinned to himself, already preparing to take a mental snapshot of the changeling's face. Before he followed Claire, he gave a mental tug at the armor, appreciative of its quieter summoning.
They walked up to the room, Jim trailing behind Claire. She opened the door, cooing at the giggling fake baby, saying "There's someone you should meet, Enrique." Then she stepped inside to allow all seven and a half feet of armored half-troll Trollhunter to step through.
The baby immediately stopped laughing, his mouth dropping and eyes flashing in surprise. Then he flashed with green lightning, attempting to jump past them, only for Jim to grab him by his scruff and hold him at arm's length.
The changeling immediately began struggling, but he was unable to loosen Jim's grip, and eventually just went limp and dangled from his hand, his arms crossed and glaring at the half-troll.
"So," Jim started, barely able to keep the mirth from his face. "How about we start with introductions?"
"What in the hell are you?! I wasn't told about no dark Trollhunter!"
Jim shrugged. "Reasonably certain I'm a half Jotun."
"Reasonably certain?! What kind of troll don't know their own parentage? And can we get back to the two Trollhunters thing? I'm a little confused over here!"
"You're really not in the position to make demands," Claire said brightly, aa triumphant smile on her face. She pulled out her own amulet, floating up in the air briefly to summon her armor.
Jim watched her, amazed by how awesome she looked summoning armor. He shook his head, returning to the changeling in his hand. "Whaddya want from me?" he grumbled.
"A mutual friendship," Jim said. "Some good for you, some good for us, everyone goes home happy. Or maybe even get a home. Now, I know you don't have a name yet, so I'm gonna call you NotEnrique for now, alright?"
He grumbled, glaring over at Claire, who glared right back at him. "So, what's the gig?"
"Well, first is you not ratting us out to Stricklander." NotEnrique jerked in his grip, clearly surprised by his knowledge. "Yeah, I know about him, Nomura, Otto, and the recently deceased Gladys." A wave of disgust came over him at the grisly reminder, and he shivered slightly. NotEnrique narrowed his eyes at him, gesturing for him to continue. "You help us when we ask for it, and we won't be asking you to act directly against the other changelings."
"And what do I get in return?" the changeling asked, red irises peering up at the half-troll.
"You're new to the human world. I'll show all the best food, and whenever you need some real food, you can ask any one of us for some. We'll also bring you to Trollmarket, and you can be the first changeling in centuries to feel the embrace of a Heartstone."
"Food, shelter, and protection," the changeling muttered. "That doesn't sound like too bad of a gig, gotta admit. And all I gotta do is lie to the boss and help you out every once in a while?"
Jim nodded. Claire walked next to him, her arms crossed. "Yeesh," NotEnrique mumbled. "Might need protection from her. What's the deal, Trollhunter lady?"
"You took my baby brother from me." Her hand flexed, and Jim was reminded of just how much she loved her brother when he had to actively calm her, so she didn't summon Daylight. "Not exactly the best start to a relationship."
"Oh please." The changeling waved an arm about, rolling his eyes. "All babies do is sleep, poop, and cry. Nothing to miss about that."
Claire really did summon Daylight in response. Jim pinched the bridge of his nose and held a now squirming and yelping NotEnrique as high as he could, away from Claire's reach. "Claire," he said, pushing Daylight out of his face. "We talked about this. Your parents would notice if Enrique suddenly disappeared."
"Not too sure of that," Claire muttered under his breath. He still heard it, though, and while he desperately wanted to do something about it, he couldn't. She was pushing away his attempts to soothe her, a roiling pit of anger coating her soul.
"So, the first thing you need to know, and that you've probably already figured out, is that you can only eat human food while in human form, and you can only eat harder substances and cloth in troll form. Raw meat is also pretty tasty, but for you, I'd stick to cans, socks, and other various things that won't be missed."
NotEnrique was situated between Jim's horns, a hand wrapped around each to keep himself on. When the half-troll felt him nod, he continued. "And so, I bring you to the one place no one in Arcadia would ever care about: the dumpsters." They were behind a theater, where Jim knew few people were at night, and he had already checked for cameras. He doubted anyone would have the confidence to go out back if they heard thumping, either, so he also had that going for him.
"Not sure I could bite through that, kid."
Jim laughed, but was careful not to jostle the changeling. "Not the dumpster itself, what's in it." He took a stride forward, gently tossing open the lid. He had already accidentally torn a door off its hinges in his own house, he really didn't want to go around destroying public property.
What Jim once would've considered a disgusting smell was now simply amiable for him, in much the same way food was for humans. NotEnrique, though, was already salivating. He hopped from Jim's head into the dumpster, grabbing a beer can and biting straight through it. When he made a pleased noise through the crunching of metal, the half-troll shrugged and said, "Pass me the other one."
NotEnrique tossed up another can, thankfully one with soda. Taking a bite out of it, Jim nodded to himself. The can wasn't particularly tasty, but it was good to know that he could survive off more than just glass or meat.
"So why don't humans eat this stuff?" asked the changeling, through a mouthful of metal.
"Their teeth aren't strong enough to bite through it, and they also have stomach acids meant for digesting organic material. Never learned what trolls have instead, but whatever it is, they can't digest things that humans consider delicious. Except tacos and burritos, for some reason. Not sure why."
NotEnrique looked up at him, confused, and Jim realized that despite being centuries old, no one had ever bothered educating him. "Uh, straight metal is harmful to humans. We - they need it in small amounts, like getting iron from meat."
"There's iron in meat?"
"Nah, it's in the blood. But when humans cook it, it gets in the meat." Jim finished off his can and peered into the dumpster for another. The changeling chucked another one at him, which he caught just before it hit his face.
"You sure know a lot about this," NotEnrique remarked, gnawing on another can.
"Well, my mom's job is to keep humans healthy, so she knows a lot about it."
"And how is your mom human?"
With the question finally out there, Jim sighed. He wasn't entirely certain he wanted to answer.
So, he didn't. "Later. When we've built some actual trust."
"You seem to already trust me a lot, especially with the whole changeling factor."
"I happen to know that changelings are the way they are out of necessity, not by nature. You were forced to learn how to survive in the form of an infant around a horde of things that abuse your kind to alleviate stress. You had to adapt to survive. I respect that."
Jim held out a hand for him to grab onto, and deposited NotEnrique between his horns again. He brought them both to the walls of the theater before he crouched, gathering his muscles to jump the thirty to forty feet to the roof. His passenger gripped tighter as they were in the air, and as he ran across the roof and leapt to the next roof. Jim continued on his path until they were in sight of the museum, where he slowed to a stop
"You know?" the changeling asked.
"Yes. It's where I saw Gladys being eaten by Bular."
NotEnrique almost fell off his head. "You wanna run that one by me again?"
The half-troll snorted. "What, that your boss eats his subordinates because they can't avoid being discovered by the Trollhunter? Or threatens to kill them for the smallest matters, and does kill them for his own amusement?"
NotEnrique was silent, before he said, "And you said you'd gimme protection?"
"And appreciate you for what you can do? Yes."
A nervous, breathy laugh came from the top of his head. "Hell of a sales pitch, kid. Alright, you've got me. So whaddya want me to do, huh?"
Jim stepped back from the edge of the roof, walking to the edge that was in the direction of Claire's home. "For now? Just lay low, be Enrique, do whatever the other changelings ask of you, within reason. I'm not asking you to declare your allegiance to the world, that would be the exact opposite of helpful. What you are doing, though, is valuable. You are valuable. Remember that."
The tiny changeling's silence told him exactly what he wanted to hear.
Ah, Mordin. The very model of a scientist Salarian. Thank you for your quote.
Also, if you like Percy Jackson, go check out my other story, The Mithraic Mystery. I like to think that it's good.