Disclaimer: Trollhunters belongs to Guillermo Del Toro.
The sound of an alarm had Jim shooting upright in his bed, accidentally smashing the alarm to pieces out of reflex.
A magazine of vespas and mopeds slid off him. It took Jim a moment to realize that he was in his room, on his bed, in his new, trollish body. However, it was the magazine sliding off his face that gave him the sickening feeling in his gut.
He had woken up with a magazine on his face twice before, both on the same day.
Throwing the blanket off his legs, Jim realized that his armor was not on him. A feeling of glee popped up, leaving him happy at least that he was still able to take it off, if nothing else. However, the clothes that he was wearing were torn and ripped around his now much larger frame. He stood up, wincing at a strange burning that felt like lines all over his body. When he looked down, he saw the culprit, raised, angry red lines in the same pattern of the etchings of his armor.
Then he noticed a couple more changes.
Huh, he was ripped. Cool. If he had to lose his humanity, at least he got an eight pack. The right foot only having four toes felt weird, though.
It was strange. He didn't look as alien as he felt on the inside but judging from his inability to eat like a human, he was more different on the inside. Not to mention all the new instincts and feelings. He ran a hand across his hair, then continued along his back, where he felt a scruff similar to NotEnrique's. Humans probably didn't have that, either.
Well, the worst monsters were the ones that still looked human, right? Some old adage about how Satan masquerades as an angel of light rose in the back of his mind, making him snort.
Finally, he looked over to his calendar, confirming his suspicions. He was back at the beginning, and unlike the last time, there was no elation at the prospect of casting off his responsibilities.
Just a quickly building sense of rage.
"Yeah, okay, real funny Merlin," he growled. "If this is one of your illusions, lift it now."
At the resounding silence in his room, a steady, rumbling growl built up in the back of his throat. "I already learned my lesson, Merlin, and we were in the middle of fighting Morgana if you don't remember. Send me back."
No one responded.
His stomach began to sink. Fear began to replace his rage, very quickly. "Merlin?" Then he realized he hadn't picked up the amulet yet. It was still at the canal.
Or so he thought, until a red light pulsed, filling his room. Jim looked down at his chest, finding the Eclipse amulet embedded over his chest. He raised his troll hand, feeling around its edges, his heart beginning to race as he found the edges of it fused to his skin. "Bonded to me, huh?" He gave a bitter laugh. He would never be able to get a moment to himself again.
He began poking at it. "Merlin? Where are you?"
The old man was either being extraordinarily stubborn, or something else had happened, and he was well and truly back in the past. Jim felt that it was probably best to assume the latter, just in case it was true. Which meant that his first objective was to go figure out what the heck happened to the amulet. That, in turn, meant going to Kanjigar's corpse. Rubble? Whatever it counted as.
Jim looked out his window. There wasn't a single cloud in sight across the entire sky, and the sun was blazing with its usual intensity.
This might be a bit more difficult than the last time.
Carefully opening his door, Jim peeked around. He found his mother's door closed with the same note on it as last time. He stepped out and onto the stairs as quietly as he could, making his way down to the garage.
In the garage, he found what he was looking for. A large black umbrella, meant for a family, big enough to provide a good defense against the sun as long as he stayed under it. He glanced to the garage door before he decided against it, not wanting to risk anyone in the neighborhood seeing him.
Instead, he went back into his house, going out the backdoor. The umbrella unfolded at the push of its button, and Jim realized that with angle of the morning sun, he would have to stick close to the ground and move slowly.
It was going to be incredibly humiliating and awkward, but hey, he'd done plenty of stuff like that in his tenure of Trollhunter. The half-troll would still rather do this than die.
Sitting in the rafters of the bridge across the canal, Jim stared down at the pile of rocks that was once the greatest Trollhunter of them all, and the current source of his problems.
The – or rather a, now – amulet was in the midst of the rocks. No one had poached it, yet, and the problem was with its call.
It didn't call to him, which would have been superfluous, but he didn't know how it could tell that he was unavailable. The problem was that it wasn't calling to Draal either, like it should have been if he wasn't there to take it.
No. Instead, it called to Claire Nuñez, a human just as fleshy and ignorant as he had been.
However, it was also forcing him to contemplate the situation he had found himself in. the amulet was calling to her, and he had refused its call once. You couldn't run from destiny, as he knew well enough. However, Claire would never normally come this way, and it took him a second to realize that he couldn't hand it to her.
Which led to his current predicament.
As he sat with his back to a pole and leg dangling over the side, he realized that no one knew him anymore. Toby was completely unaware that his best friend had been taken, replaced with a monster whose purpose was no longer clear. He had not matured how Toby had in the future, with all his experience and the shared situations they had been through. If Jim was to speak to him, he had no doubt that once Toby realized it was him, he would be accepted, but it just wouldn't be his Toby.
The same went for his own mother, who didn't know until near the end. She had no idea about the threats in their little town and under it, or what Jim had been through. Out of everyone, she would probably be the closest to who he truly knew now, but at the same time, there was no way that he would ever be able to stay with her. He would have to leave her, just like James Lake Sr. had.
Then there was Claire. Claire, who inspired him to push himself to do better, go further than he was capable of without her. Claire, who told him that she loved him no matter what.
Claire, who had never even spoken to him.
Blinky, Aaarrrgghh!, Draal, Vendel; he had never met any of them. And it hurt. More than Jim was ever prepared for.
They didn't know. More importantly, none of them cared.
Maybe, just maybe Jim could waltz into Trollmarket and claim the position of Trollhunter. He had the amulet, after all, but he couldn't access Daylight. Trying the incantation gave him nothing, and the incantation for Eclipse hadn't activated the armor. The only thing that did was willing it onto him. Besides, he would treat everyone with a familiarity that he would never be able to hold back, not after everything he had been through and what they had done to him.
Everything that he had gone through, everything that he had built, relationships, respect, trust; none of it mattered anymore. It was dust in the wind, erased; it never happened.
Jim felt like sobbing at the unfairness of it all. Already, tears pricked at his eyes, his heart ached with an intensity he had never known possible, but the world remained in front of him, unchanged and continuing with no regard to a wayward child.
Without warning, his ear twitched. The scraping of stone sounded from the sewers under the bridge, drawing his attention briefly. When he saw six eyes light up in the darkness, he immediately looked away, the tears falling with a new vigor from his face. He barely kept the sobs down, not wanted to alert the trolls to his presence.
Suddenly, he realized that there was someone else who had been with him in the end. Someone whose sudden lack of history with him was a boon rather than a new source of agony.
And he now had an astounding lack of obligations to hold him down from going after him. The beginnings of a plan formed in his mind, slowing the tears down and changing the silent sobs to tiny hiccups. Maybe there was something that he could still do.
Knowing no one cared conferred a lot of freedom.
First, though, there were some things he needed to do. Something that the two trolls watching probably would not like, but they didn't have umbrellas, so they couldn't do anything about it.
Jim dropped down to the ground, opening the umbrella again and carefully positioning it over his shoulder.
He walked up the amulet, ignoring the gasp from Blinky and the rumbling confusion from Aaarrrgghh!. Kneeling and sitting on his ankles, he stared into the amulet for a moment, watching it pulse.
There was an irrational urge to break it. To start destroying things, make the world feel the unfairness he felt. Instead, Jim sighed, and said, "Kanjigar, if you're watching, I promise that what I do is for the good of all human and trollkind. Watch over Claire for me, would you?"
Then he grabbed the amulet and walked away, ignoring the angry cries of Blinky and Aaarrrgghh!, feeling a strange hollowness settle into his chest at the finality of his actions.
Claire really needed to lock her windows.
For Jim, it was beneficial that she hadn't, but for any goblin, changeling, or anything else that would soon want her head…
Well, she needed to lock her windows.
The amulet was now resting on her bed with a sticky note taped to it with the number of a burner phone that he had recently procured. For once, he actually had a solid plan, and a well-thought-out one at that. For him, anyways. It felt like he was becoming Jason Bourne or something. Toby would have approved.
The thought brought a cross between a smile and a grimace to his face. Toby was about to lose his best friend with no explanation. No one would take that well, but most people had other people. For Toby, it had always just been him and Jim. There wasn't anyone else who looked past the exterior of the little chubby kid to see his golden heart.
To be fair, he was a bit too excited with girls. And most guys didn't really share the same interests as them. Eli was an acquaintance, but he had never really gotten to the friend category. Regardless, Jim had already made his decision. He wasn't going to force Toby to worry about a monster at all times.
On the topic of his mother, though, he was still undecided.
Jim really didn't want to force her into thinking that she had lost him. It would devastate her; she loved him so much, and she wouldn't be able to cook or have time for most of the chores around the house without him. Leaving a note would probably be worse than just leaving, because then she might think that he had left because of something she had done. And it wasn't like he could just tell her.
Unless he could.
Jim almost dismissed the thought, but then contemplated it. The plan for Claire was for her to tell him about the situations in Trollmarket and he could help her anonymously, however that would work. He'd probably end up winging it. But his mother…
Having someone who was actually attached to him could be a massive edge. She would be on his side, no matter what, and as an adult, she'd be able to catch plenty of things that the kids wouldn't. Plus, she was a doctor. If he ever got into trouble, he could just call her and ask what to do.
At the same time, though, he wasn't planning on staying in Arcadia for long. Strickler told him where he had gained his legendary assassin, and that was a world away. Jim knew his mother very well. She worried about everything, much more than what was healthy. If she knew that he was going to be spending months with someone who could very well kill him in his sleep, she would not be happy, and that could send her in a direction that would be much worse than simply letting her believe that he had gone missing.
Suddenly, Jim realized how detached his train of thought was. He was thinking of his own mother as nothing more than an asset, something he could use to further his plans. Disgust rose within his gut. The half-troll growled at himself, immediately throwing the plan away.
He was going to stick with Claire.
For now, though, he was hungry, so he needed to figure out where the closest dumpster was.
It took several hours for his phone to ring.
Jim was currently hiding in an outcropping on top of the mountain overlooking Arcadia, watching as the sun set over the town. His heart had settled down to a dull ache by now, but it wasn't going away anytime soon.
He took a deep breath to prepare himself for what would probably be the most trying conversation of his life, thanking whatever deities were out there that they weren't face to face.
He pressed the answer button, putting it up to his ear. "Hello, Ms. Nuñez." He facepalmed. What was he, some cliché Bond villain?
"How do you know who I am? Wait, you were in my house. What is this thing? How did you get in? Why am I wearing a suit of armor with a giant cleaver?" Her voice came out in a quick, panicky tone.
Jim winced. Yeah, breaking into her house and leaving something on her bed was pretty creepy, but he didn't know what else he was supposed to do. "You are now in possession of the amulet of Merlin, also known as Daylight. I'm sure you know that it's magic by now. The rest will probably be explained momentarily by the two trolls who are in your basement. I'd take it as a personal favor if you didn't tell them about me." Wow, he was really channeling his inner spy villain.
"The what?" She yelled.
"Don't worry, they're very friendly. The big one is a pacifist, and the four-armed one is a historian."
"Why would I want to meet trolls?!"
"Because that amulet is theirs. Well, yours now, but you're the first human to ever have it." Jim smiled ruefully to himself. Technically, in this timeline, she was. He wasn't human, after all.
Over the phone, Claire was silent. Then, a deep breath sounded. "Okay," she said. "Why do I have this amulet?"
"I'll let the trolls explain that." Jim would probably mess it up. "Now go. If you want to talk after, we can."
He hung up, then let out the breath he had been holding. He drew his legs up to his chest, resting his chin on his knees. It was beginning to hurt him worse than it had before. Claire's inability to recognize him drew the final nail in the coffin.
He was well and truly alone.
The person that arguably knew him the best, maybe even better than Toby, and she wasn't even able to recognize his voice. Late night talks over the phone, the ones where they poured their souls out to each other, whispering to each other in the worst situations, and she had no idea who he was.
At this point, it didn't even hurt. It just brought a hollow certainty to his chest.
He didn't belong here anymore.
That didn't mean that he wasn't going to help her, though. He had a lot of extremely valuable experience, especially against the people she would be fighting. However, he would never be able to reveal why, nor would he ever be able to reveal who he was. Eventually, he would make his way back, but by then, he hoped to be so gone from everyone's memory that maybe he could just start over.
Jim tried to shake himself off, knowing that his current train of thought would do nothing to help him. All it did was fill him with pain. But it wouldn't leave him.
Sighing, he decided to settle down and sleep. Tomorrow, he would figure out what to do and where to go. For now, he was too frazzled and emotionally destroyed to even lift a finger.
Opening his eyes was odd. Something felt… off.
The fact that he was standing on the bridge over the canal might be part of that, though.
Dark, malignant energy spiraled into the sky into a giant cyclone from Trollmarket below. It felt strange to Jim, though, because the last time he saw it he was filled with terror and rage. Now, it felt different, good. It felt like home.
He hated it.
A scream from his left tore his attention away from the cyclone. His friends were suspended by Morgana's magic, dangling in the air and struggling. They were yelling for him not to do something, to snap out of it, that this wasn't him.
But Jim wasn't sure what they were talking about. Even the individual words were lost to him. He cocked his head, trying to find words to ask them what they were talking about, but he couldn't speak. Frowning, he tried again, only for words to slip away from his mind like sand.
Alarm stirred within him, quickly rising to an unabashed sense of terror. His body wouldn't move, Eclipse wouldn't obey him, and something was breathing behind him. A hand clawed with yellow-armored fingers delicately landed on his shoulder, and Morgana leaned close to his ear. "How delicious. The amulet, such an intricate part of you…"
Her arm slid across his chest, her fingers caressing the amulet. "If only I had known. Your body is no longer your own, little hunter. It has a new mistress." And with a careless wave of her hand, Jim set off at a slow pace towards his friends.
Eclipse appeared in his hands, the usual weight that was such a comfort doing nothing but contributing to the rising panic. Aaarrrgghh! was the first he reached. Without any hesitation, Jim's body plunged the blade through his forehead.
Inside, Jim screamed, he thrashed, he desperately tried to close his eyes, but nothing happened. Outside, he carelessly yanked Eclipse from Aaarrrgghh!'s stone body, crumbling the statue to rubble. Another few steps, and he slashed right through Blinky's large head, shattering his surrogate father instantly.
The next thing he knew, he stood in front of Morgana again, the taste of iron clear in his mouth and blood covering his body. Something had broken inside him, and now he just stared ahead blankly. Morgana took his cheeks in her hands, purring, "Don't you see how easy it is? Gunmar, Aaarrrgghh!, Claire, it doesn't matter. No one could ever stand against you. They are all to you now as glass is to a hammer. And you would waste such power on your friends when you so easily decimated them?"
Jim bolted upright with a scream, his armor covering him. Sunlight shone at the edge of the cave he had taken shelter in the night before, shocking him with its brightness.
He was hyperventilating, grabbing his horns and trying to pull them off his head, his tugs only growing more insistent when they refused to give. A second later, Jim's mind caught up with what was happening, and he tried to force himself to calm down.
It was a nightmare. Just a nightmare.
Not his first. Not by a longshot. Jim had been in the business of sleepless nights and terrified awakenings for a while now, especially after the Darklands, but this was something new. This one could have actually happened.
He tossed Gunmar across an entire block without slowing down. Jim had no doubt that he could simply grab a human head and squeeze to make it pop like an overripe watermelon. As for trolls, he had taken Angor Rot and Gunmar at the same time and won. If he went rogue, it would be very, very difficult to stop him.
A sudden noise from his side made Jim spring into action, launching himself off the ground and pulling out his glaives. Until he realized that it was just the phone ringing. Which meant that it could only be one person, and even if she didn't know him, her voice would still help a lot. He took a couple deep breaths to compose himself before picking it up.
He flipped it open. "Good morning, Ms. Nuñez. Interesting night?"
A long-suffering sigh came out of the phone. "That's one way of putting it. Trolls exist. Okay. And apparently, I'm now their sacred defender or hunter or whatever because this amulet chose me. How does that work? I asked if someone chooses you and they said no. Did you not choose to give it to me?"
"No. I was simply the delivery boy." Jim snorted at the thought. If only his life could be simple.
"What are you? Are you a troll?"
He raised an eyebrow. "What gives you that idea?"
"Well, they said they keep everything really secret. So, wouldn't you have to be a troll to know all this stuff?"
"In theory, yes, but not in practice."
Briefly, Claire was silent. "You're not human, though, are you?"
"What are you then?"
Jim was silent for a moment. He could lie, but where was the fun in that? If he was going to be all anonymous and distant, he might as well have fun with it. "Something new."
She snorted. "Okay, Mr. Cryptic. Do you have a name or something I could call you other than creepy?"
Ouch. It took him several seconds, but then he remembered something from distant memory, back when he got all interested in Vikings from How to Train Your Dragon. "Jaeger," he said. The Norse word for hunter.
This really was a lot of fun once he ignored the soul-crushing loneliness.
"And what do you want, Jaeger? You seem like you want to help me, but what's you angle? People don't help others and expect nothing in return."
You, something deep within him whispered. Jim squashed it ruthlessly. "Arcadia is… very important to me. Arcadia and Trollmarket. I want you to give me updates and make sure that everything is as it should be. In return, I can help you and give out information if you need it. I could even teach you the ways of trolls, if you so wish."
"Are you in Arcadia?" she asked.
Technically, he was outside city limits. "No."
"Okay." Claire took a deep breath, and Jim could picture the mask of concentration that had slipped over her face. It was adorable. "Okay. I can do that. Will we be speaking face to face?"
That wouldn't go over well. "Not for a long time."
"One last question: do you think I could tell my friends?"
He would have died so many times without Toby. Actually, he probably wouldn't have survived the first night if he didn't have that motivation pushing him. "I would encourage it. Friends push us to do things far beyond what we could do ourselves."
"That's… pretty profound."
Claire snorted. "Alright, I'll give you the updates. Do you want me to text them to you, or-"
"Only the time on call can be traced, not the actual words. Unless the person is a person of interest, which you, as a typical teenage girl, are not. Unless you have something you need to tell me?"
"Uh, nope. My life was pretty normal less than twenty-four hours ago."
"Good. I wish you luck, Ms. Nuñez."
"Please just call me Claire."
He tapped the button to hang up, then grinned slightly to himself. Wow, it was fun getting the last word. Batman made so much more sense now.
Well, I did say I already had it written. This is replacing Out of Hand, and personally, I already like it more. I'll try to update this one more than I did before, and hopefully I can do it with better writing. Also, if you can't tell, this one is going to be far, far more painful for Jimbo. It all ends well, because I'm not into the whole 'and everyone died and it was horrible forever' stuff, but where would the fun be if there wasn't pain along the way?