They spend the rest of the afternoon getting ready. Ikram and Nimue give fighting crash courses to anyone who wants one, and a lot of the Akiridions pick up on that and join in helping the humans learn. Vex yells a lot. It's kind of funny to see how intimidating him to the poor Arcadians, especially when Señor Uhl looks scared. Mort gathers all the wizards together to teach them a spell for breaking the mind-control. He also takes a moment to scold and praise Steve for breaking the stasis spell. He seems simultaneously thankful for and frustrated at Steve's dumb luck. Toby has to agree.
He's thrilled Steve is alive. He was honestly convinced that the second they left Steve on Earth with Merlin, that was it. Krel hovers close to him, much like they've been doing to Krel. Toby's not sure how many times he can handle thinking a friend is dead and then having them come back. This summer has really been the worst kind of rollercoaster.
They set up teams for the fight. Divide and conquer. It's the only way they're going to stand a chance. Most of the Akiridions, trolls, and normal humans are just fighters. Some normal humans are evacuating or hiding indoors, and several fighters have been assigned to specifically make sure none of the non-fighters get hurt. Every wizard who isn't, well, Seamus, is on de-brainwashing for obvious reasons. Seamus is on the formstone protection team, which is one of the smaller teams and only consists of him, Krel, Ikram, Zadra, Eli, Stuart, Señor Uhl of all people, and a small chunk of what Zadra calls the Taylon. Toby is on Team Jim, which is him, Claire, Blinky, Aaarrrgghh!, Not-Enrique, Nomura, Dr. L, Stickler, and unfortunately Morgana. Toby hopes they'll be able to fix Jim. He wants his best friend back.
Their group migrates to the side after planning to wait. Dr. L uses a damp paper towel from inside a nearby shop to clean up the cut on Steve's face. There's a woman there Toby doesn't know, but by the glowing silver focusers she must be a wizard. The rest of them just kind of hover around, anxiously waiting for sundown.
Steve and Seamus's friend Logan joins them and crosses his arms. "So. Wizards."
"Yeah, okay, you were right," says Seamus. "If it helps, at that point I didn't know the weird stuff was wizard-related."
"It should have been fairly obvious," Krel points out. "You were literally researching the Knights for Mort. You're smart. You didn't – what's the saying? Connect the dots?"
"You got it right that time," Toby says, impressed.
"Listen, in retrospect it's very obvious, if only because you guys are always involved in this kind of stuff," says Seamus.
"This summer has been wild," says Logan. He points accusingly at Krel. "And apparently you, like, died?"
"Something like that," says Krel.
Logan laughs in disbelief. "Wild, man."
Steve finally joins them. "Dude, I'm looking forward to school at this point."
"I'm guessing this is why school was postponed?" Mary asks. Toby doesn't know where she and Darci came from, but they and Shannon and her girlfriend have joined them as well. Darci presses a kiss to his cheek.
"You didn't tell me," she says. There's a faint tone of accusation in her voice.
"I wanted you to have fun at camp, not worry about me," he says. "I told you enough."
"You said there were crazy knights chasing you and you had it handled."
"We did. For a bit."
"You did not have it handled," Aja scoffs.
"We did!" Toby defends.
"It went a lot better in the beginning," Douxie adds. "It wasn't really till the Red Knight showed up that things got really spotty."
"I got the crap beaten out of me by the Black Knight!" Steve protests.
"Point," says Douxie. A teen Toby doesn't know shoulders his way out of the crowd to join them, linking hands with Douxie. Mary's face falls minutely when the guy leans over to kiss the wizard.
"Seriously, this is what I come home to?" he says.
"I didn't know you were back," Douxie says in surprise.
Krel grins – that one specific grin that means he's about to be the epitome of annoying little brother.
"Douxie has a boyfriend," he teases in a sing-song voice. "Is this Alex?"
Okay. No fair. When did Douxie tell Krel about this – and not Toby? He'll find a way to get back at him after this. Actually, by Douxie's scarlet face, it was probably Mort who told Krel at some point, which makes much more sense.
Aja rolls her eyes at her brother. "Glad I'm not the only one dealing with you now."
"Hey, was school cancelled at Arcadia Oaks Academy too?" asks Darci.
Alex – apparently – nods. "Yep. It'll be right back to it after this, though. Hi, by the way. I don't know a lot of you, although I think I can pick out the ones I've heard of. I'm Alex. I suspect the alien – sorry, Akridion with the tall hair is Krel, the blond that looks like Mort is Steve, and the redhead is Toby?"
"That's us," says Toby.
Seamus raises an offended hand. "You left me out?"
"And you must be Seamus," says Alex.
Krel pats his shoulder. "You're just less memorable. It's okay."
"Oh, shut up," grumbles Seamus.
Morgana, who hasn't yet been interacting with anyone, walks over and pats Douxie on the head. Douxie turns sheet white, which would be more amusing if Toby, also, was really uncomfortable about Morgana being there. She does the same to Steve.
"Arthur's heir, yes?" she says. "You look like him."
"Um," says Steve, "thanks?"
"You were raised by Mordred?" Morgana asks Douxie. "All by himself?"
"Uh, yes," says Douxie. He pauses, then tacks on politely, "Ma'am."
By the way, tensions are super high between Mort and his aunt. Like, tensions are high anyway, because the sun is going to set soon and then it'll be time to fight, but man, tensions are high between Mort and Morgana and have been since even before they took her out of the shadow realm. Mort catches sight of her with the group of them and stalks over with a scowl.
"If you hurt these kids–" he starts.
"Oh, relax, Mordred," says Morgana.
"I go by Mort now."
Morgana shakes her head. "Mordred is a fine name."
"Oh, for the love of–" Mort closes his eyes and lets out a frustrated breath. "What are you doing, Aunt Morgana?"
"Meeting my nephews. Such polite young men," she says. Polite has never been a word used to describe Steve. Toby doesn't know where she got polite from. "And you're sure you were raised by my nephew? Hmph. Mordred, you were never this polite. I don't know where Douxie got it."
"You don't live with him," Mort says flatly. "And stop doting on my nephew! He doesn't want anything to do with you."
"Of course he does," says Morgana. She pats Douxie's cheek. Douxie winces. "Auntie Morgana is going to teach you all the best ways to kill someone."
"Oh," says Douxie weakly. "Great."
Alex hides his laughter. Aja gives Morgana an approving once-over. Now that's a team-up Toby does not want to see.
"This is the woman who almost destroyed the world a few months ago?" Krel mutters to Toby. Toby shrugs. He's pretty sure this is a level of petty family spite that only immortals can accomplish.
Morgana tilts Steve's head around. Steve looks panicked, eyes darting to Toby, Krel, and Seamus to beg for help they can't really give. If Steve's great-great-great – okay, lots of great – aunt wants to dote on him for no reason, they can't stop her. Morgana hums. "You really do have Arthur's nose. I'm surprised it's lasted this long. The hair, too, that's Arthur's."
"If I remember ninth-grade biology, that's not how genetics work," says Steve.
"Genetics, what is that?" says Morgana absently.
"Uh," Steve manages.
Morgana turns her attention on Krel. "You're the boy that released me?"
"Uh, with Mort and Claire's help," says Krel.
"Krel really did most of the work," says Claire.
"Intelligent boy," she says. She tilts her head. "And powerful, for one so young. You are a wizard as well? Your planet's equivalent?"
"You ask a lot more questions than I thought you would," Toby says.
"I'm not a wizard," says Krel, crinkling his nose like he doesn't like the idea in the slightest. "I like my science, thank you."
"Right," says Seamus. "How many laws of physics did you break to get Morgana here?"
Krel opens his mouth to respond, then closes it and scowls. "I'm inventing new science."
"That's not how science works," says Steve.
"That's totally how science works," says Seamus. "We find new rules of science all the time. Yo, Krel, here's the plan. We work together and write a research paper and get a couple of scientific laws names after us."
Krel's eyes light up. "That would be klebtastic."
"Seklos and Gaylen, there are two of them," mutters Aja.
Toby laughs. It's good to laugh, even a little, before everything finally hits the fan. He really wouldn't put it past Krel and Seamus to do that, either, which is the most amusing part. Douxie moves to switch places with his boyfriend to get away from Morgana, but when he takes a step her attention lands on him again and she grabs his face. It's a very aunt-like gesture. Seriously, is this really the same woman who almost caused the first apocalypse of the summer?
"Stop harassing the boys," says Mort.
"See? Far less polite," says Morgana.
Mort pinches the bridge of his nose. "Can we please focus? Aunt, please release the boys and let us get back to the matter at hand."
"Mordred, are you feeding him enough?" she asks, tilting a very uncomfortable Douxie's head. Yeah, okay. This is actually hilarious.
"Please don't start this," says Mort.
"This armour is nice," she says. "Nicer than I would have expected from you. You never quite had your father's flair for this sort of thing."
Steve's eyes widen. "Right! Mort! I – uh – I think this belongs to you."
He holds out the sword he's had since they arrived. Mort traces a hand over the metal, eyes wide and shocked silent. He rests a hand on it and meets Steve's eyes, frowning.
"My father's blade," he says softly. "Where did you find this?"
"Merlin had it," Steve says, before wincing like he hates that he had to say it.
Mort closes his eyes. Something like subdued grief – probably centuries-old grief, being dredged up again by King Arthur's sword. "Of course he did."
"I thought – your dad would probably want you to have this," says Steve.
Mort smiles and withdraws his hand. He shakes his head. "I thank you for the sentiment, but if there's anyone worthy of Father's blade it's you, Steve. He would have liked you very much. I can think of no more worthy successor of his legacy."
Steve visibly swallows and draws the sword closer to himself. His eyes shine. Toby pretends not to notice.
"Thanks, Mort," he says.
Mort smiles and inclines his head, before returning to seriousness to survey the crowd. "We should start getting to positions. We want to be ready when the sun sets. Krel–"
"Hide until the canal is clear," says Krel. "I know."
"We've got this, Mort," says Seamus.
Aja traces Krel's cheek, fingers hovering above the burns without touching them. "I don't like splitting up."
"You're needed with the fighters," says Krel. "Besides, I have Zadra and Ikram. And Seamus and Eli, I guess."
"Hey," Eli and Seamus both protest. Krel grins at them.
Aja hugs him. "Be careful, little brother. I'm not losing you again."
Krel hugs her back, but Toby doesn't miss how he doesn't reassure her. He's sure Aja doesn't either, by the way her grip tightens before she lets go.
"It's go time," says Toby.
"Go time," Aaarrrgghh! echoes. He offers Toby a fist bump. Blinky puts a hand on Claire's shoulder and she nods, grim. Their plan relies on Jim finding them, not them finding Jim, but Toby isn't sure that will work. He hopes it will.
The sky hits the purple of dusk, darkness that trolls are starting to be able to move around in. Blinky impatiently taps the activator for the Akiridion sun-shield Krel had made the rolls. Mort glances at the incoming darkness and nods.
"Let's go," he says.
Team Jim sets up in the cul-de-sac where Toby and Jim both live. It's a lovely clear night. With lots of lights off in town, Toby can make out a bunch of stars overhead. He paces anxiously. Morgana hovers calmly behind him and the others. Toby doesn't like this. He doesn't like trusting her, even if she promised before they released her that she would help against Merlin.
"You're not going to go all Eternal Night on us after this, are you?" he checks.
Morgana tilts her head. "After we win? I don't believe so."
"Phew," mutters Toby.
Claire scowls. "Forgive me if I don't trust her right away. She tried to kill us."
"That's kind of par for the course for me nowadays," says Toby. "At least she only tried to kill us once."
Claire crosses her arms. "I don't trust her."
"Relax, sis," says Not-Enrique. "She tries anything, she's out-numbered."
"Yeah, that went so well last time," grumbles Claire.
Morgana sets herself back on the ground and walks to Toby. She waves a hand and summons what looks to be an amulet like Jim's, this time golden in colour. She hands it to Toby.
"I believe Merlin's control of your Trollhunter is reliant on his armour," she says. "Attach this to the corrupt amulet. It should free him. If this doesn't work, and the spell to release standard mind-control fails as well… then there is nothing else I can do."
"What do you suppose we do then?" demands Blinky.
Morgana meets his eyes evenly. "Then we have no choice but to eliminate the threat. He must die."
"No way!" Toby exclaims.
Blinky snarls. "We will not allow you to kill Master Jim, you – you witch!"
"Sorceress, if you will," says Morgana. "And I believe you'll find that you cannot stop me."
"We shouldn't have taken you out of the Shadow Realm," mutters Claire.
Morgana sighs. "I know what it is to be betrayed by that man. He was my teacher, once upon a time. Mordred's, as well. We've both been hurt by him, and now you've felt his treacherous sting as well. Whether you trust me or not, trust that I have as many reasons as you to fight Merlin and save your Trollhunter."
Well. That explains some of Mort's hatred of Merlin, then. Toby almost doesn't want to know what the buttsnack of a wizard had done to Mort, that made even his estranged aunt's mouth curl into a frown and brow lower into sharp anger. Another reason to hate Merlin himself, Toby supposes for now.
It's not long after nightfall when Jim arrives. Part of Toby is relieved he's here, and – better yet – he's here alone. It's bold and kind of stupid of Merlin to not protect one of his most valuable assets. Claire summons a glowing purple dagger that flickers unsteadily. Morgana sighs.
"Convince yourself that you have a real weapon, and you will," she says. "Don't try any more magic while using magic weapons. Focus."
Claire presses her lips together and nods. Despite her distrust of Morgana, the dagger seems to stabilise.
"Mr. Domzalski, you focus on the amulet," says Strickler. "The rest of us will keep Jim busy to give you the chance."
Toby nods. "Got it."
Jim attacks. Claire dives out of the way to avoid being skewered by Daylight. Toby tries not to flinch too badly when Morgana's magic whips wrap around Jim's body. He struggles angrily, before finally ripping himself free and attacking again. Toby's heart hurts to see his friend so animalistic and threatening.
Dr. L runs at him with a broom, eyes hard. Jim bats her away like a fly. Strickler leaps into the air to dive-bomb Jim and Nomura runs at him from the ground. The tag-team attack is no use. Jim was a great fighter before and somehow he's even better now, probably because Merlin's eliminated his instinct to not kill people. Strickler slams into Toby's roof. Nomura skids backwards, snarl still present.
"Jim!" Claire calls. "Please, I know you're still in there!"
"It's no use," says Morgana. "Merlin is too strong. His spell will not be defeated so easily as with the power of friendship. The amulet is the only chance."
Toby tightens his grip on the amulet and nods to Claire. She blinks back tears and nods back. Nomura charges again with a roar. She meets Daylight with her daggers and sparks fly.
"My apologies for this, Master Jim!" Blinky says, before whacking Jim with a very large book. It doesn't do anything but make him angrier. Blinky yelps and jumps away as Jim lashes out with Daylight.
"Good try," rumbles Aaarrrgghh!.
"Not quite good enough," says Blinky morosely.
Strickler flies back into the battle, Jim jumps out of the way and manages to drag his sword across Strickler's side. The changeling lets out an animalistic cry and growls at Jim, one hand going to the new wound. Barbara runs forward and tries to parry an attack with Daylight; the broom shatters.
Not-Enrique leaps onto Jim's head. Jim hisses and tries to pry him off, stumbling backwards. Morgana throws out a spell to restrain Jim again and Aaarrrgghh! lunges forward and wraps his arms around his snarling form. It's definitely working better than last time.
"Now, Tobias!" roars Blinky.
"Hurry up, kid!" a struggling Not-Enrique bites out.
Toby surges forward and slams Morgana's amulet into the one on Jim's chest. Jim shrieks. Aaarrrgghh! stumbles away from him as a bright light surrounds him and finally, the dark armour vanishes. Jim collapses, clad in tattered, non-small human clothes. Toby, Claire, and Dr. Lake all run to him.
"Jim?" says Dr. Lake. "Jim, sweetie, wake up."
Jim groans and groggily opens his eyes. "Mom...?"
"Oh, Jim!" Dr. Lake wraps her arm around Jim. He hugs her back, eyes closed.
"Good to have you back with us, Young Atlas," says Strickler.
"What… happened?" Jim asks, pulling away from his mom's hug. He glances between all of them, eyes lingering worriedly on the still-healing cut on Toby's face and the jagged slice of broken metal on his armour. Toby doesn't want to tell him; he brings up a hand to cover the damaged armour. At least that wasn't mind-controlled Jim's doing.
"You were controlled by Merlin," says Claire softly.
"I was – oh, no." Jim jerks away and stands, stumbling backwards. "No, no, no – what did I do? Please tell me I didn't hurt anyone."
Several pairs of eyes dart to Toby. He winces when Jim's eyes widen and he shakes his head in horror. His mouth moves to form words, but no sound comes out. Toby takes a step towards him.
"I'm okay, Jimbo," he says. He tries to smile at him. "Tis but a flesh wound!"
"I hurt you." Jim's voice breaks. Clearly the joke didn't work. Toby didn't think it would. Jim takes another step backwards. "I hurt my best friend, I – I–"
"You were under Merlin's control," Toby insists. Before Jim can move any further backwards, Toby walks over and hugs him. Jim hesitates, then returns the hug. Toby's so, so glad to have his best friend back again, for good, this time. If they can just make it through this fight, everything will be okay again. Jim and the trolls can stay in Arcadia. They'll figure out the heartstone thing. It's going to be okay.
"I'm so sorry, Tobes," Jim whispers.
"It's not your fault," Toby says. "You're okay now. That's what matters."
They walk closer to the others. Jim hugs Claire, then hugs Blinky and Aaarrrgghh! as well. Morgana grabs his face and starts to tilt it from side to side, but Jim yelps and jumps away from her. He motions like he wants to summon Daylight, but without the armour he's left weaponless. He clenches his fists and holds them as if ready to punch.
"What is she doing here!?" he exclaims.
Toby runs between them. "Woah, woah, Jimbo, calm down. She's on our side. For now. She helped us free you."
"She… helped me?" Jim repeats slowly, lowering his hands and furrowing his brow. "I don't understand."
"You poor thing," says Morgana, which doesn't sound anything like Morgana if you ask Toby. She approaches Jim again and runs a hand over one of his horns. "Merlin's magic is ruthless."
Jim looks uncomfortable. Claire takes a protective step forward, but Strickler gently grabs her shoulder and shakes his head. Morgana hasn't betrayed them yet. Toby's starting to think that maybe she's not going to, after all.
"I cannot undo Merlin's magic," says Morgana, "but I can do this."
She rests her hands on Jim's shoulders, and her golden magic envelopes him. In person, now that he's seeing it again, Morgana's gold is lighter than Steve's. It makes Toby feel a bit better, actually. He shields his eyes from the bright light until it finally fades. Jim looks the exact same – whatever Morgana did doesn't seem to have done anything, but at least Jim looks unharmed, if a bit disoriented. He blinks rapidly.
"What…?" Jim says.
"Go on," says Morgana. She motions with her green hand, the one Toby is pretty sure isn't actually real. "Change."
Jim's brow furrows. "Change?"
Strickler's eyes widen. "Of course. Listen to her, Jim. Change."
Jim frowns, but he closes his eyes as if focusing. Change. Wait. Does that mean…?
Jim's face twists deeper into concentration. A few moments and another bright light later, and suddenly, Jim stumbles to his hands and knees in front of them. His very human hands and knees.
"Jim?" Dr. Lake says hesitantly.
Jim blinks rapidly and sits back on his calves. He holds his trembling hands out in front of him, eyes wide.
"I'm human again," he mumbles in awe.
"Not quite," says Morgana.
"You made him a changeling," Claire realises. "You – made it so he can live in both worlds."
Jim's eyes shine. He brings his hands to his chest and looks up at her. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," warns Morgana. "First, you must survive this fight."
Toby offers Jim a hand to help him to his feet. Jim wobbles for a few seconds, then laughs delightedly. He pulls Toby and Claire both into a quick hug, then stretches his once-again human limbs and grins.
"Alright," he says. "Now where my amulet?"
"Uh, bad news," says Toby. "Merlin was using it to control you."
Jim groans. "Oh. Great. That's great, now what?"
Morgana picks up the golden amulet, discarded on the ground, and offers it to Jim. "This may not quite be Merlin's armour, but I assure you it will live up to your standards. Go on. There is no incantation. Just strength of will."
Jim takes it gingerly, then holds it up to the sky. "For the doom of Merlin!"
"Clever," says Toby.
The armour flies onto him. It looks almost exactly like the Trollhunter armour if you ask Toby, but he can see faint hints of Morgana's gold in the outline. Jim stretches to test how it feels. He looks as nimble as Toby remembers. Man, it's good to see Jim human again. Toby loves his friend no matter what species he is, but something about Jim being stuck as a troll because of Merlin's manipulations always left Toby super uneasy. It should have been one of the first signs. They shouldn't have trusted Merlin at all.
"Maybe you aren't so bad after all," Toby says to Morgana.
She scoffs. "I just couldn't stand the sight of something so pitiful. And any chance to spite the old goat."
Jim turns to the rest of them and draws himself to full height; as he does so, he changes back to troll form. Probably for the best, since they're going to be fighting. His troll form is a little less vulnerable. Even so, his determination is good to see again, especially after worrying they wouldn't be able to get him back.
"So what's going on?" he asks. "What's the plan?"
"End of the world, man," says Toby.
"We've split up," says Strickler. "I suggest most of us join the fighters while Claire and Morgana continue removing mind-control spells."
"How long was I…?"
"A day," says Claire. "Maybe two. We were on Akiridion-5 for most of it. You'd have to ask Steve."
Jim runs a hand through his hair. "Great. That's – great. Okay. Here's the plan. I think we need to split up to cover more town. Tobes, Claire, you're with me."
"Oh, yeah!" Toby exclaims. "Team Trollhunters back together!"
"Aaarrrgghh! and I will join the fighters," says Blinky. He gleefully whips out four dwarkstones. Aaarrrgghh! carefully lowers his hands.
"As will we," says Dr. L.
"Mom," starts Jim.
"Don't even try it, mister," she says. Her face softens. "Don't worry. I'll be fine."
"I'll keep an eye on Witchy here to make sure she doesn't go nuts on us," says Not-Enrique, leaping onto Morgana's armoured shoulder. She scowls at him. "Eh, Nomura? With us?"
"If I don't go with you, you'll be the cause of the next apocalypse," says Nomura dryly.
"We need to get to Krel," says Toby. "They're going to need all the back-up they can get."
"Do we know where Krel is?" asks Jim.
"Take a random guess," says Claire dryly.
Comprehension dawns on Jim's face, followed quickly by resignation. "Canal?"
"Canal," Claire and Toby confirm.
"Where it all started," mutters Jim. He holds out a hand and a sword appears – Daylight. Somehow it's still Daylight. Despite the sword's origins, Toby's glad they don't have to say goodbye to it yet. Jim swings it and nods. "Let's go."
They're so focused on getting through the fight to Krel, Claire de-brainwashing on the way, that Toby runs right into Steve. The wizard yelps and stumbles, but Toby shoots out a hand to stabilise him.
"Oh, it's just you," says Steve.
"Great news," says Toby. "Jim's back."
"Hey!" Steve exclaims delightedly. "That is great news. Now all we gotta do is stop Merlin from destroying the world."
"Steve!" Aja calls. She grunts at the effort of holding back a troll with her serrator in whip form. Huh. Toby didn't know it could do that. "Now would be a great time to help me!"
"Sorry, sorry!" exclaims Steve.
"Alright, boys," says Claire. "Let's de-brainwash some trolls."
In a way, it feels almost like the earlier days of Trollhunting, before things got too complicated, before aliens and wizards and all of that. It also feels like the Eternal Night, which is a much less fun comparison, but also more accurate. Most of the light comes from flickering streetlamps and flashes of magic and the bright half-moon and stars in the sky.
"We need to get to Krel!" Toby calls to Steve and Aja.
"You don't have to tell me twice!" Aja shouts back.
Toby hates fighting the trolls. He recognises some of them as they run, like Bagdwella, locked in mindless, furious combat with Shannon and a girl Toby doesn't know, both wizards apparently (seriously? How many of his classmates are wizards?). He also sees some trolls fighting on their side, already freed from Merlin's control.
Steve seems surprisingly in his element de-brainwashing the trolls, fiercely determined as he and Aja fight together like some sort of choreographed dance. Toby would have never described his jock friend as graceful before, but the sword in his hand looks as natural as if it were a part of him. Toby's impressed. He likes to imagine he, Jim, and Claire look just as awesome. Jim does, at least, but Claire seems to be struggling with her magic and Toby can't seriously picture himself looking very cool.
"Tobes, on your right!" Jim yells.
Toby spins around and slams his hammer into the side of the attacking troll's head. While he stands dazed, Claire runs forward with a battle-cry to perform the de-brainwashing spell. The troll stumbles and puts a hand to his head.
"What the…?" he says. "Trollhunter?"
"Long story short, Merlin is evil and brainwashed you," says Jim. "We gotta go, Klegmel. Stay safe."
It must be even worse for Jim and Claire, then. Toby knows a lot of these trolls, but Jim and Claire have been travelling with them for weeks. These are their friends in ways Toby thinks they won't ever be his. A part of that hurts, that Jim now has all these experiences that Toby doesn't share, but Toby does too. Jim will always be his best friend, but he didn't live through the Knights stalking them or late nights training with Ikram and Nimue or sleepovers both for safety and for camaraderie. Things are different now. They're different now. He doesn't know how to feel about that.
Toby's phone rings. Toby glances briefly at the caller ID – Eli – and picks up.
"Toby!" Eli exclaims. "We could really use some back-up here!"
"We're on our way, hold tight," says Toby, even as worry curls in his stomach.
"Well, hurry!" Eli lets out a yelp. Toby can hear the sounds of battle from the other side. That's not a good sign. "Merlin's found us!"
"Wait, wait, Merlin found you already!?"
Eli shrieks and the line goes dead. Toby turns to Steve with wide eyes. He's sure his expression mirrors his friend's in horror. If Merlin's already there, if Merlin know where the formstone is, if Merlin gets Krel–
"Time's up," Toby says. "We've got to get to the formstone now."