Well of Acheron (Excerpt)

The door creaked open and revealed more of the fat troll man, a huge head on narrow shoulders and arms that could have lifted boulders. His skin was the color of curdled milk, with ugly, fat boils and calluses along his elbows, knees, hands, and feet. His shoulder-length hair hung in limp, filthy strands around his face, only managing to partially hide a severe underbite and bulbous nose. He stood aside, holding the thick door and watching the two pass by. He grunted angrily at Ezreal as he hurried past, somehow managing to look menacing in only a loincloth.

“Thanks Toth,” said the snake woman, pulling Ezreal by the arm quickly. Her voice was soft and light, but the fingers digging into his elbow told a different story.

The troll turned and watched them walk, groaning low in his throat. He stood at least two times as tall as Ezreal, who, at nearly 6’4”, was not insubstantial. The troll picked the heavy beam up like it was nothing more than a toothpick and put it back over the door. He returned to his seat on the ground, tucking his huge body into an Indian-style squat. His enormous eyes glowed in the light of the simple torch beside him, and they never left Ezreal’s form as he retreated further down the pathway.

Around them, the hallway narrowed from the wide, open cavern to a smaller one that made it difficult for them to walk two abreast. Along either side of him, the wall gave way to prison cells, which were empty of occupants. Ezreal wasn’t sure it was a good sign or a bad one.

“Toth doesn’t care for the ones that are marked,” his guard explained. “He’s not too bright, but I’ve seen him crush a man flat with those hands, so it’s best to get past him as quickly as possible, before he feels threatened.” She smiled weakly. “He really is very sweet normally, but he can sense when people are… well…”

Ezreal remembered the huge hands, and how easily they had lifted the beam of wood, and not for one instant did he think that the troll couldn’t have popped his head like an overripe melon. “Bad?” he supplied.

The woman didn’t answer him, but he felt it wasn’t a good sign. Something had changed when Toth had studied him like that. She must have seen it before, and that worried Ezreal.

“Why was I marked anyway?” he asked, hoping it didn’t lead to another moment of her silence.

She seemed to have recovered from the previous question, and was once again amicable, if a bit more guarded.

“You’re untrained,” she said, shrugging. “You’re dangerous.”

“Untrained in what?” Ezreal pressed.

“Don’t. I’m not even supposed to be talking to the intakes. You’ll learn why soon enough.” The woman bit her lip and shook her head. “C’mon, this way. Temporary cells.”

Though it was nearly impossible not to want to shake her until she told him what he wanted to hear, he sighed quietly and followed her through the prison. There was no question left in his mind over what exactly it was anymore. He was being thrown in prison in some magical world called Acheron, because he could see the very monsters that were trying to imprison him. It made his head spin. It made him afraid, and slightly nauseous. But most of all, it just pissed him off.

“Temporary?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Can’t say more,” she whispered. “There are ears everywhere here.”

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