Ian’s quivering hand dropped the teddy bear to collect more dirt on the ground as he made a slow revolve to meet his future murderer. Seeing only a bare chest that probably housed a stomach large enough to consider him quick snacking, he looked up. And up.
At first the brawny man staring down at him appeared to be an unusually large pirate with an orange skullcap topping his bald head and gold earring in one ear. But the ears themselves were both pointed at the ends and small enough to fit on Ian rather than Mr. Monster Pirate’s giant rock of a head. His skin held a greenish-gray tint that looked like mold covering rotten meat. More frightening were the teeth – while the rest were (hopefully) a relatively normal size, two stalagmites of lower canines protruded over his lips. Even the pair of red pants caused Ian’s life to flash before his eyes as imagination could only conjure the worst possible reason for their color. The giant’s angry scowl didn’t help either.
“Where’s Meriall? He poked at Ian with the pitchfork. “Tell me!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Ian saw a flutter of movement and kept completely still while daring a glance to his left just in time to see Simone finish a nervous step forward. Meanwhile Trevor – well, Trevor couldn’t be seen anywhere but the trembling lumpy cloak lying on the ground served as the brave man’s most likely location. Ian kept both arms tucked safely in his own cloak and darted his eyes back in front of him. “Sorry, I don’t know who—”
“That’s her teddy bear you were just holding!” The stranger shook a fist in the air and raised his pitchfork up just inches from Ian’s neck. “Tell me where she is or I’ll replace my scarecrow’s head with yours!”
Ian believed the man’s threat almost as much as he desperately wished he knew who Meriall was and where she might be. While debating whether to be honest and lose his head or lie and pick a random location the angry farmer would hopefully run to, a little girl’s voice intervened.
“Algar, it’s okay, I’m right here!” A lanky child that looked no older than eight or ten jumped through one of the school’s busted out windows and raced toward Ian’s perpetrator.
“Meriall, you’re alive!” The girl’s presence seemed to make Algar completely forget about turning Ian into lunch. He threw the pitchfork down and made a beeline for her while Ian stepped backward until he stood side by side with Simone and Trevor’s lump.
Keeping his eyes on the two lone villagers, Ian leaned in toward Simone. “No one told me you’ve got ogres in this weird world too.”
Simone mimicked his motion and they nearly bumped heads as she kept her eyes plastered forward as well. “What’s an ogre?”
Ian slowly raised his arm to point at the happy giant a few feet away that twirled around with Meriall in a joyous and rather comical hug given their size difference. He kept his finger pointing at the spectacle. “Help me out here, is what we’re seeing heartwarming or frightening?”
“Eh,” Simone studied the pair a few seconds before answering, “I think it’s a little of both actually.”