Chapter 14 -- A horse is a horse
After a lot of talk and concerned debate, the campers finally settled down to eat breakfast. At the Beastís insistence, they ate in silence while he tried to digest what had happened to him so far. He could feel himself becoming dumber with every passing moment and he knew he would soon be a complete idiot. Worse than that, he was beginning to think that several of the people around him might make a better breakfast than the one heíd been given.
He hoped that heíd be able to hold out long enough for that wizard Mark to figure out what was going on. If not, he was going to start killing people, beginning with the dwarf. He wasnít sure why, but he knew he hated dwarves and that they were more of a threat to him than the elves and humans here. After the dwarf, it would be time for the wizards and all their tricky mind games.
He stopped and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He could see that this would not be easy. He was apparently becoming an ogre in mind, body and perhaps even soul. He wondered if any of the others were having as much trouble adapting as he was and realized that they probably werenít. They had changed of course, but none of them had as alien a worldview ahead of them as he did.
He stepped outside to get some air, cursing loudly as he banged his head on the doorway. He sat down gracelessly on the stoop of the inn and stared out towards the lake. A moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the dwarf.
"Strange isnít it?" said Steve, "I always thought it would be neat to be a dwarf but now I see the problems of it. I want to go out to the hills over the lake and start tunneling. I canít stand all this open air. Strangest of all, I want to kill you and youíre my brother."
Ron chuckled. "Thatís hardly the first time either of us has felt that way," he said.
There was a long awkward pause.
"Itís hard Steve, real hard. I can feel the ogre inside me, fighting to escape. Why the hell did Rand do this? Didnít he know what might happen? I want you to promise me something".
He paused for a moment. "Promise me youíll kill me. Promise me that if I really do become an ogre youíll kill me before I do anything terrible."
Steve looked at him for a long moment, then nodded.
"I can see how hard it must be for you. If you do anything bad or evil, or whatever, Iíll do my best to stop you before you hurt your friends. I donít know if Iíll be able to kill you, but Iíll try."
They shook hands, both aware that this might be the last time they could talk to each other this way. As they did, they heard the sounds of hooves coming down the trail above them. Moros, the local ranger, must be on his rounds. He slowed for a second at the sight of the ogre, but when the two waved he returned the wave and rode on. He rode on down towards the lake and around the corner.
A moment later, just after heíd passed out of sight, they heard a scream, more like a battle cry really. The two were instantly galvanized into action. Steve headed back into the inn to grab his axe and alert his companions; Ron ran down the road to see if he could help Moros. The rest of the group grabbed their weapons and ran with Steve towards the lake.
They arrived to find Ron voraciously eating the remains of Morosí horse. He paused at the sight of them and then dropped the meat, turning away from them ashamed. The rest of them tried to ignore what they had seen, but it had obviously frightened a few of them, especially the younger ones. Ron moved off to one side and leaned against a tree, waiting for the others to tell him what to do next.
"It looks like there was a fight here," said Sleeves. "I think there were a bunch of them, 7 or 8 maybe and they took Moros back that way," he said, pointing up towards the Last Ceremony Site.
"Do you think he was alive?" asked Jared, obviously shaken by the sight of the Beast calmly eating the still warm horse.
"It looks like it," said Bollman, "there isnít any other blood around here, and thereís none leaving here. Iíd have thought Moros would have given them a worse time than that, but maybe he was taken by surprise."
"Alright," commanded the dwarf, "the thing to do now is to rescue Moros. Weíre going to head back to the inn and dress properly for this kind of weather. Whatever it was that did this is going to pay. Ron, you wait here and take care of those remains; get them out of the road and out of sight. The rest of us will be back in about fifteen minutes."
The ogre nodded and the rest of the group headed back to the inn. Bollman hung back a bit to try and talk to Steve.
"You know whatís going to happen to those remains, donít you?" he said.
"I think so," replied Steve, "I just hope thatís enough fresh meat to keep him sated for a while. Iíd hate to have him start foraging on his own."
Bollman nodded gravely. "Good thinking. Do you think we can take him if we have to?"
"Iím not sure; Iím pretty good with an axe and Timís not bad with a sword, but his strength and size will make it tough. How are things looking magically?"
"Itís difficult to say, really" said Mark, "I think weíre okay; Lou and I each seem to know a few spells by heart and it seems like we could make up new ones if we want. Right now, all we know are attack type spells, things to set people and places on fire. Iíve been trying to think of other instances of magic in Tolkien, but there arenít that many."
"Okay, so we probably canít count on spells for anything but offense, thatís good to know, even if itís not good news."
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