79. Dungeons & Divas

It took a couple of tries before Flossie understood the situation. But once she got it, her response was immediate.

“You can fook right off. Ah ain’t fighting no one.”

“Now hold on, there,” said Dudley. “You know Colin wouldn’t choose you unless he had a plan. Right, Colin?” He looked at me with an expression that said, “Harm my girl and I will strangle you with your own shitty entrails.” I’m paraphrasing.

“Of course,” I said like there was nothing to worry about (spoiler alert: there was a lot to worry about).  I turned back to Raviva. “So, the weapon of choice will be… voices.”

Ah, you see. Nobody said it had to be a battle of physical combat. They might have been huge, lumbering sacks of rocks, but how would that help them in a sing-off?

“You want to challenge us to a singing competition?” said Raviva. “I love it! There’s nothing we trolls love more than a good sing-along. They say I was born yodelling as I came out of my mother. Haha! Prepare the arena!”

Damn. Rather than be wrong-footed by my surprise choice of weapon, they embraced it.

Large, squared-off boulders were brought in and placed together to form a stage. The trolls formed a semi-circle around it and sat down. I got the impression this wasn’t the first time they’d done this.

“Are you sure about this?” said Claire.

“Worse comes to worse, we have to go through their labyrinth, which we would have had to anyway. At least this way we have of chance of  making it out alive. Plus, Flossie has a great voice.”

“Ooh... Ah don’t like it,” said Flossie. “Ah can’t sing in front of all these people.”

“You don’t have to. Just sing to Dudley. Right, Dud?”

“Of course,” said Dudley. “I love your splendid voice. I’ll be right there with you.”

“What… what song should ah sing?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Remember, this is a world where lute music is considered cool. Any song from the last twenty years will blow their minds. Just pick something catchy. But no Celine Dion. We’re trying to avoid bloodshed.”

Still shaky and a bit pale, Flossie made her way to the side of the stage with Dudley. He left her there and sat down at the very front of the audience, not giving a damn he had a huge, hulking troll on either side of him. The rest of us felt less comfortable squeezing our way to the front and remained standing at the back.

Raviva got on the stage to a large round of applause. Trolls clapping sounded like hailstones on a glass roof.

“Okay. It’s that time again. Remember, it’s your votes that count, so give it up long and loud for the one you like. Be fair, be honest. No trolling.”

There was a smatter of laughter. 

“First up, our very own Kaceeeeeyton.!”

Raviva jumped off the stage as Kaceyton got on to wild applause and cheers. Home crowd advantage, big time. 

The crowd quieted and Kaceyton began singing in a deep, gravelly voice DMX would have been proud of.

You wanna crawl in my cave

I take you on

You can scuffle in my tunnel

And I’ll send you home

Was it me or were these lyrics somewhat suggestive?

You wanna stick it in my face

I’ll break it off

One left, one right

I bust you in half

‘Cause my fists so fast they go

The trolls responded: BADA BOOM BOOM

And my hips so fast they go

Again the trolls joined in: ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM

When shit is getting heavy

Like it weighs a ton

I will split you open

Just for fun

Cast you out

Like a class A magician

Hammer your hopes

On my anvil of submission

And when you get tired and want a rest

I will pull out your spine


The crowd joining in on the last line devolved into roars of approval. I thought there was going to be a cave in.

Oooookay, then. Kind of aggressive lyrics for a singing competition, but for all I knew that passed for a love ballad around here.

Once the riot had quelled to a minor commotion, Flossie meekly took to the stage. She looked tiny and alone. In short, petrified. 

Dudley started clapping. “You can do it!”

We joined in, shouting out words of encouragement.

Flossie’s first words were lost in a cough. She cleared her throat and started again. Her voice was very quiet and a bit wobbly. And not in English.

Najin tasaro inga jogin yoja

She was singing in Korean. Did I know Korean? No. I couldn’t really tell one Far Eastern language from another, but in this case I recognised the song. I’d told her to sing something catchy, and there are few songs catchier than the one she’d chosen. I thought she might go with something by Beyoncé or Rhianna, but no, she had decided to sing ‘Gangnam Style’.

Gradually her voice steadied, and after a few lines in, she was belting it out.

To her credit, she knew all the words, in the original Korean. At least, that’s what it sounded like—I guess she could have been making it up as she went, but it didn’t matter. She had the dance moves down pat. The horse riding, the side-step shimmy, she did all of it, her eyes locked onto Dudley the entire time.

By the time she got to:

Hey, sexy lady

Op, op, op, op

she was in full swing. The original featured a short, plump Korean, this version with a short, plump Brummie wasn’t so different. In fact it was quite a performance. She was completely lost in the song and drenched in sweat as she bounced around the small stage.

Oppa Gangnam Style.

She stopped, out of breath and looking a bit dazed. Dudley sprang to his feet and started clapping.

“Marvellous, marvellous, bravo!”

We all joined in of course, but the real surprise was when the trolls also got to their feet and began cheering and clapping. Clearly they had never seen anything like it. No one had. The question, though, was had we won? The response was definitely bigger than Kaceyton’s.

Raviva got on stage and motioned for everyone to quiet down.

“Well, that was certainly an amazing performance. So unique. So different. The victory clearly goes to... the humans.”

Flossie had done it. We were free. Free! Could it really be so easy? No. 

“Now for round two.”

“Wait,” I called out. “We never agreed to more than one round.”

“Best of three, of course. What kind of contest would it be otherwise?”

He had a point. But could Flossie pull it off again?

“This time, the human will go first. Take it away.”

Flossie looked even more nervous than the first time. She stood there, staring down at Dudley. The crowd started to get restless.

“I’ll have to hurry you,” said Raviva.

Flossie looked towards the back of the room where we were all stood. “Ah can’t think of anything. What should ah sing?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I shouted back. “First thing that pops into your head. We’re already in the lead.” Her unconventional choice had worked first time, why not again?

She nodded at me, screwed up her eyes like she was thinking hard, and then opened her mouth. Her voice this time was very high and sharp, but clear as a choirboy’s.

I love bad bitches, that's my fuckin problem

And yeah I like to fuck, I got a fuckin problem

I love bad bitches, that's my fuckin problem

And yeah I like to fuck, I got a fuckin problem

If finding somebody real is your fuckin problem

Bring your girls to the crib maybe we can solve iiiiiiiiit

I didn’t recognise the lyrics, but there was a strange hypnotic rhythm to them. 

I love bad bitches, that's my fuckin problem

And yeah I like to fuck, I got a fuckin problem

As she repeated the song, the trolls joined in. A few at first, then the whole lot of them, including Raviva. They weren't complicated lyrics, just the same few lines over and over, but the crowd sang along like they were the most meaningful words ever spoken. 

I don’t know how many verses she went through, but eventually her voice started to crack and she stopped.

The trolls went crazy. They cheered and roared and clapped and stomped. Bits of the roof fell around us. Flossie jumped off the stage and ran into Dudley’s arms, mostly to avoid falling debris.

Kaceyton took to the stage as the noise subsided and in a shaky voice said, “That, that was so beautiful… I can’t… I just can’t…” and then ran off the stage.

“It seems we have a winner,” said Raviva. “Victory to the humans!”

There was a round of applause. Fortunately, a little more restrained than the last time.

“And as promised you will be rewarded. With death!” 

I was stunned. He’d lied. I’d got so caught up in the contest I hadn't even considered that as a possibility. 

“I’m just trolling!” Raviva laughed. “You are free to go. Congratulations!”

My legs turned to  jelly. I sank down to the ground and put my face in my hands. Fucking trolls.

AN: Well done to Necamijat and Deinos who both guessed Colin’s plan correctly. I did foreshadow it a bit a few chapters ago when I had Flossie singing to Dudley, although I never know how subtle to be about these things.

Not sure how well singing works on the page, let me know what you think (for future reference).

If anyone’s wondering, the song Flossie sings at the end is ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ by A$AP Rocky, although the version she sings is the cover by Xavier Dunn which you can hear here.

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