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13
The Troll Bridge

A tale for Orcs.


~~~

Under the great stone bridge was a troll. He did not live there, mind you. He would come to work every evening after sunset and head back to his troll-cave every dawn.

Being intolerant of the sun could be a bit of a drawback, especially in winter, when people were even less likely to travel after dark.

However, it was a living. He would wait until a traveler had reached the middle of the bridge, then jump out and demand payment. The traveler was usually only too happy to give the troll whatever valuable he or she might have.

In this way, the troll acquired rather a hoard of trinkets, swords, cloaks and baubles. Quite often, a traveler would give up a nice, fresh pig. Then, Snik! Snak!, the pig would be inside the troll.

If the traveler had nothing with which to pay the troll, why, Snik! Snak!, the troll dined on him, or, as the case might be, her.

Trip, trap, down from the mountains came an orc. Who knows why she came--on some wicked errand for the Goblin King, or just mischief-making of her own. She came to the troll bridge, after dark, of course, orcs disliking the sun almost as much as do trolls.

The troll jumped out and the orc squeaked and cowered.

"Give me all your treasure," cried the troll, "or I'll dine on you tonight."

"Oh, please, Sir Troll," said the orc. "Only let me return tomorrow, and I'll bring you fine jewels as fee to cross the bridge."

"Mind you do," replied the troll. "All must pay my fee."

So the orc escaped the troll that evening. Of course, she had no fine jewels, nor, indeed, anything at all of value. She knew, though, that trolls hoarded all the treasures they took from travelers, and she dreamed of how she would trick the troll out of his loot. How she would lord it over the other orcs in the mountain upon her return!

She turned back toward the bridge secretly, and waited until near dawn when the troll made his way homeward. Then she crept after him all the way to his cave. He took the key out of his pocket, opened the door, and slammed it shut behind him just as the sun rose.

With the bright sunlight in the sky, the orc could barely make her way into the deep forest. She found a shallow cave in which to hide for the day, and went to sleep.

That night, she returned to the bridge, to make sure the troll was there. She went up the hill to the cavern door. She tried the door, just in case, but it was locked up tight.

In the thicket by the path, she found some thorn bushes. The orc pulled off one fine long thorn. She turned to one side of the door, and ran the thorn into her hand. As her blood dripped on the ground, she whispered the words of a speaking spell, then did the same on the other side. After that, she hid in the thornbrake to wait.

When the sky began to grow light, the troll came stumping up the path. A voice came from the drops of blood beside the door, "Here he comes. You hit him high, I'll hit him low."

The troll turned back down the path, fearing robbery and murder. The sky grew lighter. Again, he went toward his door.

From the other side of the door, a voice said, "It's troll meat today and troll treasure for us tonight."

The troll hastened away again. Still, the glow of the sky increased. For fear of the sun, he started up the path.

The orc stepped into the path in front of him.

"Dawn take you," she murmured, "and be stone to you," as the sun rose. And, indeed, the troll turned to stone there before her eyes. But, alas, the key to his cavern door was still in his pocket, and both pocket and key had turned as stony as their owner. The orc kicked the rocky shin of the troll in chagrin and went to find shelter from the sun before making her way back to the Goblin Caverns, as penniless as when she'd left.

Travelers now find the Troll Bridge free of its lumpish and greedy guardian, though they know not they've an orc to thank for that. The troll's treasure still waits behind the cavern door, locked up tight.

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