There, in the pines, somewhere, stood a troll. We, from the village, called him Gruntlug. If he had a real name, I didn’t know it. I didn’t want to know it. I had come to kill him. I had climbed his mountain to bury my sword in his heart.
The air was laced with late November cold. If the wind blew hard enough, it bit at my skin, my face, my hands. It was difficult to hold my sword.
“This place is my place, small one,” bellowed Gruntlug. “I am master here. Be gone and I’ll forget – and forgive – why you’ve scaled my mountain.”
The pine limbs twisted together, a tight weave, a wall of green. I couldn’t see the troll, but I could smell him. Strangely, his scent was not the sour stink I expected it to be. Rather, he smelt like smoke, the char of burnt wood. How strange, I thought. The beast, like me, desires a fire’s warmth – just like me.
I shouted into the trees. “Gruntlug, foul monster. I’ve come for your life. When I have it, I’ll return home.”
“Foul, monster?” Gruntlug laughed. “You’ve never seen me. You’ve never sat with me, supped with me. Come, lay down your steel and eat with me. I’ve hunted this morning. I’ll give my toil’s best.”
“A trick,” I yelled. “A trick. If I sheath my sword, you’ll have my head and my heart will be your breakfast.”
A cold breeze seept from the trees, cold, but not harsh. Its scent was sweet, flowers and honey. And I felt sleepy. The desire to close my eyes burdened everything.
That’s the last I remember before I woke, bound to a giant pine tree with Gruntlug before me, smiling and smiling.
(to be continued)