Once there lived a troll, amidst a tribe of trolls, whose nation had settled in a clearing in Moss Wood. They lived in circular, mud walled homes with very steep roofs made out of fronds from the fannywillow tree and were renown for their distinct flatulence that, once expelled, hung in a green cloud about them for hours before dissipating. This was generally attributed to their diet, which consisted almost entirely of brains from the poisonous lizards that populated the bog behind the clearing. This culinary specialty was peculiar to their nation and was as difficult to procure, as it was easy to prepare. Many were who tried to capture these rare lizards but because they possessed limited qualities of invisibility, none but this tribe of trolls succeeded. Due to being genetically endowed with lightning-fast hand eye coordination these trolls found easy what eluded everyone else. They would simply grab a lizard by the tail, and after beating it dead over a rock, shove a straw through it’s nose and suck the delicacy out in that manner. Or sometimes, albeit rarely because it was generally considered more work than needed to be done in order to eat, they scooped the brains into a cauldron of bowling stock to make a delicious stew. Beyond that, little else is known of this troll tribe other than it was considered fact amongst the villagers that lived on the border of Moss Wood that they were gentle folk, living peaceably within the wood and from the wood.
Our troll had a head as round as a cheese wheel and as big as his body by half. With his burnt orange hair, bulging eyes and hooked nose, he was entirely unremarkable. Unremarkable, in appearance, that is but not in wealth. For by trickery and deceit he had amassed a great fortune and by it intended to steal away to the ocean and sail for foreign lands on a Viking ship.
One night, under a full hunter’s moon during St. Luke’s Little Summer, he had his chance and seized it.
“So long, suckers.” He said when he was a safe enough distance from the settlement to escape detection, but not so far that he couldn’t still see the orange glow of the campfire in the distance, small now and flickering gaily. And without sentiment or reserve, he slung the sack of treasure over his shoulder and walked toward the setting sun gladly leaving the only world he’d ever known forever behind him.
But along the way he met a witch whose wiles surpassed his own. She had uncovered the truth about his sack through her amazing powers of divination, and determined to have his treasure. While he was yet afar off, she laid a snare. Making haste to a hallowed cave in ancient hills, she extracted ore from which to smelt copper and crafted from this a flute. Knowing that her spell would need to be uncommonly strong against the clever troll, she decided to deliver her magic not through long forgotten languages or potions, but through music. In this way her spell was layered and constantly evolving. The very frequencies of each note carried distinct and focused power, but when those individual notes were strung into a melody they held as many different powers over the hearer as there are melodies to be made. Furthermore, when those notes were combined in harmony – well, the brilliance of this system and the unsearchable limits of it’s power would be fully realized and dully feared when possession over it would, in the distant future, cause kingdoms to war and countless legions to perish, after all.
But, that is not our story.
Upon completion of the flute, the witch made herself into a comely peasant girl carrying a basket of eggs to sell at market and set herself upon a log, not a half days journey from where our troll tread. With her light brown hair pulled neatly back in a gray scarf and her cheeks rosy, she looked the picture of loveliness as she held the flute to her lips and let her fingers glide nimbly over the length of the tube. As soon as the music left her flute the notes traveled in waves, intelligently guided and searching, to find out our troll’s ears.
He was done for even before he recognized the first note. An irresistible attraction to the sound skipping upon the wind pulled the troll toward his destiny. So beguiling was the magic that the troll was convinced he was the one pursuing the music, never fathoming that the music had pursued him. And so, when he stumbled upon the witch on her log, he felt the conqueror and was quite satisfied with himself.
“Ho!” He said, because the witch, in her cunning, stopped playing moments before she let herself be found by the troll and the magic had already worked in him to such a degree as to be made desperate for it’s sound. “Play, girl.” He ordered, with all the refinement of a troll, “Don’t fear. I promise I won’t crack your skull.”
“I am poor.” The witch replied, “And my family goes hungry, even now. I’m afraid I have no time to play my flute as I must take my eggs to market and sell them for profit.” With that, she tucked the flute under her arm, gathered the basket of eggs and proceeded to leave.
The troll became panicked; ringing his hands and breaking out in a terrible, stinky sweat. Suddenly, loosing the music seemed a fate worse than death to him.
“No. Don’t go.” He pleaded. “What can I give you to stay and play?”
“I know not,” the witch intoned, “what you could possibly give me as I will sell my eggs at market for a gold piece each, and you have naught.”
Worsted by desire he slavishly met the witch’s price. Turning his back on her, in a ridiculous attempt to keep her from seeing what she already knew, he opened the sack a wee bit and carefully pulled out one gold piece, glimmering fantastically in his hand.
“Look ‘ere, girl. I have a gold piece. I’ll buy one of yer eggs from you, if you promise to play me a song.”
He thought to himself and was convinced in his heart: I will hear just one more song; Then, I will be satisfied; Then, I will go to the sea and sail for distant shores.
Thus the witch played him, laughing all the while at the dribbling fool her magic had made of the troll. On egg for one gold piece, all night long. And always the troll told himself: I will hear only one more song and then be on my way.
Until, at last, the witch saw her desire fulfilled, and with the last gold piece in her basket proceeded to pack up and simply, cruelly, walk away. But, one moment she was walking with her basket in one arm and the flute tucked under the other, and then in a twinkling of an eye, was not.
“Easier than catching a lizard by the tail.” Said the troll, rapturously. He held the flute up, firmly in his hand, for the witch to look upon.
She did so and was dashed to pieces.
A low hum, a bass noted vibration, permeated his entire body and the troll was imbued with it’s power. At that moment, it was clear to both who held the greater treasure.
“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” The peasant girl shrieked as she reverted into the vile witch she truly was. All the power and magic she possessed was vested in that flute and without it she would be quite ordinary and useless. Quickly, she assessed the situation and realized, quite accurately, that she would not be able to recover the flute. But, she had her wits about her enough to impart a curse on the troll before her magic dissipated entirely. And that she did readily.
“You,” She cackled, pointing a crooked finger at his eye, “will live forever in love with your music. Yet, your death shall come upon you suddenly.” And then she fled into the forest with her treasure of gold; cursing the day she first laid eyes on it.
As for the witch, she returned to the cave where she first mined the ore for the flute, and lived out her days in solitude and regret. When she died, her body was abandoned to decay in the very corner where she breathed her last, not a single mourner to be found for her in all the world. In a cauldron, where once her potions brewed, was the treasure. Every last gold piece she stole from that troll jealously hoarded and worthless to her. For, it seems, that because of the devastating impact loosing her flute had upon her, she was not able to part with anything she owned ever again.
To be continued...
by C. C. Kurzeja
2005 All Rights Reserved