For this week’s #fridayflash story, I present a whimsical little yarn about a bunch of trolls, lamenting their lot in the modern world. It’s not really a complete story, more a vignette, a snapshot in the secret lives of trolls. It’s possible that there’s a bigger story hidden in here somewhere, but for now I’ll let this piece go as a #fridayflash whimsy.
Decennial General Meeting
‘Sorry I’m late.’ Glom collapsed onto a log, running one hand over his knobbly face. He smoothed back his tangled grey hair. ‘This bloody walk seems longer every time.’
‘You’re just getting older,’ grinned Flarg. ‘We all are,’ he added quickly.
Glom picked up a gnarled stick. He waved it at Dendel, who rummaged in a bag, producing a wad of meat. Glom nodded his thanks, stuck the meat on the stick and thrust it into the fire between them. It hissed then began to brown.
‘It’s a pain,’ Dendel said absently. ‘Why do we bother?’
‘Tradition,’ said Cronk authoritatively. He was the squattest of them all and had the air of one that knew everything. He was alone in this self assessment.
‘Tradition bollocks,’ barked Glom.
They were silent, moonlight bathing the woods. Old trees ringed the clearing, silhouettes guarding the meeting. Night creatures muttered and hooted beyond the firelight. Glom pulled his meat from the flames and chewed noisily.
‘Well, while we’re here…’ Shrend said, looking around. He wriggled his green toes, nails like gravestones piercing the earth.
‘I had a lad last month,’ Bilglen announced. ‘I spent weeks coaxing him, playing to his human curiousity.’ His face darkened. ‘When I got him he had a cold. Tasted mostly of snot.’
Dendel laughed, baring teeth like chunks of old wood. ‘You’re an animal, Bil.’
Bilglen grinned. ‘Aren’t we all?’
‘We should mind our reputation,’ Flarg said thoughtfully, ‘There was a time we’d only eat the fairest young humans.’
‘Hah!’ All eyes turned to Cronk, bushy eyebrows raised, faces barely concealing contempt. ‘Well,’ Cronk went on, defensively, ‘you talk about reputation. None of you even live under a bridge any more.’
‘No one lives under bridges any more, except you,’ Glom said, spitting out a bone. He paused, then retrieved the bone and popped it back into his mouth.
‘Takes too much energy,’ agreed Shrend. ‘The magic you need to be invisible for such long periods isn’t worth it.’
‘You’re the ones that brought up reputations!’
Shrend pointed at Flarg. ‘He brought up reputations.’
‘You have to move with the times,’ Dendel said ruefully. ‘It gets harder every year. Most bridges have motorways under them these days. There are more people all the time, but it gets harder to eat them. Look at Bil, coaxing snotty little brats into the woods. Weeks he said it took him. There was a time when I ate every week!’ He looked sadly down at his scrawny legs and hairy pot belly.
The group slipped into silence again, scratching at boils and testicles. The moon hung above them, incurious.
‘Do you still live under that bridge?’ asked Flarg eventually. Cronk nodded. ‘And look at you, fat and bloated. You look like you eat whenever you like.’
Cronk smiled a nasty smile. It said, You should all be more like me.
‘Well,’ Dendel said into the icy silence. ‘Is there any business to discuss? We travel all this way, use up loads of magic. It’s only once a decade.’
The others shuffled uncomfortably. Only Cronk sat still, fat and superior on a tree stump, sneering.
Dendel sighed. ‘I spoke to Soliloguin a few weeks ago. He said his people are moving up to Pict. The Nottingham forests are reducing every year. They have hardly any room left to hunt.’
Glom looked up. ‘Really? Long journey for them.’
Bilglen laughed. ‘Crossing a stream is a long journey for an Imp!’
Glom rolled his eyes. ‘That’s the point. If they reckon Nottingham is getting too small for them, what chance do we have? What about the Leprechauns?’
Dendel shook his head. ‘Dunno. Flarg? You know a few, right?’
‘Not any more,’ Flarg said wistfully. ‘None left in Albion now. They’ve all gone back to Emerald. Like the Faerie.’
‘Merlin’s Cock!’ cried Glom.
Bilglen nodded. ‘These humans are a plague.’
‘Ironic it is, but it’ll be the end of us.’ Glom poked his stick into the coals of the fire. ‘There used to be a time when you’d find us under just about every bridge.’ He scowled at Cronk, who sniffed and folded his arms. ‘Then the bridges became unsafe…’
‘Not all of them,’ said Cronk.
Glom glared. ‘Most bridges became unsafe. Then people stopped walking over bridges, driving everywhere instead, completely oblivious to nature. We retreat into woods and they start running roads through all the forests. Rock me, some of us even started walking out in the sunshine, considering eternity as stone the easier option! Now what? There’s six of us here, a dozen in Pict, a couple in Cym. Who knows about Emerald.’
‘Actually,’ Flarg said, ‘there are a few there. My cousin was visiting and he said they’re doing okay. Still lots of open spaces. Far fewer than the old days, but they’re getting by.’
Glom scowled. ‘Well, bully for those scrotes. The fact remains, life isn’t what it used to be.’
Cronk made a noise of dismissal. ‘For some of us.’ All eyes turned to him. ‘I’m just saying. Moving with the times is not all it’s cracked up to be.’
‘Right!’ Glom stood up, swiftly clearing the fire. The thatch around his balls flared as the flames licked it. He grabbed Cronk by his squishy neck.
Cronk squealed, scrabbling at Glom’s fingers. The others around the fire leapt up, shouting uselessly.
‘Rock him!’ Glom yelled and grabbed Cronk’s ankles with his other hand. Upending the fat troll he slammed his head down into a rock, a pile driver of wobbling flesh. Cronk’s head burst like an egg dropped from a nest.
Silence descended on the group. They all stood frozen. Glom still held Cronk, dripping. He looked slowly around, an expression best described as ‘Oops’ etched into his craggy features.
‘So,’ said Flarg. ‘Five left in Albion.’
‘On the upside,’ said Dendel slowly, ‘I hear there’s a good bridge location available near Exeter.’