Once upon a time Scrivener Jones ran. He ran awkwardly, like a disjointed scarecrow, all elbows and knees flailing. To an onlooker, Scrivener looked like he might knock himself out at any moment. But Scrivener had been running like a madman for years.
When he’d been a little sprite, Scrivener had to run from his brothers. All five were bigger, and faster. So Scrivener’s running style was one part evasion, two parts self-taught martial art. If you tried to grab him while he was running, chances are good you’d get an elbow and a knee before he went down. That was the idea.
But what was chasing Scrivener now didn’t care about elbows or knees, unless they were deeply marinated in a spicy sauce overnight. Then they made a crunchy snack. To a troll, human bits can be divided into soft snacks and crunchy snacks. In troll culinary circles, there is some debate about when it is proper to turn a soft bit into a crunchy bit, and whether it enhances the flavor. Traditionalist trolls who avoid all modern conveniences like fire maintain a strictly raw diet. But reformist trolls think that fire is a modern convenience worth having, and aren’t above getting chiseled with a design or even a few human letters spelling out a rude word.
It was three reformist trolls that were chasing Scrivener, which gave him no comfort. One of the trolls had “fart” chiseled on his chest. The second troll wore a necklace of human skulls, and the third troll came from a traditionalist family so was unadorned except for some dirt he’d smeared on himself in what he hoped was a rude word, but which spelled “love.” It’s hard to get any human dictionaries up in troll country, and encyclopedia salesmen are just meals on wheels.
The trolls were gaining on Scrivener. He got tired, and they just ran like boulders rolling downhill. Which, if you think about it, are pretty much what trolls are: living boulders. They don’t really process humans, and need other rocks to maintain their shape and form. Humans are more like troll snack food, a junky alternative to healthy granite and basalt. Again, knowing that he was the troll equivalent to a pastry was little comfort to Scrivener.
Why had Scrivener been out after dark? Blame it on the Jenkins girl, who was fluffy and blonde and as mean as a pit adder. Poor Scrivener had come mooning about after her like every other boy in town, and she’d taken it into her head to get rid of them all by announcing that she would kiss the first boy who brought her strawberries. Never mind that they weren’t in season yet, and wouldn’t be for almost a month. Scrivener had known about the mountain berry patch for years. It was near an almost-safe cave for hiding.
The cave was almost safe because during the daylight hours the trolls had rolled a boulder over the back of it and wouldn’t come out. But after dark the young ones had taken to coming up on the surface and engaging in risky behaviors like “sun dares” where they stayed out until dawn and raced the morning light back into the cave. More than one young troll had been lost to stone this way, and the elders expressly forbade it. Which shows just how little the elders understood the rebellious nature of the reform movement.
Scrivener slipped, and tumbled down a shallow ravine, lying in a tangle at the bottom. The three trolls skidded to a halt around him. It was their first chase down, and the three weren’t quite sure how to finish the job. It’s one thing to brag to your friends about how much human you’ve been eating, and another thing entirely to take a human from the natural state right through to roasting. Skull necklace troll had only tried a little crispy human at a cave rally once. He looked hopefully at the human for crunchy bits with his blinking obsidian eyes. The unadorned troll was trying to be calm about their capture. He figured his buddies ate human every day of the week. It was only the poor trolls with traditionalist parents that were deprived of human food.
So it was up to the third troll, the one with fart on his chest, to make the first move. He’d had human before, but never had to chase it down. The humans he’d seen had been much less active, because they’d been dead. It had taken a surprisingly long time to run this one down, and he didn’t want to risk letting it bolt free. So he hauled up a small tree and laid it across poor Scrivener’s middle. Scrivener groaned.
“What’d did you do that for?” asked Skull Necklace. What he really said was rock grinding that sounded like a very sick car engine, but since very few readers speak Trollish, we’ll translate here. “We need it stuck in one place while we build a fire.” Said Fart. “Why?” asked Unadorned. “Can’t we just eat him raw?”
Both other trolls looked at Unadorned with disgust. “Raw?” said Skulls. “We’ll catch something. Who knows where it’s been? Probably full of rock rot or moss crumble.” “Besides,” said Fart. “We can use fire, and we should use fire, because it’s modern.” Unadorned looked at his feet, chastised.
The troll boys set about gathering wood while Scrivener struggled under the tree. They soon had a wood pile the size of a small house.
“Let’s start it up,” said Skulls. “We need a torch or something,” said Fart. “No,” said Unadorned. “We can use any two stones to get a spark going.”
If Scrivener had any perspective on the situation, he would have been amazed to see the three trolls smashing rocks together to get sparks to start their damp, house-sized fire. If he’d been watching closely Scrivener would have seen the boys realize that the rocks they were shattering were a very nice granite with a sweet vein of quartz, and watch in surprise as they set to eating the rocks they were using to try and light the fire.
But Scrivener had no eyes for anything but what hung two feet from his face. There, in the moonlight filtering down through the trees, was a strawberry. How it had grown here so early had everything to do with a falling tree opening up the forest canopy and the warm ravine it found itself in, but to Scrivener it was a sign from Dolmens, Goddess of forbidden love. He struggled to free himself from under the tree, not for his life but for his quest for the fair Jenkins girl. To get to the strawberry, Scrivener had to get free. But as he clasped the strawberry, Scrivener had a momentary confusion about what should happen next. He was like someone waiting for a friend who starts reading a book and becomes so engrossed he does not recognize the friend on his arrival.
When his wits returned, Scrivener crawled carefully out of the ravine, cradling the strawberry in one hand. He belly crawled until he was out of sight, and then raced for home.
When the three trolls discovered that the human was gone, they were all relieved. It was time to start heading up to the cave again. Even Fart had lost his appetite for sun surfing tonight. Besides, he had a nice piece of granite riddled with quartz for his younger sister. All three agreed they would tell everyone in the caves that the human had been delicious raw. “Very old school,” said Skulls.
Scrivener made it back to the village before dawn. He pounded on the Jenkins’ door and presented the bleary-eyed Mr. Jenkins with a strawberry and his story. Mr. Jenkins was horrified that his daughter was selling kisses for strawberries but had the sense to understand the danger Scrivener had gone into to get the berry. He roused his daughter and Scrivener got his kiss, a reluctant peck on the cheek. By morning it had become the kiss of true love in his mind, but Mr. Jenkins kept his daughter away from the boys after that and eventually sent her off to a nunnery to be schooled. There she had a conversion experience and became both a nun and a school teacher.
Scrivener? Well, Scrivener married the princess, of course. But that’s another story.
- “We’re all trolls.” (althouse.blogspot.com)
- Taking out the troll trash (forums.crackberry.com)
- More Than Water Under the Bridge (iheartprintandplay.blogspot.com)
- Three generations of artists collaborate to educate the next generation (kathleenjshields.wordpress.com)
- How Do YOU Deal with Meeting Trolls? (sumofminds.wordpress.com)
- Anti-Trolling Awareness – All trolls are probably psychopaths (iamanafterschoolspecial.wordpress.com)
- Tell a Story Day: Part 21 (katrich.wordpress.com)
- Seth’s Blog: A field guide to the Meeting Troll (sethgodin.typepad.com)