February 9, 2017

A tale occurred to me. Inspired in no small part by scenes from Ursula Vernon’s Digger, I give you a short framework for the opening to a story, straight from the top of my head. The premise is something like this . . .

Two wagons, each drawn by two horses and laden with goods for sale, clatter along an unfamiliar road. Ahead the wagoneers see a bridge suspended across a ravine. It is a sturdy bridge, but strange and rough. The strangest is that the ropes are looped around thick polished beams, as though someone were to hook and unhook the ropes every day.

Over the noise of the wagons comes a deep sound as of a giant walking through water. One hand appears on the cliff edge, then another, and the horses rear in panic to see a troll heave itself over the edge, sopping wet from the waist down. The wagoneers struggle to calm the animals, and themselves, as the troll unhooks one of the ropes of the suspension bridge without a word. The bridge sways. The troll goes still.

“I’m hungry.” the troll says, its voice reverberating from cliff to cliff.

As the horses nicker, the people speak with each other in hasty high-pitched tones. They talk of money, and animals, and imbalanced loads. One of them eagerly volunteers to shift goods between one wagon and the next. The other wagoneer, with some hesitation, looks to the troll, standing without motion in a puddle of river water.

“We’ll give you a horse.” the wagoneer says.

The troll watches as the wagoneer undoes and drags over the struggling horse. At last it raises a hand and pulls the beast straight out of the human’s grasp. The wagoneers cannot watch as the horse’s cries end in a snap.

With joint urgency, they finish rebalancing the wagons and look to the troll once again. It continues to stand between them and the bridge, yet now it appears almost thoughtful, dangling a horse by the neck in one hand.

“I have a little one to feed.” the troll says.

At first the wagoneers do nothing. Then they confer, in even hastier tones, of money, and animals, and how they aren’t going to carry boxes on their back, and why they couldn’t just float across the ravine on clouds of optimism if they think they’re getting by this one without trouble, and the one yet to speak to the troll bursts out to it.

“Well why not give us your little one, then?!” the wagoneer says.

The troll staggers, dropping the horse’s remains and ending upright as a tree. The wagoneers are frozen just the same, watching the tremendous creature. Water drips off it unheeded. The wind blows across the ravine.

“Asbjørn!” the troll calls, its voice even louder than before.

There is silence, then a deep sound of water, then one hand appears on the cliff edge, then another, and a troll heaves itself over the edge. It is still the size of a human giant, but smaller than its parent, sopping wet from the chest down.

“Good, you brought your club.” the larger troll says.

“Is it time to eat?” asks the child.

“It is time for you to leave.” answers the troll. With one hand it hooks the rope of the suspension bridge back on its beam, and with the other it takes its meal of horse and begins walking back to the cliff edge.

“What?” asks the child. Its parent says nothing, only climbing down the cliff with its toll.

The three horses struggle against their handlers. The wagoneers are speechless. The troll child looks to them blankly. But the bridge is clear.

. . . So that’s just the start. Obviously it isn’t written out in proper final draft (with, you know, “engaging bits”); perhaps it works best as a script, i.e., for the beginning to a roleplay experience. I know that I want to be there when a bridge troll meets human civilization . . . and harvest festivals . . . and muggers . . .

Anyway, the usual statement applies. If you are interested in anything I post and want to use it somewhere (such as in a tabletop gaming session), just ask me. I like to know where my children are.


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