The Virtuous Troll
Once upon a time, in a nearly forgotten land of magic, there stood a towering mountain. There were other mountains around, but this particular mountain was taller by far. The whole range seemed to bow down before it.
Near the top of the mountain was a large cave. Almost always obscured by clouds, this cave and the tiny field next to it made a most comfortable home for a Virtuous Troll
The Troll had lived a good and virtuous life on the mountain. Although he was often completely alone, he had made many friends of the myriad magical creatures who lived in the forests below. He loved having company. The thing the Troll enjoyed most about having guests was the listening. He would listen for hours, never tiring of the fantastical stories his guests would tell.
He loved to offer friends food from his enchanted garden. Then, while they ate, he would regale them with the tale of how his garden became enchanted in the first place. Basically, a kind Gnome he had met one day had enchanted the garden so that the Troll could become a vegetarian. Since that day, he had never eaten meat or harmed any living thing.
The Virtuous Troll was known far and wide by the Sprites, Fairies, Elves, Gnomes, Imps and Werewolves. But these are only a few of the types of creatures he knew. In fact, the Troll was known and loved by nearly all the critters that lived in his domain. Still, he had never met a Human before.
He'd heard countless tales of Humans; they were fearful critters who liked to make villages and keep to their own kind. To the Virtuous Troll, these humans had become the most mysterious of all the magical creatures in the world. He longed to meet one himself one day.
Miles down the mountainside there lay a village. It wasn't a small village, by any means. This particular village was a beautiful mountain resort, which accommodated some of the richest and most noble Human guests in the world during the nicer months. The architecture was exquisite. Towering palaces and chateaus filled the air between the massive pine trees, and a giant stone wall sprawled the outline of the village. The people in the village always assumed they were safe from the inhabitants of the surrounding magical forest. People came and went from the village year after year, but none wandered outside the protective wall during their stay.
There was a relatively small number of families who made the village their home all year, even through the cold, bleak winters. After all, the village required upkeep and maintenance, and the noble visitors needed to be protected and served properly. Within one such family, (Indeed, right in the middle, as he had three older brothers and three younger sisters) was a small boy of eleven named Cyril.
Cyril was a quiet lad who did his chores most of the time with no complaint, although sometimes he felt as though no one in the house worked as hard as him. He was always cooking, cleaning and feeding as though his sisters were his own children. It also didn't help that Cyril was frequently required to be the target in his brothers' various target practices.
Cyril (and only Cyril) knew of a spot at the base of the wall where the ground was unusually soft. He thought it might be easy enough for a boy to dig through. One day, when his sisters were being intolerably fussy, Cyril decided to put his theory to the test. It went smoother than he could have hoped. He was under the wall, then suddenly on the other side, staring at the edge of the magical forest.
The Virtuous Troll was far from his home. He had just dropped off his load of cargo with the lower forest Elves, and they were beyond pleased. The Troll was almost prideful as he recalled the looks on the Elves' faces when he gave them the twenty-four handcrafted stone beds. Altogether, the beds had been just light enough to carry down the mountain. He still found it amusing that the lower forest Elves viewed stone furniture as a valuable luxury. It had only taken two years to make the beds, and the Troll had plenty of stone.
The Troll was making his way back up the mountain quickly. Now unencumbered, he was leaping playfully through the clearings, enjoying the lightness. He was having so much fun, in fact, that he almost squashed a little critter on a patch of grass. He stopped and bent down to apologize only to find that the critter was a tiny Human. He'd never seen one so small, and it most certainly was afraid.
The Human was breathing heavily, paralyzed with fear. The Troll took several paces back and sat on the ground, his eyes fixed on the critter that he could only assume was a Human child. Hours went by. The child did not flee. The Troll did not move. Over time, he could tell that the child's terror was changing to curiosity. Once it reached the tipping point, the Virtuous Troll let a huge smile spread slowly across his face. Seeing this, the child began to smile, and within moments, Human and Troll were laughing together.
Cyril and the Troll talked for hours. Cyril told all about his village, and the Troll listened better than anyone had ever listened to him before. When Cyril was finally too tired and hungry to keep talking, the Troll helped him home (to a safe distance outside the wall).
They said goodbye, but that was not to be their last meeting.
Through his youth, Cyril sneaked out as often as he could get away from his family and work. He and the Troll became close friends. At fourteen, Cyril was appointed Apprentice to the Fortress Guard. This meant that he had more work at home and less time to visit Hans (what they decided to name the Troll together one day). Cyril found it amusing that Hans didn't already have a name.
When Cyril was eighteen he was finally strong enough to make the journey up the mountain on his own. He worked long hours at the Fortress Guard so he could disappear into the magical forest for weeks at a time. He was the only one in the village who dared to venture out. The journey to Hans's cave took three days, but once there, Cyril could eat all he wanted from the enchanted garden.
The people in the village began talking about Cyril, about how he would face the magical forest on his own. They were quiet at first, but by the time he was twenty-two, the townsfolk were calling him Cyril the Brave. He didn't like the talk, even if it was complimentary. He had to keep Hans a secret. No matter what people said about him, what they said about Trolls would never change.
High up in his mountain cave, the Virtuous Troll eagerly awaited each of Cyril's visits. The always had the most wonderful times together. Not that he didn't enjoy his other visitors; he had just become incredibly fond of Cyril. After all, he had watched Cyril grow into a man.
One day in the autumn there was a terrible windstorm. If the Troll didn't weigh five tons himself he may have been blown away. The stones were not even safe, he knew he would have to rebuild most of his home. Rocks fell from above, gathering numbers and speed as they careened down the mountain. The enchanted garden was covered with boulders.
It was the Troll's longest night in a hundred years. He hoped that all the small creatures were safe.
The damage to the village was severe. The wall had been torn through as if it were made of sticks. Several of the most beautiful chateaus had been crushed to pieces. Fortunately, all of the wealthy guests had gone for the season and no one was badly hurt in the avalanche.
During the months of repairing the wall, the village fell victim to all sorts of mischief from the magical creatures of the forest. The people had become afraid, as though a rattling at their door or laughing voices outside their windows at night would hurt them somehow. Cyril's position at the Fortress Guard turned into answering panicked calls at midnight and calming down nervous families. He would assure them that the forest creatures mean no harm, but Cyril could tell that no one believed him.
Although Cyril didn't know where it came from (Fairies perhaps?), he began to hear rumors of a Troll. While he quietly hoped the rumors would cease, they only grew, and Cyril eventually found himself in a meeting. The entire village was there, and fear was in their faces.
What was said in the meeting was mostly a blur to Cyril. There was shouting and crying. Children whimpered as their parents held them too close. At one point, Cyril himself spoke, pleading that it was only the winds that caused the avalanche. He was powerless to stop it. As fear took a tighter hold of the room, through a vote it was decided that there was a Troll, and that the Troll must die.
Although he tried breathlessly to argue, the hero who was chosen to lead the attack party was none other than Cyril the Brave. At least he was able to convince the village to allow him to go alone.
And so it was that Cyril the Brave was armed, set on a white horse, and sent up the mountain by his own people to murder a friend.
The Troll had been busy since the rock slide. The first challenge had been to remove the boulders from his enchanted garden. Once he was growing food again, he had gathered all the excess stones in the area into a magnificent retaining wall. This wall, he hoped, would offer some protection to the Human village below during future avalanches. The virtuous Troll was almost ashamed that, being so large, he still couldn't do more to protect the smaller creatures on the mountainside.
The Troll sat back on the rocks, basking in the satisfaction of his completed work. Almost drifting off to sleep, he was reminded of his little Human friend, Cyril. The tiny, scared boy who grew into Cyril the Brave. It was a title the young man wore proudly. The Troll thought it quite fascinating that Cyril was so interested in names and titles. Still, he was delighted to answer to Hans, which was the name Cyril had chosen for him.
Since the wall around the Human village collapsed, the Troll had not had many visits from his forest friends. He imagined they were having their own fun, invading the village by night and learning about the Humans for themselves.
There was something about the way the Humans shut out the magic. It made it that much more important for the magic to get in.
The Troll was drawn from his reverie by the presence of Cyril, meandering slowly up the path on a white horse. He was decked head to toe in gold armor. He carried a jewel-encrusted sword and a long, shiny spear. On his face he wore the most profound look of fear, confusion and loss the Troll had ever seen. Cyril the Brave approached the Troll with tears in his eyes, unable to speak.
Very soon, the Virtuous Troll knew what he must do. He knew he must return with Cyril; Cyril needed him. The Troll had to help, for he knew that fear must be a terrible burden.
Not a word was spoken between the two friends. After eating from the enchanted garden one last time, the pair silently began walking down the mountain side by side. Neither Human nor Troll knew what awaited them at the bottom.