Gruff suspected that something was wrong with Graff. His youngest brother was no longer the gambolling, carefree soul he had once been. No longer content on their side of the river, Graff yearningly stared across the rushing waters at the green meadow beyond.
The change had come about two days after he, Gruff, had suffered a night of bad dreams. In his sleep he had envisioned that a moth, black as the night it swooped through, had danced in his ear.
‘Let me in, let me in,’ the moth had called.
Awakening in fear, Gruff had checked on his younger siblings. All was well, and the moth’s chant had drifted away on the night breeze.
Now, with the nightmare nothing but a receding memory, Gruff wondered what could have had gotten into Graff to cause his brother’s longing for yonder grass.
Hearing the trip-trap of tiny hooves on its roof, the troll rose from its lair. It climbed from the dampness by the river and heaved itself onto the wooden bridge. Before it, a small goat trembled in fear.
‘Hello, food,’ the trolled growled with a lascivious smile. As it stepped forward, its breakfast spoke to it.
‘Please, o might troll, you would not like to eat me, for I am weak and scrawny. Have patience, for soon my brother Griff will come, and he is by far a tastier meal.’
The troll’s stomach grumbled, shaking the rickety bridge. It was true that this young goat before it would not fill its belly. Perhaps if it waited, it would be rewarded with a meatier offering.
Reluctantly, the troll allowed the kid passage and returned to its bed.
It was not long before the troll heard more trip-trapping overhead. Clambering up once more, it was delighted to see a better morsal had arrived.
‘Hello, food,’ it said lustfully. As the troll stepped forward, its lunch spoke.
‘Please, o might troll, you would not like to eat me, for I am small by comparison to my brother Gruff. Have patience, for soon he will come and a more delicious meal he is by far.’
Having skipped breakfast and twice exerted itself with the journey from its home to the bridge-top, the troll’s hunger was ferocious. This medium-sized goat before it had no chance of sating its craving for meat. Again, the troll let the food go past and went back to its lair.
The next trip-trap, trip-trap the troll heard was louder. With glee, it hurried back up the bridge and smiled at the juicy, fat goat before it.
‘Hello, food,’ it said licentiously. Stepping forward, the troll was not surprised to hear its dinner speak.
‘Please, o might troll, you would not like to challenge me, for I am strong and wily and would surely best you in combat.’
The troll grinned, drool slobbering down its chin. It lifted its heavy club, ready to bash at the large goat, but the goat was faster. Gruff rushed at the troll, snared it in his horns and tossed the troll over the side of the bridge. The troll, hungry, helpless and exhausted by its futile climbs up and down the bridge, was swept away by the strong river current.
And, in the green meadow, the three brother goats enjoyed the bountiful grass.
That evening, the night-moth freed itself from Graff and returned to the castle beyond the meadow. The Mistress would be pleased. Her plan had worked.
For months she had hungrily looked on at the pleasant food the three goats offered. But she knew she had no chance of devouring them, not while her captor still lay in wait under the bridge.