Tag: trolls are apparently allergic to sunlight

6.20 – Lair

“No.”

For a second, the troll’s face hung slack and stupid. Einarr could see the moment when it realized she meant it: rage began to build like a squall on the ocean, until finally the storm broke. The creature roared: “What?”

Einarr and his companions flinched away from the thunderous noise. Not that he could blame the troll entirely. “Um, Runa, isn’t that why we came all this way?”

“I’m not going in there, Einarr. Not with it smelling like a half-rotted carcass someone tossed in an outhouse. Whatever this ‘bad-head’ is, the first step to curing it is cleaning their lair.”

“Poison light comes. Lair clean enough. Music lady fix bad-head.”

“I cannot treat anyone in a place that smells like that. I will not be able to breathe, let alone sing, and I may well vomit. I cannot ‘fix bad-head’ or anything else under those circumstances.”

She had a point, but Einarr doubted the troll could see that. Especially since it had minutes to get inside before the sun turned it to stone. He sighed and turned to the troll. “Look. She’s right, but I know you can’t be out much longer either. So why don’t…” Einarr glanced at Erik. He was going to hate this. “Why don’t we see what we can do to make your cave less smelly.”

Predictably, he got a long flat look from Erik. That didn’t sound like he intended to fight him about it, at any rate, and right now that was what he cared about. The faster Runa was able to fulfill her promise, the sooner they could get back on the water. Einarr already shuddered to think how many of their friends might have been claimed by the insanity of the black blood.

The troll looked at Einarr just as stupidly as he had looked at Runa’s refusal. It was dancing a little, anxious to be inside. “Music lady friends want help?”

Want was probably a strong word, but he went with it. “We do.”

“Good good. In come. Make good for music lady.” The troll darted under the cover of the cave roof then, and beckoned them to follow.

Einarr made it wait a little longer. “Runa. Hide yourself somewhere, will you? Climb a tree. If something happens… if we end up in the cookpot…”

She raised her chin haughtily. “What sort of a woman do you take me for? I will climb a tree, but if they turn on you I will have my vengeance on them.”

Jorir had caught up, he saw. Einarr opened his mouth to protest, but stopped himself. Good enough. “We’ll hurry.”

The sound of tearing cloth caught his attention. When he turned around, Jorir was offering him a square of fabric: the other two already had some tied to cover their noses. Gratefully, Einarr accepted the mask. “Let’s go,” he said once the knot was secure.

***

The troll’s lair was filthy, of course, but not in the manner of a beast’s filth. Beasts could be relied on not to shit in their own bed. Trolls, evidently, were more akin to the most worthless class of humanity, and could not. They had no more than stepped inside the cave when Einarr wished he’d told them to wait for evening, for under any other circumstance here would say this did not need cleaned, but rather burned.

By midday, however, the worst of the filth had been washed away, revealing a pair of mouldering straw mats and a fire pit near the entrance. On one of those straw mats slept a troll even uglier than the one who had led them here, and plainly the one suffering from “bad head.” Not that Einarr had any clearer idea what that meant now that Runa could stomach entering the cave to see to her patient.

Einarr frowned out at the meadow beyond the cave. That there was nothing he could do to help rankled, somehow, and keeping watch outside of a troll cave seemed singularly useless – even when one of the trolls in residence was rather thoroughly incapacitated.

Erik, for his part, had taken out a knife and begun carving a piece of wood he’d found outside the cave. He seemed strangely relaxed, given the circumstances.

“Never took you for a whittler,” Einarr said to break the silence.

Erik shrugged one shoulder and continued carving. “Times like these, gives me something to do besides worry. And let’s face it, we’ll need fish hooks when we get off this rock.”

Einarr snorted. “That we will. You don’t think this was a mistake?”

“What, coming here to help a troll? Nah. She may be spoiled rotten, but your Lady has a decent head on her shoulders, and she knows the Tales besides. Between her an’ you, we’ll get back to the Cap’n. I’m sure of it.”

Einarr didn’t answer right away, staring out across the field. It was quite picturesque under the midmorning sun, actually. It was hard to believe that a troll lived here at all, let alone that there was anything dangerous lurking in the grass. Finally he managed to get his voice to work again, even if he did still choke a little on the words. “Thank you, Erik.”

“You are your father’s son, lad. I told you this spring: not a man aboard the Vidofnir wouldn’t follow you to the gates of Hel itself.” Erik paused, and shot a sidelong look at him, and his mouth curled in wry humor. “Of course, that’s before they all hear about the raven feathers.”

Einarr rolled his eyes. “Quiet, you. You’d have done the same thing, in my shoes.”

“I’m pretty sure it would have been Irding if he’d seen them.” Erik chuckled now. “That’s what it is to be a young hothead.”

Erik’s mouth opened to say more, but then Runa’s voice carried forward from the back of the cave. “…- bad air. Make sure he gets out of the cave every night, even if you have to carry him yourself. Your brother should come back to his right mind over the next few days, so long as you do that and keep this place…” She hesitated, and disgust filled her voice when she settled on the word. “Clean. Cleaner than we found it this morning. Move the fire outside. Dig yourselves a pit away from the door. And if he starts trashing things, give him a little Frigg’s grass.”

The familiar troll’s voice made a noise of agreement.

“Good,” Jorir answered. “And now, we must go.”

Jorir and Runa emerged from the cave a moment later and took a deep breath of the comparatively fresh air.

Einarr straightened off of the wall where he leaned. “Ready, then?”

“More than,” the two answered together.

Jorir set out ahead. “Come on,” he said. “I know the way back to the ridge.”


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6.19 – Forest Chase

Einarr could not get past the idea that this was somehow still a trap. The troll, apparently guileless, led them up to the ridge, to the place where he was apparently accustomed to climbing back up. There was one immediate problem.

“I can’t climb that,” Runa stated. Even had she dressed like a man, in trousers, Einarr expected that would have been the case. She simply hadn’t had the opportunity for much rock climbing in her life.

“Erik? Are you up to carrying a passenger?” Einarr was already thinking of alternate solutions: it was not a tall ridge, but the hand holds looked tricky. Einarr was quite certain he would not have the strength to take a second person.

The big man stared dubiously at the rock wall before them. As he opened his mouth to answer, however, Runa screamed.

The troll, without so much as a by-your-leave, scooped Runa up in one grimy paw and tossed her over his shoulder. She looked faintly green as he turned and put that same paw up on the wall.

Einarr drew Sinmora and leveled it at the creature. “What do you think you’re doing?”

The troll turned its head to look at the warriors following it, its expression that of a befuddled hound. “Troll help music lady. Music lady fix bad-head. Come. We climb.”

The troll started up. Runa squawked and clutched at the greasy skin that the monster wore by way of clothing. Reluctantly, Einarr sheathed his sword once more and shared a dubious look with Jorir and Erik. There was nothing to be done, though – not just at the moment, anyway – and so he climbed after, keeping as sharp an eye on the brute as the ascent would allow.

Eventually, though, they came to the top of the ridge and the line of evergreens that Einarr had noted earlier. The troll stood patiently, making no move to leave them behind – but Einarr wondered if he had forgotten Runa was thrown over his shoulder.

“Run now?” It asked, sounding hopeful.

“No. Now you put her down, and then we follow you like we did below.”

“Oh.” It had the temerity to look disappointed. “Puny ones move faster? Poison light soon.”

Poison light? The sun? “Fine. But the Lady walks on her own.”

The troll heaved a sigh, but set Runa down without further complaint. “Troll cave this way.”

Then he was off at a lope, and Einarr was stunned to realize it probably didn’t think this was fast. It was probably moving at about a horse’s trot – but a horse’s trot is still faster than most men could run, let alone dwarves.

Einarr called back over his shoulder: “Jorir! I’ll mark trail. Catch up as you can!” And that was all the breath he could spare for a while. Not that marking a trail was particularly difficult: neither the troll, nor he, nor Erik, paid much attention to the brush as they crashed through it. Most likely they left a trail a blind man could follow.

The troll led them in essentially a straight line through the underbrush, over fallen logs and through brambles (although nothing so thick as they had seen below), and soon Runa, too, was having trouble keeping up. The troll had not so much as looked back. Perhaps, if they simply stopped running and hid in the forest until daybreak…? But no. Runa had promised the benighted creature help, and he would not make her go back on her word. “Troll!”

“Man!” A sound like chuckling carried back toward them. “Nearly there.”

“Slow down! Music lady not so fast as you.” Neither was Einarr or Erik, but the troll only needed Runa.

The troll stopped to look back at the panting humans. Impatiently, Einarr thought. “Poison light soon. Must cave be.”

“Why were you so far out in the first place?”

“Talk later. Cave now. Music lady shoulders?”

Einarr was about to refuse again, but Runa raised a forestalling hand as she half-stumbled past him.

“No, it’s fine.” She took a deep breath. “He smells bad, and I’ll want a bath, but it’s fine.”

Einarr glared at the troll, but Runa paid him no mind as she stepped forward. “More gently this time, if you please.”

For a wonder, the troll not only understood but obliged, setting Runa upright on his shoulder as delicately as though she were made of glass. Einarr frowned. Something about this didn’t mesh with what Afi had taught him about trolls. Was it perhaps loyalty to another of its kind – its mate, perhaps? Or was Runa right – was this his Calling coming to the fore once again? If that was so, was that even a troll?

Einarr shook his head: he had no more time to wonder, as the brute was loping off again, this time with his bride on its shoulder. And there was no way in all the Realms he would let them out of his sight.

The troll’s path led them out of the strip of forest and into another meadow in the shadow of the mountain, and by the time Einarr could see firelight coming from the mouth of the cave the horizon had turned from indigo to grey. Whatever his faults, the troll had been honest with them thus far. Thus far. It’s too early to relax. There’s still no promise the cure for whatever “bad-head” is won’t involve eating us.

The troll came to a stop by the fire just outside of a large granite cave mouth where the edge of the field began to slope up into the mountain. As Einarr and Erik jogged to a stop, Einarr nearly gagged as the smell of rot assailed his nose from within the cave. Runa was patting frantically at the creature’s shoulder to be let down and taking quick, shallow breaths. For the smell to affect her this much even after riding on the troll’s shoulder all this way… Einarr was suddenly glad to be a sailor.

“Music lady fix bad-head now. Inside.”

Runa turned her face from the cave mouth, trying to smell less of it. She still looked as though she wanted to throw up. “No.”


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If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.