Ok, on to the story. This week's chunk is a re-posting from the last blog hop I participated in. If it looks familiar, that's why. I will say that I have done a few minor changes to it in the course of working on the story, but most of the changes involve me adding to the chapter, not rewriting the originally posted portion.
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The troll sneezed and a wave of noise echoed through the valley like a peal of thunder, made more ominous by the fact the sky was a lovely, cloudless blue. Watt quickly ducked behind a large boulder and waited for the debris to clear—he had already learned the hard way not to stand in the open when the troll sneezed, lest he find himself covered in things best left unmentioned. Once he felt it was safe, he peered cautiously out from behind his shelter. The troll hadn’t moved. It was still sitting on a tree stump next to the only bridge across the River Tam that the spring rains hadn’t flooded out. Its presence effectively barred safe travel along Trader’s Road and cut off all commerce to Kernow.
“Tell me again,” he said with quiet dread, “Why, exactly are we doing this?”
“Because we want to eat,” came the reply form Lisa, the apprentice mage who had volunteered to accompany him on this damn fool mission. “Kampton hasn’t received any supplies in a fortnight, so there’s nothing to eat if you didn’t grow it yourself.”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “But why are we doing it?”
“Really, Watt,” she said with a huff. “You know why. The captain of the city guard said he had no need of another untrained soldier, but you were welcome to go try your hand at killing trolls.”
“And you volunteered to accompany me because your master kicked you out of his house after saying that he didn’t want to feed an apprentice that wasn’t any good,” Watt said, picking up the thread of her statement. “But why are we doing it, and not some gallant knight in shining armor or a fully trained wizard or something?”
“I’m a very good mage,” Lisa shot back hotly, ignoring the last few words and focusing on the easily debated portion. “I’m just not flashy, is all. I prefer to use one well-thought-out small magic rather than a huge spell that makes a lot of noise. It’s more efficient,” she added with a sniff.
“And about the small magic you promised,” Watt said. “What have you come up with? Or do you need me to get you even closer than this to figure out how to defeat that smelly lump of snot?”
“This is close enough,” she muttered. He turned and looked at her, just now realizing that she had been up to something while he kept an eye on their query.
“What are you doing?” he asked when he saw her grinding what looked like twigs and dirt into a handkerchief. He carefully peaked out to make sure the troll hadn’t moved since the last Earth-shattering sneeze—it hadn’t—before slipped back far enough to look over her shoulder.
“Spelling this cloth to ease his allergies,” she mumbled as she gathered the corners together into a pouch and shook the bundle vigorously.
“You’re making… a what? A white hankie of anti-doom? And I’m supposed to just walk up and offer it to the troll?” Watt asked incredulously.
“More or less,” she agreed cheerfully. Watt stared at the small blonde haired girl, flabbergasted, as she muttered a few magical phrases of gibberish before flinging the herbs out of the handkerchief with a dramatic flick of her wrist.
“There!” she said, handing the now dirty white hankie of anti-doom to him as if offering him the sword Excalibre.
He didn’t take it.
“Watt,” she said sternly.
“What?” he asked back, belatedly realizing how silly he sounded. Really, it wasn’t his fault that his name rhymed with ‘what.’
“Go give this cloth to the troll,” she said slowly, as if talking to a backwards child.
“Say I manage to get him to take your magic hankie,” he hedged, still not accepting the scrap of linen, “then what? The troll will still be blocking off access to the only passable bridge in the county. And it’ll probably still be sneezing since it’s a troll. Trolls don’t blow their noses, Lisa! It won’t even begin to understand what it’s supposed to do with the bloody thing!”
“Well, do you have a better idea?” she asked with a sneer.
“Yeah!” he huffed back at her. “Make me a potion of something that will turn him into stone when I dump it on him or something!”
“I’m sorry,” she snapped back. “I can’t do that kind of high magic. It would take a real wizard to do something like that and you haven’t got a wizard to help you. Just me, a level two apprentice mage.”
They sat there, crouched behind a boulder, glaring at each other while the troll sneezed and then sneezed again. As one, they realized that the second sneeze had sounded much closer than the first. Watt gulped nervously and peeked around the top of the boulder. The troll must have heard them bickering, because it had gotten up from its tree stump and was shambling their way, swinging its brutish head from side to side as it looked for them.
“Right then,” Watt said, reaching blindly behind him for the white hanky of anti-doom. “I need to find some way to get the troll to blow its nose.”
“Just get it onto the troll’s face so it covers his mouth and nose,” Lisa whispered as she shoved the hanky into his groping hand. “His breathing should be enough to get the spell into his sinus cavity, where it’ll go to work and end this bout of hay fever.”
“And then what?” he hissed. She shrugged once, looking terrified.
“I assume the troll will go on about his business once he’s not feeling so poorly. He doesn’t usually sit next to the bridge, after all.”
“Right,” Watt muttered. “Right, I’ll just slap the hanky over his nose and then somehow get him to retreat back under his bridge, where he belongs.”
“You might try tripping him when his face is covered with the hanky,” Lisa pointed out. “He looks pretty clumsy.”
Watt looked at her, realizing belatedly that she had moved up and was peering at the troll over the top of the boulder. She looked back at him and shrugged again.
“It can’t be that easy,” he said in awe. “If it were that easy, someone would have tried it by now.”
“Most people think big problems need bid solutions,” Lisa replied. “The fact is, that troll’s always been here, sleeping under that bridge and bothering nobody. We don’t need to get him to go away, just go back to sleep.”
“And since he’s sneezing, it’s probably just hay fever that woke him up,” Watt said back, finally seeing the brilliance of her plan. “White hanky of anti-doom, indeed!”
They grinned at each other and then ducked behind their impromptu shelter when the troll sneezed again.
“Here goes nothing,” Watt muttered before darting out from behind the boulder. “Oy! You, there!” he yelled at the troll.