* * * * * * * * * *
As an attack strategy, running out yelling and waving a hankie didn't strike Watt as particularly inspired. What it lacked in elegance, though, it more than made up for with success. The troll saw him immediately and followed, stumbling over it's own large feet and bellowing right back at him. Right, he though as he jumped to the side to avoid another sneeze-born snot ball. All he needed to do was get the smelly bugger back to the side of the bridge, slap the hankie of anti-doom over its face, and then trip it so it fell into the river. This was totally insane!
It quickly became clear that the troll was not only clumsy, it was dumb. No mater how many times Watt ran straight for the river, the troll inevitably had to stop and sneeze, and then it had to stop and look around for him again. It had apparently not dawned on the troll that he had been running toward the river and only stopping his mad dash long enough to make sure he remained in sight. That didn't mean it was easy. For one thing, the troll had taken to grabbing up random items like tree stumps and chucking them at him before bellowing. Only then would the troll start running after him again.
As he ran, yelling and waving his hankie, feeling like a damned fool and being glad there was no one about to see him, he made a point of keeping an eye on the little mage girl. There was more to her than she presented. For one thing, most people knew common names but not so many people ever thought about the formal versions of them. For another thing, she had come up with this foolish plan in the first place. Cure the Troll's hay fever so it would go back to sleep? Not the way most people thought, though he did have to admit that it was a good, workable solution to the problem. This running around like a fool was not a workable execution of that plan, though.
He stopped running. Just stood there, staring down the troll as it threw things at him. Well, he did duck a few times so that the random detritus didn’t hit him, but other than that, he didn’t flinch. And it worked. The troll stopped throwing things. It stood there bellowing at him, a look of disconcerted confusion on its big ugly face. Finally it stopped bellowing, as well. Watt grinned when he realized this was exactly the method his older brother used when it came to shoeing uncooperative horses. Will let them throw their tantrums while showing them that he was not impressed. Eventually, the horse would grow annoyed that it wasn’t succeeding in scaring him and stop the theatrics. His brother would then hobble the beast and get to work. Will wasn’t the oldest, but he hadn’t need to inherit anything. Their father’s lord had all but begged him to come be his personal farrier. Watt figured he might have to tell Will that the technique worked on trolls, as well. What an interesting conversation that would be!
Once the troll had bellowed itself out, he walked up to the creature authoritatively, the hankie clenched tight in one fist. The trolled watched him uncertainly, stumbling back a step once Watt got close. Here goes nothing, Watt thought as he dodged forward, shoving the hankie into its face.
The troll took a deep breath in preparation for another bellow. The bellow never happened, though. It plucked the small square of linen off its face and looked at it myopically. It didn’t sneeze, though. Watt grinned and looked over at the mage girl, who was cautiously stepping out of the deep brush she had been hiding in.
“Worked like a charm, just like you said it would!” he said happily. The sound of applause startled him. He spun around and found a rather large party of men-at-arms, including several knight, lined up on the far side of the river and watching the spectacle of him trying to give the troll an enchanted hankie. Of course, they had watched. It was his lot in life to make a spectacular ass of himself publicly. The Fates had probably summoned this audience specifically to ensure he had someone other than the mage girl to be an ass in front of. He looked back at Lisa and saw that she’d stopped moving, a look of terror on her pretty face. He glanced back at the troll to see what had her so terrified, but it wasn’t doing anything threatening. In fact, it was slowly ambling toward the bridge, inspecting the hankie and sniffing it from time to time.
“What is it?” he asked in a hushed tone.
Lisa stared at the group of mounted warriors, horrified. There were more than a few in that crowd that she knew on sight, including the old knight sitting on a horse closest to Troll Bridge. He was Sir Cuthbert de Grey, the right hand man of Baron Amesbury, a man she had sat at table with several times.
“Lisa?” Watt asked, looking alarmed. He glanced at the troll, who was wandering around almost aimlessly and inspecting her handkerchief as though he’d never seen such a thing before.
“Ignore me!” she hissed as she stepped back into the bracken, trying to hide her presence from the sharp-eyed knight. He was clear across the bridge still, a good several hundred yards away, so maybe he hadn’t noticed her. But then Watt, the big lunk, started walking towards her, his hansom face a mask of concern.
“Is something wrong? Do you know those people?” he asked, speaking very quietly. Lisa shot a look at him before returning her gaze to the mounted troop, who were beginning to cross the bridge now that the troll had squeezed itself back under it. “Are they not good people?” he asked, his smooth baritone voice hardening noticeably.
“No, they are not… bad people. But I am known to them. Sir Cuthbert, the lead knight is a… friend of my father’s. I’m sure to be recognized and be taken back to my father’s household.”
“And that would be bad because…”
“I ran away because my father contracted me to marry a man older than him!” Lisa whispered harshly. “And blast it, you have led Sir Cuthbert right to me!”
Watt turned his head, noted that the elderly knight was indeed right behind him and dismounting. He faced her, his face schooling itself into a look of determination. “Just go along with me, then,” he muttered before tugging her in tight to his side and turning to face he worst night mare.