“Two silver bonds to get across,” said the Troll. He was a stout, clunky fellow who looked as though he was made out of mossy cobblestones. The beard straggling down his chest was as green as kudzu. There was a large, well-used hammer at his side that made the bridge railing creak where it rested. He had somehow appeared out of the late afternoon shadows within moments of the group’s arrival.
“Two bonds,” he repeated. A sigh escaped him like an unwelcome breeze. “Each.”
“Listen friend, there’s a perfectly usable royal-issue bridge down the road that we could take for a fraction of that price,” said the Fool, “but I’ve always been a loyal patron to er…privately owned businesses such as yours.” The Troll folded his arms but said nothing. The Fool cleared his throat and continued, his eyes darting now and again to the hammer. “Now you have a lovely bridge here, but I’m guessing business hasn’t been great lately, right? So, if you’d be willing to alter your price a bit we’ll be sure to direct everyone we know to your bridge in the future. What do you say?” The Troll’s mud-colored eyes looked him up and down.
“Two bonds each.”
The Fool turned back to the Guide. “How much did you say we had?”
“Six silver bonds is all we can spare.”
“Shit. We may need a new plan then.” The Fool said. He smiled at the Troll, signaling him to wait.
The Knight snorted. “I don’t see why we have to negotiate with this brainless brute! I could easily—”
“Shut up! He will hear you,” said the Healer, “We should just offer him what we have.”
“Or we could leave the Knight behind,” said the Fool. The Guide gave him a stern look and put the money in his hand. The Fool strolled over to the Troll, with a confident air. “We are prepared to offer you, six.”
The Knight lost his patience and stepped forward with his right hand on his hilt. “Step aside foul creature! We are on a mission!”
“I’ve had enough of this!” said the Troll. His deep growl caused them all to freeze. His hammer gripped in his calloused hand.
“Get back Aberdeen!” said the Knight to the Nymph.
“That’s right,” the Troll continued stepping towards the group, “get away from the evil troll—you fuckers. I am a complicated soul! You know what I do all day under this bridge? I read the classics. I’m the first one in my family to finish school. Didn’t think of that did you? You think I am going to spend the rest of my life taking tolls? I can do so much more than this, if you stupid humans could ever get over your rampant troll-bigotry. You know my cousin can’t even get a job as a stone-mason lackey? I am fucking wasted here; no one gets me. Now pay up before I—”
With a harsh battle cry the Knight sprang into action. The Troll was caught unbalanced and was only able to dent the Knight’s shoulder guard. In a sound, metallic, blow there was a messy spray of blood and the Troll’s torso was cleaved open. He lay at the Knight’s feet, gurgling with a poet’s rage as the breath left him.
“Huzzah!” cried the Knight. He turned and raised his fist in salute to the group, relishing the rush of battle. The rest stared back at him in horror and confusion.
“What is wrong with you?” said Aberdeen. Her eyes wide and brimming with tears at the the carnage before her.
“But…troll…bad guy,” said the Knight. His fist dropped to his side.
“Wow, Steve, you’re even more of a prick than I thought,” said the Fool.
“Where’s your self-control? Your compassion?” said the Healer. He pulled out his own blanket to cover the still-bleeding corpse.
“You saw him!” the Knight continued, “He was going to kill us! I mean…didn’t you see the size of that hammer?”
“Knight, if you ever charge someone without me giving you specific instructions to do so, you can find your own way home,” said the Guide. She brushed past him and the dead troll, careful not to get blood on her cloak, and led the group across the bridge. The Knight paused, looking from his bloodied broadsword, to the troll, and back at the group.
“You better get a move on, Steve. There’s never really just one troll, and we are not going to cover for you,” said the Fool. The Knight followed, frowning in bewilderment.