This story was first published at Anotherealm.com, back when they paid $10 per story. It was not only my first publication, but it was PAID!
A little background on this story: It was born as the result of a writing challenge at Orson Scott Card's Hatrack Writer's Workshop--which is a fantastic online community for speculative fiction writers dipping their toes into the pool of the writing world. It's free, supportive, friendly, informative, with a good mix of new and experienced writers. But back to the challenge: we were challenged to rewrite an assigned fairy tale in any way we chose. We could simply flesh out the original story, write a prequel or sequel, take the basic elements of the story and come up with something entirely new. Whatever. More than anything it was an exercise in formulating story ideas.
We ended up with an astonishingly broad range of stories--from a space opera in which the bridge was a passage between two stars, to a mainstream work in which the grumpy downstairs neighbor is irritated by the tapdancing girls upstairs, to the development of a whole new fantasy world in which all the fantasy creatures live on one side of the bridge and the 'real' world exists on the other.
This one, "Trip Trap," was mine:
By Suzanne Vincent
Trolls? Sure I hunted trolls. Lots of 'em. Hundreds of 'em. Hairy beasts always lurking under bridges and scaring folks.
But that was a long time ago. No more tripping and trapping over rivers in fear of having your brains sucked out by one of them smelly buggers. Nope. Not no more. Extinct, they are. EX-STINKED!
And I was there when they drug the last one out of the water and beat him to death, right there in the mud of the riverbank. He put up an awful fight, screaming and hollering and trying to take one of us with him. That's how I got this here scar. Ugly, eh?
But it was me what had the honor of gutting him out and lighting fire to the remains. You had to burn it. All of it. And anything what didn't get burnt had to be kept away from the other bits for a few hours or the demon could come to life again.
See that there? That's his hide. Damn thing bucked and twisted for half a day before it died. Makes a nice bit of carpet, but it took months to wash the stink out of it. Hair's all soft and fine once you clean all the mud and sticks and bugs out of it, too. And now it's mine. My prize. Fitting that I should have it, being a descendant of Billy Bob Gruff himself.
Now, don't you go sneering at me. All high and mighty and talking about the pity of losing a whole species. You listen to wisdom, son. There's just some species what don't belong on God's earth. And trolls was one of 'em.
You're too young to remember. Too young to have seen one livin'. Fearsome devils, they were. Grow bigger than a horse some of 'em. Sharp nasty teeth all yella' and green, and breath what smelt like rotted meat, seein' as how that's what they ate. After they sucked the brains out, anyway. Them critters wouldn'ta cared one wit about your bleedin' heart compassion for the plight of their species. Might even think it made you taste sweeter. He-heh!
Sure, I know the story. Been passed down in my family for generations. Nowadays though, you uppity young folk tell it all twisted up. Try to make them trolls out to be the victims of the bloodthirsty Gruffs.
Oh, all right. All right. I'll tell it like I know. Like it was. Like my Great-great-great-granddaddy Gruff writ it down.
Great-great-great-granddaddy was the oldest of a long string of kids. He was one of them what started out kinda scrawny, but worked hard and built up his muscles and et' his veg'tables. But, like every kid, he was scared of them trolls. They liked kidmeat, special. Hunted our kind out when they could. It weren't safe for no kid to sleep under the stars, like so many young kids like to do nowadays. You done it yourself, I'd wager. Hah! I knew it.
Well, you can thank my Granddaddy Gruff for that. In his day there weren't no kids sleeping out under the stars, nor wandering off by theirselves. 'Cause any kid what did weren't a kid much longer. You get me?
Now Granddaddy, being the oldest, had a certain amount of responsibility for the young ones. And he was mightily proud of it. And it was just this pride what got that troll into more trouble than he bargained for.
As she always done, Great-great-great-great-grandnanny sent Billy Bob on out to keep an eye on young Billy Joe and younger Billy Ray. They was always keen on makin' trouble, them two. Regular black sheep. If'n you asked me, I'd say Billy Ray and Billy Joe was a might jealous of Granddaddy Billy Bob, what with him being the eldest and the biggest and the strongest.
The fact is, they resented their nanny sending Billy Bob out to look after them, like they was skeeter legged kidlings. I figure the only reason they crossed that bridge from one side of the meadow to the other was to make Billy Bob mad.
Billy Ray, all cocky-like and poking his tail into the air, crossed over the bridge first. Granddaddy saw him go. He didn't get mad, but he watched him all the way. Cause even though Billy Ray and Billy Bob was too danged stupid to be smart, Billy Bob knowed to be wary of trolls under bridges.
Well he was just a settin in the shade, keepin' one eye on his brother and nibbling on his veg'tables with the other, when he seen Billy Ray stop on the very top of that bridge and kinda hunker down. Granddaddy got to wondering at that, and started on real slow acrosst the meadow to find out what the trouble was. But then Billy Ray stood up tall and went on acrosst the bridge without a hair out of place.
Granddaddy thought nothing more on it, 'til Billy Joe went on acrosst the bridge and the same thing happened. Granddaddy was real puzzled by this time. Something about that bridge, he figgered. So instead of just going back to his veg'table nibbling he decided to take a good look at that bridge and just what it was Billy Joe and Billy Ray'd found so darned interesting.
He says in his mem-wars that he started on acrosst the bridge and heard some splashing in the water underneath. Just like Billy Ray and Billy Joe'd done he kinda hunkered down to have a good look, and don't you know his blood run cold at what he seen. The ugliest, fearsomest troll what ever slunk 'neath a bridge.
“Your name Billy Bob Gruff?” the troll said.
Granddaddy Bill swallered hard and nodded.
“Your brothers says you're the biggest dang'd kid in all of God's green earth. That so?”
“Some might say so,” Granddaddy answered, kinda wary-like.
Then that bastard troll laughed. He laughed and reached up one long hairy arm real slow and easy and says, “Then you oughta make me one fine supper-—kid brains and rotted meat.” Then he licks his lips real slow and his red eyes start to gleamin' and he opens up that reeking mouth with all them sharp teeth and Granddaddy Bill, well, he done panicked.
He don't even remember rightly what all happened—just that awful stink and getting covered with mud and falling into that cold mountain water. Then that troll let out a beller what sent kids and billies and nannies careering in every direction. They musta thought young Billy Bob Gruff seen the last of his mortal abode. But Granddaddy come a stumping on out of that riverbed, wet and muddy and shaking like a newborn kid and there's a dark streak of troll blood polluting the water behind him. And what do you think? There's that troll's head stuck on the end of one of Granddaddy's horns like a ugly, hairy orderment.
Of course the head weren't dead yet. It were squawking and bellering and cursing a black streak, and that muddy headless body sat there in the stream looking for all the world like a two-legger child throwing a tantrum—with its arms folded all surly-like and its back hunched over like it were moping up a storm.
Now there weren't no one in them days what didn't know how to kill a troll. Common knowledge, that's what it was. Even though it were usually a knight what came to do the actual killing, but Granddaddy didn't have the benefit of no knight that day.
Grandaddy had to keep a'running round that meadow for three hours 'cause that body didn't stay setting there in the mud long. It got up and started after Grandaddy, trying to get its head back. And all the time that danged head kept a'bellering and screaming for its body to get the hell outta low gear and catch up.
Three hours! He-he-heh.
Anyways, the head finally stopped screaming and the body dropped to the ground limp as a rag and everyone stood around just gawking.
Granddaddy's mem-wars say they all started into cheering and jumping about and kicking at the clover. And it weren't just that the troll was dead. No. That weren't it at all.
It was that one of them—a kid, no less; just on the verge of billyhood—done it.
I tell you what, word spread from meadow to meadow faster than a coonhound on the chase and before long it was war. All out war. Billies against trolls. Everywhere, billies against trolls. Even across the oceans the billies learnt of my great-great-great-granddaddy and took heart, and six generations later I had the honor and privilege of ending what Granddaddy Billy Bob started all them years ago.
Only one thing sticks in my craw.
It's a damn shame my boys won't never know the satisfactication of sending a troll to the burning lake of hell where they belong.
Damn tragic. Damn tragic.
Killing Ogres just ain't the same.