Troll Hunting is a short story in parallel to the novel Youngspell – both written by J. Rae Moore.
“Cagord ‘ears ya, chicken,” a deep voice bellowed from the dark depths of the cave. “Ya shall suffer for da murderin’ of da daughters,” it continued. “Cagord will grind ya bones to make me bread, ya hear?”
Juliana shivered. She knew the words were directed at her. She glanced across the rocky terrain at the three stone figures in front of the cave. “Daughters?” she muttered. Until then, she’d thought the petrified trolls were boys. Their exaggerated, wart-heavy features showed no sign of femininity. She shrugged. “Who knew?”
It had been her folly that brought Cagord’s daughters to their ends. She hadn’t meant to harm them—not to the point of death anyway—but the potion she needed to complete called for troll beard stubble, and she was going to get it. Since both male and female trolls grew facial hair from the age of two, it should have been easy to collect. After a long and weary night of trying to convince the young trolls to come out of the cave, it was the offer of human flesh for their tasting that finally did it. Success fluttered in Juliana’s chest as they’d tiptoed out, but, unfortunately, the sun had decided to break over the horizon at the same moment, petrifying the youngsters before Juliana got a chance to swipe her blade across the bristle covering their faces.
“Ya get ya sleep out there, chicken,” Cagord hollered. “Tonight Cagord hunt ya.”
Since she was forced to wait, Juliana sat back and noted the position of the sun. It had passed its zenith and was drooping toward the west. She had a few hours until sunset. She shoved a rolled up shirt behind her head. Cagord was right about one thing. She needed to sleep. As she settled in and closed her eyes, she also realized that the troll was also wrong. He might think he was going to be the one after her, but in reality, it was Juliana who was going to be doing the hunting.
As promised, Cagord emerged the moment the sun’s rays had extinguished for the day. He was a typical mountain troll with gray, porous skin and a flabby yet powerful body. His neck swelled with fatty bulges as if it cultivated a new one each year. A horn sprouted from the crown of his head and wrapped around his skull twice. Juliana was pleased to spot a thick layer of black stubble covering his chin and cheeks. He shook a fist above his head as he scanned the area. “Come out, ya green-eyed chicken,” he shouted.
Then, there was another troll beside him. Slightly smaller than Cagord, the new troll was the size of a shed with a head of wild, brown hair, a collection of large warts across the bridge of her nose, and a face full of stubble. The new troll pushed ahead of Cagord and touched each of the stone trolls. “Me poors poors babies,” she sobbed. Juliana ducked behind a boulder as the smaller troll swung her large, muddy brown eyes along the edges of the space. “Baloneen gots a pot just right for yas, bawk-bawk chickadee,” the troll called. She continued to bawk like a chicken as if Juliana would be drawn to the call.
Juliana checked her dagger and confirmed that her carpetbag was hitched high on her shoulder. She hadn’t intended on having to deal with two full-grown mountain trolls. This was going to be a bit harder than she’d thought. She was so busy trying to come up with a new strategy she didn’t realize the trolls had found her until she heard Cagord say, “Yas a stupid chicken, ain’t yas?” as he made a grab for her.
Juliana jumped up from her spot and sliced at his large, gnarled hand.
“Owwww!” Cagord bellowed, holding the wound to his mouth.
Juliana scrambled away from him, up the side of the rocky hill behind her only to be seized by the back of her shirt by the other troll. With one arm, Baloneen held her up like a pup by the scruff and studied her—face-to-face. “Yas a bad bawk-bawk chickadee,” the female troll seethed between her teeth.
Juliana dry-heaved as the troll’s breath swirled around her and wrapped her in its fumes. The stench stung her eyes, immediately causing them to water.
“Give Cagord chicken,” Cagord ordered. He reached for Juliana but Baloneen pulled her out of his reach.
“No, Baloneen smash it,” Baloneen argued, still dangling Juliana at arm’s length.
Cagord stomped a foot. “Cagord crush it!”
Juliana saw her chance. She twisted hard to the left and a loud rip split the air. She landed on the ground with a muffled thump and scuttled away, leaving Baloneen holding only a scrap of her dress.
The rest of the night was a series of hides and finds with Juliana and the trolls trading turns for each. It was after another narrow escape that Juliana found herself hiding once again. This time, she crouched between two boulders the same size as the trolls who hunted her. There, she fought to regain her breath all the while listening for the footfalls of her pursuers.
Juliana wiped the sweat from her brow and checked the edge of her blade. Cagord and his wife had proved to be fast for big, fat buggers and they were relentless in their pursuit. It would have been a lot easier if she’d only had to deal with one troll at a time, but whenever she got the drop on one, the other would rush her and she’d be forced to retreat. “Not this time,” Juliana swore under her breath. She plunged her hand into her carpetbag and pulled out Vena, her magical broom. “This time, I even the odds.”
Juliana tapped the broom twice, bringing it to life. She swung a leg over to straddle it then silently levitated into the sky.
On the other side of the boulder mound, the husband and wife team were searching a small clearing for her. Baloneen pushed apart the branches of a large pricker bush, bawking, while Cagord was looking under the rocks.
“Dat chicken ‘ere somewhere,” Cagord commented, picking up a large boulder and peeking beneath it. He grunted when he realized he’d guessed wrong and chucked the boulder behind him. It landed with an earth-quaking thump. Cagord scratched his scalp before he bent down and lifted another boulder. “Nope.”
Now, Juliana thought. With her dagger at the ready, she steered toward Cagord and shot at him at an amazing speed. It would have been a clean shave had Cagord not looked up just as Juliana was about to graze his cheek. Before she knew it, his giant arm swung upward and knocked her out of the sky. She went sailing into the same pricker bush Baloneen was searching. She landed with a bump and rolled into a seated position, her legs spread wide. A small groan escaped her lips as the pain registered. Giant pricker bush thorns poked into her at every angle.
“Looky, looky,” Baloneen exclaimed. She wrapped a fist around Juliana’s head, lifted her out of the bush, and held her up triumphantly. “Bawk bawk bawk, Baloneen got it. Baloneen got da chicken. Bawk bawk bawk.”
Cagord cast away the most current boulder and threw his hands up. “Got da chicken,” he sang, shuffling a jig in the dirt. “Got da chicken. Now be time da eat da chicken.”
Still keeping a firm grip on Juliana’s cranium, Baloneen joined her husband’s dance. “Got da chicken. Got da chicken. Now be time da eat da chicken,” they sang together.
Ignoring the pain the troll’s grasp caused through her head and neck, Juliana squeezed her hand. She still held the dagger. Next, she searched the area for Vena. As she was being jostled around in the trolls’ victory celebration, it took a while to locate the broom. It was lying near one of the boulders Cagord had discarded earlier. She narrowed her eyes. She had to time this just right or she’d be troll chow for sure.
“It’s too bad about your daughters there, Baloneen,” she yelled above the trolls’ singing.
Baloneen stopped dancing and let out a tooth-rattling growl. She brought Juliana’s face to hers. “Ya murdered da girls, even da baby.” Baloneen spoke with her teeth clenched.
Juliana fought against the sudden urge to puke at the scent of her breath again. She was just close enough. The pressure around her head increased.
“Baloneen smash…” Baloneen’s threat ended there as Juliana reached out and sliced off a large chunk of the troll’s cheek.
Baloneen screamed, dropping Juliana and grabbing her bleeding face.
Cagord stomped over, nearly stepping on Juliana, and wrapped his arms around his crying wife. He inspected the wound. “Baloneen. Yas beauty face. Oh, poors Baloneen.”
In the meantime, Juliana scrambled to retrieve the pound of flesh she had hacked away from Baloneen. Just as she retrieved the bloody prize and shoved it into her bag, Cagord spotted her. “Ya evil chicken. Cagord crush ya,” the troll bellowed, lifting his hay barrel-sized foot and aiming it at her.
Juliana rolled away just before his foot hit the dirt with a ground-shaking blow. The troll bent low and slowly lifted his foot. As he examined the bottom of it, Juliana made a dash for Vena. She’d made it just as Cagord realized he’d missed her. It didn’t take long for him to find her again.
“Cagord crush evil chicken,” Cagord said, stomping her way.
“Wake up, Vena,” Juliana said. She tapped the broom and Vena buzzed to life. Juliana kicked up into the air but she didn’t get far when the broom stopped suddenly. She glanced behind her and saw Cagord holding the broom’s bristles between two fat fingers.
“Evil chicken no fly,” he stated.
“Get off my broom, you big-headed behemoth.” Juliana kicked at the troll’s hand but Cagord held tight.
Suddenly, a stream of red fire shot from the broom’s end and hit the troll’s hand. Cagord let go immediately, screaming.
Juliana shot high into the sky while Cagord stood below, pumping his fist at her. “Evil chicken come back.”
Juliana cackled. “Not anytime soon, oh Cagord, my pal.”
Cagord’s threats and Baloneen’s sobs followed Juliana as she sailed smoothly through the night sky. She still had several oversized thorns sunk deep into her skin—that would be a pain not soon forgotten—but she was smiling. She patted her bag then the handle of her broom. “Ah, Vena, old girl, you’ve still got a few tricks in you, don’t you.”
She reached into her shirt and pulled out the list of ingredients for the potion. Dabbing her finger into one of her wounds, she sighed as she used her own blood to mark off the box labeled Troll Beard Stubble.