Two trolls encounter ogres.
|The Trouble with Ogres
Worm’ole Baglump von Crumstone III thought back to the words his grandmother had spoken so long ago. Finger in the air and eyes searching the shadowed arch of the bridge above them, she had recited the ancient wisdom of the trollish seers.
“Ogres is the most ugliest of orl the known creatures,” she intoned. “They is so ugly that, if a troll looks upon they faces, even ‘is uncles and aunts will be turned ter stone. Ogres is so ugly that they can stonify theychuther and that is why yer never find more than one ogre at a time. ‘Tis the reason for them bein’ so rare and far between. Otherwise there would be ogres everywhere and they would have stonified all the trolls long ago.”
She reached out an enwartened arm and pulled young Worm’ole to her side. “Shun the ogre, me lad,” she said. “Shun ‘im like the curse upon the earth ‘e is. If you comes across one by mistake, turn away from ‘is face and pass by on the other side.”
Worm’ole looked up at her. “On the other side of wot?” he asked.
“Don’t get funny with me, young bugbiter.” The old troll matron aimed a blow at him. Worm’ole ducked and withdrew to a safe distance.
“I didn’t mean nuthin’ by it, Granny,” he protested.
The old lady smiled in forgiveness. “I know, me lad. It’s just one of them sayin’s we old trolls ‘ave. Likely it means only that yer should avoid the nasty ogre and try not ter look at ‘is face. And I’m tellin’ yer, lad, yer forefathers all abided by these rules or yer wouldn’t be ‘ere today.”
Worm’ole frowned. “But I ain’t got four fathers, Granny,” he said.
His grandmother’s eyes narrowed. “You takin’ the Michael again?” Worm’ole edged further away and she continued. “Not four fathers, Wormy. It’s forefathers - like they’s fathers what went afore yer father an’ afore them an’ orl. We calls ‘em forefathers cos they went afore.”
“Blimey, Granny, there must be ‘undreds of ‘em, orl goin’ afore, like yer said.” Worm’ole did not dare to ask who Michael was and how he, Worm’ole, could take him anywhere.
Fifty years later, an older and wiser Worm’ole looked out from the shallow cave that sheltered him and his friend, Fogbreth, from the sun. The evening was creeping towards them and they would soon be able to move. The last rays of the sun lit up the route they would have to take, a rocky field of great boulders scattered in haphazard array to the horizon.
It was not an attractive sight, even to a troll. The crossing would take them all night and there was no hope of even a muddy puddle to relieve their thirst on the way. Worm’ole could believe the old tale that the boulders were all that remained of the creatures that had tried and failed to cross the Ogre Bowling Alley. There seemed to be far too many boulders for just one ogre to have been responsible for this stony gathering. Maybe there were three or four of them waiting out there for unwary travellers to attempt the crossing.
There was even a chance that, however many ogres were responsible for the alley, they had moved on or died long ago. Worm’ole grinned at the thought that they might have all stonified each other long ago.
The sun had disappeared below the horizon now and darkness fell swiftly on the field of boulders. Worm’ole prodded Fogbreth with a gnarled toe.
“‘Ere, Foggy, rise an’ shine. Time ter do the boulder dash.”
Fogbreth grunted, turned over and settled back down. Worm’ole aimed a more forceful kick at his rear end. “Get up, yer lazy beetlecrusher.”
This time Fogbreth sat up and looked around. His eyes focused on the dark field of boulders. “You sure we ‘ave ter go this way, Worm’ole?”
“I told yer,” answered Worm’ole. “It’s through the Alley or go rahnd by the Bodrum ‘ills. And that would be a three-week trip. If we can get through ‘ere by mornin’, we’re ‘ome and dry.”
Fogbreth was silent for a moment, then sighed with resignation. “Well, yer s’posed ter be the ogre expert so yer must be right. Maybe. Might as well get on with it, ‘ey?”
Worm’ole nodded and stood up. After a last look around before leaving the cave, he led the way downhill and into the Alley.
Once amongst the boulders, they found the going much easier than they had expected. The deep shadow of each boulder made an excellent hiding place and the open areas seemed light in contrast. Worm’ole and Fogbreth made good progress in the first few hours, slipping from one shadow to the next, but taking care that their direction remained always eastward.
Towards midnight, the moon rose and the field became much brighter. The trolls quickened their pace as their confidence grew. Perhaps it was true that the ogres were all stonified, that the boulder field was empty of life and threat. Their disappointment and terror was all the greater, therefore, when they heard voices ahead.
Worm’ole and Fogbreth, were suddenly statues in the gloom below a large boulder. Now they heard other sounds, a sharp noise like a slap and a deep thud following. The voices were not words but grunts and groans following the other noises. Once the voices seemed to be laughing.
Fogbreth whispered into Worm’ole’s ear. “Is it ogres?”
“Dunno,” replied Worm’ole.
“Thought yer said yer knows abaht ogres?”
“I does. But I never ‘erd ‘em afore. Just what’s said abaht ‘em, that’s all.”
“Oh great,” said Fogbreth, “the ogre expert turns aht ter be just another troll.”
Worm’ole turned on his friend. “Look, if yer afeared, stay ‘ere an’ I’ll go see what’s goin’ on.”
“Fat chance,” said Fogbreth. “We get sep’rated in this maze, we’d never find each other again.”
Worm’ole thought for a moment. “Yer right. Stay close an’ we’ll go together.”
Without waiting for a reply, he moved quickly into the shade of the next boulder. Fogbreth followed.
The sounds grew louder as they went until it seemed they could be no further than a boulder away. Worm’ole crept forward and peered from the shadows of the last boulder.
Three ogres sat upon stones in a circle. They were much bigger than the trolls and grey in the moonlight. Worm’ole could not see how ugly they were because all three were blindfolded with rags that covered their faces. As the troll watched, one of the ogres brought his arm back, leaned forward and smacked another ogre in the face. The assaulted ogre waved his arms, trying to keep his balance, but fell backwards, landing with a thud and a yell of pain. The third ogre began to wheeze and gurgle with laughter.
The fallen ogre struggled up and pointed at the one laughing, at which the striker laughed too. “Urgh, urgh, urgh” he said, his shoulders shaking with amusement. The slapped ogre growled and sat down.
As silence reigned over the trio again, Worm’ole turned to Fogbreth. “It’s a game,” he said. “It’s like that game what we played as trollings. The ‘Oo ‘It Me game. The ogres wears blindfolds so they can’t see ‘oo does the smackin’, then the smacked one has ter guess ‘oo ‘it ‘im.”
“Yeah, I ‘member. Stoopid game.”
“Stoopid game maybe,” said Worm’ole, “but it’s saved our bacon. We needs to be long gone afore they takes off the blindfolds.”
Careful to make no sound, the trolls began to make their way in a detour around the ogres, staying in the shadows as much as possible. Although the ogres were blindfolded, Worm’ole and Fogbreth were taking no chances.
Once the sounds of the ogres’ game were behind them and no more than a faint whisper on the breeze, the two friends began to relax. It was a disappointment, therefore, when a new sound from ahead stopped them, frozen, in their tracks. Worm’ole listened intently to the strange sound.
It was unlike anything he had ever heard before. A deep, rhythmic rumbling echoed off the boulders, interspersed with brief moments of silence. Worm’ole could make no sense of until the noises changed to a long, shuddering sound like the wind rushing through a canyon. He turned back to Fogbreth.
“It’s someone cryin’,” he said.
Foggy’s eyes narrowed. “Wot, yer mean like shahtin’?”
“Nah, nah,” replied Worm’ole impatiently. “It’s crying, like weepin’ with tears an’ orl.”
“Blimey, wot’s that orl abaht then? Cryin’ ain’t gonna fix anythin.’” Fogbreth scratched his head in bewilderment.
“I dunno,” said Worm’ole. “I’m goin’ to sneak ahead an’ find aht.”
“Well, yer ain’t goin’ withaht me,” asserted Fogbreth.
The two trolls began to creep forwards. The sounds increased and decreased, occasionally giving way to silence as the melancholy one took deep breaths to recover. This made it hard to tell just how far the trolls had progressed towards the source of the sounds. Worm’ole was about to creep from one boulder to the next when he noticed the unusual shape of the shadow at his side. The boulder was rounded but its shadow seemed different.
Suddenly the profile of an ogre coalesced from the edge of the shadow. The weeping ogre was hidden by the same boulder that sheltered the trolls. Worm’ole shrank back out of sight.
“Wot’s up?” asked Fogbreth, surprised at their sudden lack of progress.
‘It’s ‘ere,” answered Worm’ole. “The ogre’s just arahnd the corner o’ this boulder.”
Fogbreth’s eyes widened in shock. “Wot do we do nah?” he asked.
“I’m thinkin’,” said Worm’ole. “Too risky to go back, I thinks. We needs to be sneaky nah.”
“Good luck with that,” said Fogbreth.
“Hush, I thinks I’m gettin’ somethin’”
The ogre commenced a long, shuddering intake of breath. Worm’ole turned to Foggy and whispered, “Got it. If this don’t work, get ready to run like ‘ell.”
With that he turned and, putting on a deep, sonorous voice, he pronounced aloud, “Why are yer cryin’, ogre?”
Silence followed and the trolls tensed, certain that they would be running for their lives in the next moment. But the ogre’s voice suddenly replied.
“‘Oo’s that?” he said.
“‘Tis I, the ghost of yer gran’pappy,” intoned Worm’ole. “But why is me gran’son cryin’?”
“Oh, gran’pappy, it’s the others,” explained the ogre in a flood of release. “They’s not lettin’ me join in they’s game cos I ain’t got a blindfold. I told ‘em I’d keep me eyes shut but they larfed an’ said I wasn’t gonna catch ‘em that way. They don’t b’lieve me, gran’pappy.”
“We’ll see abaht that,” boomed Worm’ole. “Just yer get up, gran’son, and go back to ‘em. I’ll go ahead of yer an’ make sure they unnerstan’ they must let yer play.”
“You sure, gran’pappy?” sniffled the ogre.
“Trust me, they’s gonna beg yer ter join the game. Now up yer get an’ we’ll go see the blighters.”
“Yes, gran’pappy.” The sounds of the ogre scrambling to his feet issued from around the boulder and the trolls moved back to be out of sight when the ogre began his journey back to his friends. As soon as he had passed them in the darkness, they emerged and quickly resumed their course through the boulder field.
“We must ‘urry,” said Worm’ole. “‘Oo knows wot they’ll do when that feller wanders into their camp. An’ I don’t wanna be ‘ere to find aht.”
Dawn was breaking as the trolls emerged from the boulders and jogged towards the cave that would shelter them through the daylight hours. Worm’ole paused briefly before stepping into its darkness. “You know, Foggy, I kinda ‘ope they weren’t too ‘ard on that ogre. I feel a bit sorry I ‘ad to trick ‘im like that. Never ‘erd such terrible sobbin’ in me life afore. An’ I’m not so sure me old Granny knew much abaht trolls after orl.”
Word Count: 1,986