What could he do? He was just a goat.
He saw the sun slowly rise again, still thinking of it as a useless tool. As he watched it crawl up the clouds, he found himself banging his head against a tree. Why, he asked himself, why? Thanks to him, Middle and Little were decaying in the Queen’s castle. What of Andreas? Would he be out looking for him? Perhaps he forgot all about him, like he forgot about Middle and Little. People die in war. Simple fact of life.
He couldn’t remember feeling that special energy anymore. In fact, all his energy seemed to have drained from him, and his body constantly found itself fighting the tiredness. If he fell asleep, he would see the pale eyes of Little purged of their innocence, replaced with a ghostly void. Fangs and scales would invade his nightmares, as gangly lizards from Hell would rise and kill. All except one. One would be beat ferociously until he cries. Seeing that troll in his mind’s eye made him shudder.
The Queen! Her!
She sat at the head of a wide carriage, hairy pigs where horses should be. Within the carriage, a small group of troll soldiers – like the very ones that took Middle and Little!- sat and waited. How dare she! She actually had the nerve to go into public without disguise, revealing her hideous glory to all, as if she were certain of victory.
She was going after Andreas. Big could feel it bubbling in the pit of his stomach.
What could he do? He was just a goat.
Big could have done many things. He could have leapt out, scared the pigs and thus delayed the attack. The Queen could have been knocked from her post with his mighty horns.
Instead, he chose to ignore them. Ignore them and they’ll go away. There is no Andreas. There is no Troll Queen. They never existed. Middle and Little had to leave for some reason. Thus, he left. Walking for quite a while, he came across a fjord; when he looked at the water, he almost wished to be a fish and swim away.
Amalthea stood there again, her fingers clutching the shoulder of a grizzled elderly man, towering over Big.
The man was the first to speak. ‘USELESS!’ was his first word, his first sentence, spoken in a shriek that made Big collapse. Staring into the man’s unblinking eyes, framed by myriad wrinkles, Big waited for the energy to return, but to no avail. ‘You have been proved very useless indeed. But you can still serve humanity.’ Big raised an eyebrow. ‘You must become a button. I’ll melt you into a button and you’ll look sporting.’
‘You can avoid that fate if…’
Big shouted. He didn’t shout anything specific, he just shouted. A cue for the strange pair to vanish if there ever was one.
What could he do? He was just a goat.
So the Queen decided to rear her ugly face after all.
Andreas found himself striking another victorious pose, which usually inspired his troops. The Queen took his eye and leg, all with a smile, and today would be the day she would pay. Goats weren’t all simple-minded automatons that did nothing but munch grass, many were warriors, and all it would take to prove it would be this battle.
The Queen herself, followed by a small group of her soldiers (Andreas counted twenty-five) entered the cave silently and slowly, her first utterance being, ‘You.’
Andreas turned, snarling. ‘What?’
‘You can still accept my offer.’
He crouched down, as if about to attack. ‘No.’
‘Why must we fight?’
Somehow, as much as he searched the recesses of his mind, Andreas couldn’t find an answer.
‘I know what you did with my brother, the poor soul.’ She neared him, as did her army. ‘I don’t think of this as a battle,’ she said while grinning, ‘I think of this as a warning.’
A scream filled the air.
The Mountain King. He was still alive, or at least out there in some form, Fred knew it. The painted face on the wall seemed almost alive, as if it would walk out and touch him. No, there’s no such things as ghosts…that’s a stupid thing to say considering magick exists. If magick is about, that must mean there is some higher force out there, and creepy supernatural creatures lurking in the shadows…
Not something you want to talk about to children.
When Ophelia went off on her way to fight the goats, she left him with his nephew to take care of. Fred didn’t really know what to do with him, really. It was impossible to love this accident. To Fred, it wasn’t a living creature, it was merely a hollow automaton which he had found himself babysitting, and in one sense, it seemed to be a souvenir of Ophelia’s descent into madness. The thought of killing it crossed through his mind. Did Ophelia love it? If it died, she probably wouldn’t care. If it vanished, so would her memories of Peer. They would be a happy family again.
That voice, boring into Fred’s soul, as well as irritating him. It came back, just as he thought it would.
‘The Queen only wants to torture you! Don’t you remember…’
‘We were young! She…she didn’t mean…’
‘Run away! Go!’
‘No!’ He held tightly onto his nephew, grabbing onto the small creature’s claw as they ran out of the bedroom and downstairs.
‘SHUT UP!’ Ophelia hated it too. He heard her.
‘What, may the Boyg inquire, do you plan to do?’
Fred, leaving the small offspring of his sister next to a wolf statue, burst open the door to where Ophelia concocted her spells, with its bubbling formulae and strange symbols marked on the walls and floor, and ran to the book.
‘Are you planning to banish the Boyg?’
Fred gulped, then gave a fierce laugh. ‘I’m going to send you right back where you came!’
‘Did not the Queen forbid you to touch her possessions?’ She did, but Fred didn’t care. ‘I do her errands and I am of use to her. She may not like me being banished.’ Fred didn’t listen, instead his clawed hands flicked through the yellow pages, searching for that spell. ‘The Queen can only summon one daemon. Once one is banished, she can’t have another.’ He still didn’t listen.
Fred kicked the air. ‘Shut up and listen.’ He read the first line of the spell, then immediately stopped.
‘Are you scared?’
‘Go ahead then, read the spell. The Boyg wants you to do it.’
Fred gave a triumphant smile. ‘Very well then.’ He spoke the second line. The third. The last.
‘The Boyg thanks you. I need not now bow before your Queen.’ It slammed Fred against the wall, knocking the troll unconscious.
‘You idiot!’ The Queen held Andreas, still screaming from the arrow in his good eye, against the cave wall. ‘I thought you would have learned.’
Frantic bleating flooded Andreas’ ears, as did the sound of goat’s laughter. Part of him wanted to see the carnage, to witness what the Queen had in store but another part of him blessed the arrow in his eye. Although he could not see, he knew the Queen smiled at the demise of his tribe.
A word escaped from his mouth, one he never thought he would use isolated: ‘Help…’
‘Why should I spare you? You wouldn’t do the same for me.’ Her grasp tightened, causing what escaped from his mouth to be limited to chokes and gags. ‘I tried giving you a chance. I at least let you live when I took your leg and eye, so maybe you would reconsider.’ Her fist connected fiercely with his face. ‘But you insist on fighting!’ She threw him onto a stalagmite, causing him to howl in pain as he felt its point attempt to penetrate through his body. A foot pushed down upon his body. ‘This has nothing to do with any god, I know it. It’s arrogance. I despise arrogance.’ Her foot pushed down further. Andreas said nothing. ‘You’re nothing more than a goat, a pathetic little simpleton with delusions of grandeur.
‘And you’ll stay that way forever.’
An arrow pierced through Andreas’ gut.
Little still lay on the floor. Those small humanoid things crawled all over her. Middle could not take his eyes off her.
‘Have no fear, rescue is at hand.’
Elongated fingers seemed to stroke Middle’s fur, sending shivers through his body.
‘Who the hell are you?’
‘Myself. Now you must leave your sister and rejoin your brother.’ Upon hearing the last sentence, Middle’s insides twisted.
The fingers that once stroked the goat’s fur now held on tightly as the cell spun around, creating an energetic blur before Middle found himself standing in front of his brother, obviously gone without sleep for days. Upon seeing someone he thought dead, Big grinned like an idiot from horn to horn, and stood as if waiting to obtain a hug. Instead, from an energy that just seemed to appear, Middle ran to Big and butted him to the ground.
Big asked, ‘Where’s Little?’ What a fucking stupid question to ask. Middle butted him again, which qualified as an answer. ‘Why…why…are…’ Another stupid question, responded this time with a scowl. ‘I…I’m sorry?’
‘There is something that may interest you…’
Big leapt in the air as if that would make the voice shut up. Middle sat and listened.
In a literal blink of an eye, the goat brothers stood outside the home of Andreas’ tribe, now with a ghastly smell and the buzzing of flies emanating from within. Big froze in fear, while Middle just walked right in, observing every rotting carcass strewn about the place, including that of Andreas. An arrow in his eye. An arrow in his gut. An arrow in his heart. Emerging from his frozen status, Big entered the cave and lay next to Andreas’ corpse, as if he were a father.
‘It was their own fault,’ Middle sniffed, ‘I bet they knew they would die all along anyway!’
Still staring at Andreas’ body, Big shuddered uncontrollably.
‘Let’s go, Big.’
‘I’m going to get her.’
‘The Boyg would like to see it attempted.’
‘She and her lackeys are going to pay.’
‘That can be done easily.’
‘Fine then,’ said Middle, ‘go and get yourself killed. See if I care.’
‘What the hell is this?’
The Queen of Trolls burst through the door just as Fred regained consciousness, with claws outstretched and her face twisted in a horrid grimace, revealing her jagged teeth. She had reason though: the room was a complete mess with the potions once again knocked all over the floor, and the little shrouded creature rubbing its head. Gasping loudly, the Queen ran to her offspring, kissed it on the head and held it tightly to her chest, as her brother tried to walk away.
‘I’ve heard tell you freed the Boyg from my control.’ Fred stopped dead in his tracks. ‘Magick has limits, you know. I can’t bind another daemon, I can’t bring back the Boyg, and now he’s free to fuck with me as much as he wants. And he let the prisoner escape as well.’
‘But…I…’ An idiot. Nothing but an idiot.
‘I knew letting you crawl back into my presence was a mistake. As if I haven’t…’
The big goat appeared. He just appeared. That “Boyg” did it.
With a swipe of a claw, the Queen knocked over her brother and turned to the shuddering goat. ‘You’ve come for some sort of revenge, haven’t you?’ A nod. The reply was a single scoff.
‘Oh…oh no…’ Fred lifted himself off the floor and looked at the visitor. ‘It’s him.’
The Queen, her spawn under her arm, left and closed the door after themselves.
Fighting this troll, Big told himself, would mean avenging the deaths of Andreas and his tribe. The Button-Maker will leave. Amalthea will leave.
He would have done something with his life.
Hadn’t the troll suffered enough though?
Just look at the fury in his eye.
The troll raised himself off the floor quickly, standing proudly and fiercely, towering over his prey. His fangs dripped with bloodthirsty drool, his claws stretched out, hungry for flesh to dig into and his tail swished back and forth quickly.
Big waited for the energy.
The troll leapt.
Big waited for the energy, which would guide him against the adversary.
It never came.
Sitting on the stairs with her boy under her arm, the Queen of Trolls found herself staring at a wall as if it were doing something interesting. She had just killed all those stupid bovines who thought they could oppose her, which she saw as a warning to the humans; she imagined Peer Gynt’s face on that foolish old goat she finished off. What’s more, she was going to release her potion and the human race would get on their knees when they saw her face. Something didn’t feel right though. It had nothing to do with the Boyg’s release or her brother’s lack of intelligence. Did it have to do with her father? Or this creature’s father? Or herself?
Herself was a hideous creature. Killing poor goats! Meddling in the occult! Killing her own family!
Father wasn’t dead. There was no way he could be dead. If he was dead, why was he standing at the foot of the stairs.
‘You are no daughter of mine.’
Shut up father. This is all your fault.
‘Because of you, I have lost everything. Starved as a wolf.’ Growling.
‘I’m not afraid of you or whatever you conjure up.’
‘That’s what you think! You think you have the troll’s enough, but you don’t!’
‘To thyself be enough! But you think things should be improved…’
‘And why shouldn’t they? Your absence improves things greatly.’
‘The goat the Boyg brought. He has the enough, as does Andreas. A mere beast and they believe they are expert troll-fighters. Yet you go and kill them.’
‘With good reason. To teach a lesson. I have one for you: you did nothing for your subjects, you did nothing to improve their lives. I called on spirits and am going to lead my queendom into a new golden age…’
‘By having them live like man?’
‘What’s that meant to mean?’
‘You claim to despise humanity, yet you lust after their privileges and possessions. I daresay you’re doing this because you want to be human yourself…’
‘What about Peer? Have you not read our newspapers? ‘On Troll-Nationalism.’ The writer points out and lays stress on the truth that horns and a tail are of little importance, so long as one has but a strip of the hide. “Our enough,” he concludes, “gives the hall-mark of trolldom to man,”-and proceeds to cite….’
The Queen lunged towards the King but immediately found herself spiralling into a dark vortex. There, in front of her, was the grinning, malicious face of Peer Gynt. He laughed.
Peer Gynt’s face melted away, replaced with that of her brother.
‘I killed him.’
‘You killed who?’
He didn’t respond. He just sat beside her and his nephew, giving the latter a tickle.
‘What’s going to happen now?’ he said.
‘Why did you ask me that?’
He stared at her. ‘I don’t know.’
They heard noises. They held each other tightly.
‘What about that plan of yours?’
‘It’ll still be carried out. I’ll…’ She stopped for some reason.
‘Look, I’m sorry…’ He noticed her head on his shoulder. He noticed her tears.
‘Black it seems white, and ugly seems fair.’