Gruff – Epilogue

The grizzled man ran fast and hard, then paused for a moment to think, stroking his tangled beard as he did so. ‘Time is money,’ he told himself, in an attempt to push himself to run faster. ‘If I only knew where the cross-roads are; they may be near and they may be far.’ Life is so complicated. A lesson he had certainly learned during all these years.

‘A witness! A witness! Oh, where shall I find one? It’s almost unthinkable here in the forest. The world is a bungle!’

Indeed. He stopped his frantic dash to take a pause and think back on his life. All he saw was a jumble of images, none of them coherent or logical. Except for those of Solveig. Except for those of Ase.

Time is money. Must hurry.

He ran faster, knocking over an elderly gentleman in a cloak. At least, he thought it was a gentleman; it wrapped itself so much in cloth that no real form could be seen – except a claw.

‘A trifle to a houseless soul.’ A familiar voice, allowing the man to pull out a certain memory from his thick morass of reminiscences.

‘Prince Peer!’

Immediately, the man knew who this figure was, especially from the snout poking from his hood, but still asked, ‘Who are you?’

The cloaked thing gave a jovial laugh. ‘You forget me? The Mountain King? Ruler of trolldom?’

“Prince Peer’s” eyes opened very wide upon hearing this as his feet planted themselves firmly on the ground. Upon viewing the single eye lurking in the shadows of the hood, he thought back to when they first met, when he stood atop a rock, proudly proclaiming the glories of a troll’s life with energy and vigour. Now look at him.

‘I’ve come down in the world. Terribly.’Peer placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘Everything’s gone wrong…’

‘Dear father-in-law, the years gnaw and wear one…’ He was young. That’s why he did what he did.

‘But his Highness was wise in rejecting his bride. She’s utterly gone to the bad.’



Gruff – Chapter 8

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.

‘Andreas! Master!’

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.

‘Go! Run!’

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.

‘It’s useless…’

‘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.


‘The Boyg…’

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?’

Sorry? Bastard.’

‘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.

‘Oh hell.’

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!’

‘You pretentious…’

‘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.

Gruff – Chapter 7

Something woke up Andreas, but he didn’t know what. He didn’t hear a loud noise, nor did he need to piss; he just awoke. Deciding to take advantage of this sudden awakening, he walked out of the cave to check on how Big was doing. As he peeked his head out, he noticed Big pacing back and forth, obviously struggling to keep awake; in fact, he looked at Andreas as if he was expecting him to relieve him of his duty. All Andreas said was ‘Good,’ and go back to his cave. Big said nothing in response.

A noise snapped Big out of his sleep-deprived state, causing him to frantically leap around, looking around the area. Another troll? That troll? The Queen?

Instead, what he saw resembled a female version of himself, except larger and bipedal. Contrasting with her fierce black hair was a shining silver dress, fluttering dramatically. On her head was but one curled horn, where there should have been another there shone a beam of light, the same colour – and substance – as her dress. Her most noticeable feature was the fact that she had fingers; not like any fingers Big had seen: twisted and curled like vines.

‘Peace be with you, my son,’ she said in the most beautiful voice Big had ever heard.


Indeed, it could be no other.

‘I fear you have been having doubts,’ she said smoothly, rubbing Big’s head, ‘You must strive and continue your service for the goats. The Queen must be dethroned.’ That last sentence made Big shudder. ‘You once had such great self-confidence and ambition, now you’re beginning to think of quitting?’ Big backed away, trying to avoid her gaze. ‘I am the Great Goat of Giving, the Mother Spirit. You owe me your life.’ Please go away, Big said to her inwardly. ‘I came to Andreas, and he has served me well…’


Her gaze became cold, and yet so fiery…

That’s it, thought Big, I must leave. He ran from the spirit, expecting her to follow, but she seemed to have faded.

A message from above? A hallucination from lack of sleep?

He didn’t care.

Her touch should have been cold and torturous, but now, it felt surprisingly comfortable, as if it offered protection. They held hands together, like good brothers and sisters should, walking together to their village.

‘Sister.’ She turned to him. ‘What’s your name?’ No answer given, she turned around to focus on her destination, unworried by appearing in public in her natural form.

‘Because…I tried thinking of some names I heard. I thought Anitra would be nice…’ She still seemed to ignore him, though he swore she briefly cracked a smile. ‘…or Ophelia. Ophelia’s a good name. I don’t know where I heard it but…’

She turned to him. ‘Do you have a name? Or did you forget it?’

What was he then? The troll from the bridge? Just a troll?

‘I thought of…Fred. How’s that?’

Giggled. She giggled. He heard her giggle. It only lasted for a moment, but it gave him some hope.

After much walking, Fred and Ophelia came to a mountain that was different. At first glance it blended in with the rest of its ilk, but upon closer inspection, there was a unique aura one could not put their finger on. For the pair to enter, Ophelia made a circle with her claw and said some words. Entering the village in the mountain felt strange – as if a hand grabbed you and brought you right in. Fred felt it, and it seemed to wash over him, destroying his every fear.

The village; he was home. Despite Ophelia’s meddling, many of the residents still lived nocturnally. A couple of trolls, a horned blue one with a green one, stumbled out of a pub drunkenly, laughing at a shared joke. Two trolls sat near a table where two elfs fought over a lump of bread. Another resident played music, causing complaints from a previously-slumbering woman. One rather portly troll raised his arms, screaming about how the time of the troll was coming; repeating the oft-told tale of how Loki was defeated in battle so humans may rule, as well as his predicted return. The display made Ophelia smile, which brought Fred the smallest pang of dread. Their presence went unnoticed.

They reached the castle, a proud beast standing smugly over the insignificant village it owned. Ophelia grabbed her brother again, tighter this time, as they quickly ascended up the stairs to the front door, where the guards saluted them both. Memories, good and bad, came flooding back to Fred the minute he stepped within the hallowed halls. After an ascent up yet another winding staircase, elegantly adorned with candelabra and armour, the pair came to a door which Ophelia took the liberty of unlocking.

‘Your bedroom.’ Fred entered as Ophelia walked back to her own quarters. How long had it been since he last slumbered here? Cobwebs blanketed every piece of furniture: the tables, the bed and some old toys in the corner. Elfs had settled in and taken over, the small black monsters crawling around everywhere. Fred couldn’t sleep here, not at all. Shouldn’t his sister have cleaned it out before welcoming him back? He couldn’t sleep there, he would sleep somewhere else…but where? Maybe she would be offended if he didn’t sleep in that room…

Fred decided to spend his time not sleeping, instead spending his time re-exploring the home he grew up in but left, a home that once lost its homeliness. The homeliness was still to be found though; it seemed to be in hiding. The fiery torches and the empty suits of armour still made him feel like a human that had stumbled into this place by accident, as did the portraits of his father, whose painted eye focused on his son.

Morning came.

Making his way up the stairs with a tray resting in his claws, Fred tried to remember where his sister’s bedroom was. After a walk down a hall, he opened the door with his foot, surprising Ophelia just as she woke up.

‘Please, I’m not your mother.’

Leaving the tray by her bedside, Fred grinned sheepishly and started to leave.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I want to show you something.’

‘What is it?’ He gulped.

‘You’ll see. Just wait outside while I get dressed.’

With a step outside the hall, Fred began to wonder if he would be offered any decent clothing when he saw a small creature dressed in a white garment as if it were dressed as a ghost. His nephew, the mistake.

Perhaps out of curiosity, or out of a love for family, Fred lifted his nephew’s shroud to see his face. What he saw almost made him faint: a strange blending of human and troll, deep blue scales crawling over pale flesh, strands of dirt-brown hair dangling from the top of his head, and a single eye dominating the middle of his face. His mother’s.

Ophelia exited her room in her normal attire, noticing her two relatives staring at each other. ‘Oh,’ she said, approaching her offspring, ‘this is your uncle.’ It reached out for him, grabbing his leg tightly. She kissed it and led it away. ‘Now, brother, come.’

The brother and sister walked downstairs until they came to the entrance hall, with the statues of the mighty Fenrir. Fred had never believed those legends, despite the high amount of magick in the troll kingdom, but right now, he thought of what would be if the legends were true. Fenrir could eat up Peer Gynt, and when Ophelia heard, she would be happy! She’d get over her troubles and abandon those mad plans…

The mad plans were exactly what the Troll Queen longed to show her brother: glowing, bubbling liquids in oddly-shaped flasks, all framing a strange book with strange words and strange symbols. The glow of the potions accentuated her grin.

‘What’s this?’

Her grin grew wider. ‘You should know.’

‘You brought back your brother,’ came a strange voice, ‘Quite a surprise.’

‘You! I told you not to bother me! Now begone!’

‘The Boyg only wishes to meet your brother…’

Go away!’

And silence followed.

The Queen turned towards her shuddering brother, crouching on the floor behind a table. ‘Get up.’ Her voice became harsher and fiercer, and she had to force him to follow her command with her claws. The claws also proved useful in bringing him to the book. ‘Read this.’

He said nothing. Objections would only worsen his situation.

Instead, he looked inside the pages he had to read. To him, it was nothing but gobbledegook. He couldn’t read this…but he had to. So he did. Placing his claw on the yellow pages, he made a noble attempt to pronounce each word, trying to ignore the dread he felt at what this may do. Expectations of devastation and destruction immediately vanished as it felt like he was rising, ascending beyond the clouds, surveying each pathetic little mortal as if they were insects. Something seemed to dance within him, eliminating the tiredness from lack of sleep last night. It felt like he could do anything, conquer anything.

He emerged from the spell feeling light-headed, stumbling down on the floor as he lost control of his legs. Ophelia, a warm smile on her face, helped lift him to his feet, giving him a welcoming hug.

‘That…that…’ Description failed him. ‘What was that?’

‘A demonstration of the power I have earned, more power than any other troll can imagine. I’ll be a far grander ruler than Father was…’

Dad’s not dead.’

‘What was that?’

‘Nothing. Continue.’

‘Where was I – oh, yes, I’ll be a far grander ruler than Father was and you’ll be with me every step of the way.’

‘What about the goats?’

She swivelled around, whipping her tail as she did so. ‘Them?’

‘They…’ It felt like snitching on naughty schoolchildren. The Queen wouldn’t think it important, would she? ‘They be…’

‘They beat you?’

His response was a single nod as he dropped himself to the floor again, so Ophelia could lift him up again.

‘I’ll be dealing with that nuisance tomorrow,’ she said in a voice that sounded both fierce and comforting, ‘Then I can move on to bigger things.’

The sun hung, making its tedious way to the pinnacle of the sky as Big watched, munching his grass. He once saw the sun as a creation of beauty, something born to bring new life and joy to a waking world. He never thought he could see it as an object of disgust, as something utterly useless. It offered no protection. Trolls had conquered it. They moved about on earth all the time, never sleeping, always ready to battle, and they always, always win. It’s all a game.

Not even the grass offered comfort.

Ophelia had gone to bed with a smile on her face. Tomorrow her army will attack the goats, ending the annoyance once and for all. Then the humans will pay. They’ll learn not to underestimate trolls and to bow before them as their new masters. They’ll learn not to impregnate them then leave them alone to raise the brat by themselves.

Fred watched her as he drifted off to sleep, smiling with her as she lay. He begged for forgiveness, and he had received it. What’s more, the goats will pay. They thought they could beat him up and think it heroism!

Another sleepless night for Fred. Ophelia had cleaned out his bedroom, had eliminated the elfs scurrying around the place, but an excitement, either anticipation for the next day or remembrance of the spell’s effect, made him forget sleep. Once again, he found himself wandering through his home, observing every nook and cranny, every cranny and nook. The bathrooms, the bedrooms, the grand dining room, the dungeon…

The dungeon. He didn’t know what possessed him to go down here, he just followed his feet. It still brought back memories to him, reminiscing about how he would pretend there were ghosts down there and how he was going to capture them. Even now, he swore he saw ghosts lurking in the shadows, especially that of the portly guard patrolling the cells on his graveyard shift.

What he saw in a cell frightened him more than any ghost ever could.

A ghastly stench wafting brought his attention to that cell where he saw some old friends of his: the little and middle-sized goats he refused to take to the Queen. The little one lay still. The middle-sized one stared at him with unblinking eyes.

Gruff – Chapter 6

‘Thank you for bringing us that troll, Big,’ said Andreas proudly, ‘Perhaps now we won’t be underestimated. You’re welcome to join us.’

‘But what about…’

‘You mean at the meeting? No, you did good. You postponed her wicked scheme and by angering her…’ He leapt up on his hind legs and spun around. ‘It means we have a battle coming!’ He gave a hearty laugh as his face neared Big’s. ‘Come, my boy, let’s get ready!’

Big was unnerved at how quickly Andreas had forgotten Middle and Little, who were either dead or in torment. Still, seeing that troll get what was coming to him made him feel better about the situation somehow. So off he went with Andreas, hoping to knock the old goat down as they trained.

Night fell.

‘Middle! Middle!’ Little leapt up and down on her brother’s body as he lay down on the cold stone floor.

‘What is it now?’

‘I want to tell you a story!’

Middle groaned. ‘Fine then…’

‘Once upon a time…um…there was a princess…and…er…she met this talking flower…and the flower…er…he sent her to fight a giant who lived in a castle…in the sky…’

Oh, hell. Middle attempted somewhat to lose himself in the yarn Little wove from her mind, which was utterly impossible since the great storyteller had no idea what she was getting at, but the mention of dark castles where giants lived did nothing but remind Middle of his dire situation. Damn Big. Stupid little prat. He shouldn’t have tried fighting that troll…or maybe the troll should have eaten him.

‘The giant said to the princess…I will eat you if…if you don’t sing me a song! The princess sung the most beautiful song in the world…’

Shut up Little, Middle wanted to say, singing won’t get us out of this. We’re trapped here until we die and it’s all Big’s fault. But he, for once, kept quiet.

Little stopped her story and shuddered. ‘I want Mummy.’

‘Mummy?’ For the first time in years, Middle asked himself, do we have a mother?

‘Where’s Mummy?’

‘I…well…’ How to talk to a kid?

‘Where did Mummy go? Will she help us?’

‘Don’t ask me.’ Middle slumped down and tried to get some sleep again, then rolled over in Little’s direction. ‘Do you remember her?’

Little looked close to crying. ‘No. But I’ve seen other goats with them and I thought…’

Middle growled, unable to believe he was about to do this, and snuggled up close to Little. She rubbed against his neck as he tried not to vomit from the overbearing cutesiness of the scene.

A harsh and chilling breeze blew through the corridor which the Troll Queen had suddenly found herself in, which, despite her cold-blooded, sent chills down her spine and caused her nightgown to flutter. At the end, silently waiting for her, stood a large wooden door, beckoning her to open it. She at first flat out refused, but then felt as if she had no choice. She forced herself onto the door as it slowly creaked open, revealing to her…

A younger version of herself, waiting by her sister’s egg, giggling at glee at what it would do when it hatched…

Her sister and herself in the music room, making up a song together, until that meddlesome brother of hers interrupts…

All those long nights where she twisted and squirmed in bed, pregnant with that abomination. She screamed and begged and pleaded for help and guidance. She had never been a religious person, but through the immense pain she suffered, she couldn’t help but remember her species’ tales. Some trolls, perhaps out of desperation, believed in Loki, who they claimed created the entire species, and that humanity was merely a mistake. The latter part was definitely to be believed at this period in time. They claimed that one day he would return to Earth to free the wolf Fenrir which would swallow all the humans of the world and allow the trolls to have absolute freedom, which is why the humans tried to caricature him as a “Trickster God”. She didn’t believe in those myths now, nor most she had heard. She had experienced forces that were more powerful and much more beneficial.

It came to her room one night in her pregnancy, telling her that to do these things was her destiny. She would be told what to do after she gave birth. To think she at first thought it a dream

She saw it all through the door.

Then she saw herself murder the Mountain King. That memory would have made her grin if not for a nagging feeling….and her brother ran away in tears. Idiot. He just didn’t understand.

Then she saw herself venturing out to find the books that would help her achieve her goal, given to her by –

‘Away, away then with nails and planks! No need now for bars against hobgoblin-thoughts.’

That moment was suddenly interrupted by the grotesque face of that human, now residing with some person named ‘Solvieg’ or something like that.

‘My king’s daughter! Now I have found her and won her!’

Oh, has he?

She came to him, using her new-found magick, disguised as a hideous old woman. He was horrified. The Troll Queen chuckled like a young child that had just played a practical joke.

HE FORGOT HER! ‘You’re drunk, woman!’ It’s his fault she spent countless months in AGONY to give birth to some BASTARD and he goes and dismisses it. Her son…no…she loved her son, a precious lad. He brought an axe.

So she went and cursed him. That way, he’d never forget her. In fact, it’d be like she’s always there.

He should have been killed, no, maybe…why didn’t she curse the goats? They were nothing but a nuisance, no threat

Shards of glass rushed towards the Troll Queen as a furious wolf burst through the door, its bloody fangs bared. It moved closer, but she could barely move.

Out from the door walked none other than her father, hobbling on that crooked cane of his.

‘You!’ The Queen lunged towards him, ready to strike. Why won’t he die? She was about to slug him when the salivating wolf pounced on her and pinned her down.

‘You are no daughter of mine,’ he grunted. His voice was deeper and more forceful than when she last saw him, but she knew in her gut it was the same person.

‘I know I’m not,’ she spat.

‘You are not fit to rule my kingdom…’

Shut up.’

‘You lack the enough…’



The wolf opened its jaws.


Her eye snapped open as she threw back the covers, sudden fury exploding within her.

‘Did you have a bad dream?’ asked the Boyg.

‘SHUT UP!’ she screamed again, throwing a pillow at the Boyg, in spite of how futile it was. Perhaps that blasted dream was the Boyg’s fault as a way of torturing her. ‘I can send you back right where you came from, you know.’ Laughter shook the room.

Middle still couldn’t sleep. As much as he tried to close his eyes and imagine himself somewhere else, something nagged inside him that he was in a dungeon and the only reason he hadn’t gotten out was because of his own brother. Little, however, slept like a baby. How appropriate.

What also kept him awake were the noticeable sound of footsteps.

The Troll Queen. Her. Marching downstairs wearing a nightgown and a scowl on her face.

Maybe she changed her mind. Maybe she was going to let them free! Or if not…

‘Little! Little! Wake up!’ He nudged his head against Little’s, but the opening of a door was what woke her up. The Queen in all her glory. Middle wanted to run between her legs and escape, but this sudden interruption of his slumber paralysed him. The door slammed as the Queen walked slowly and silently towards the pair. Little screamed. The Queen reached for her. Little screamed. Not wanting to see what would happen, Middle shut his eyes, still paralysed. Little screamed.

Then she stopped.

And she was so young.

Middle just lay there, his eyes bulging, his form quaking. The Queen just left.

Such a beautiful night.

The first thought to cross Big’s mind as he began his graveyard shift, and the thought he tried to keep focussing on. Still it forced Big to think of trolls, their Queen, his siblings and their fate. Still images of Middle and Little screaming in fear and agony flashed in his head. Still he kept thinking that Andreas didn’t even care.

It’s such a beautiful night. The moon is full, the trees are swaying in the breeze…

Andreas was delusional, with no idea what he was talking about. Pure and simple. Goats fighting wars? Amalthea the goat god? Goats being created by mud and trolls being created by sweat? They all sounded like something out of a bad fairy-tale told by an idiot. And Andreas said there would be a battle coming soon. Big shuddered as he thought of troll soldiers invading the cave.

Look at that moon….

That’s it. He was going to leave right now. Forget Andreas. Forget everything. Forget the whole goat-troll war or whatever this is. He was just going to leave. If all those other goats want to die, let them. It’ll be their own faults anyway.

The troll again. That troll. How dare he show his face again! He didn’t even seem to know what he was doing.

That famous energy Big used to possess, however, didn’t return when he saw the reptile. All the troll did was stare at Big a while, stand up as if about to attack, then just walk away again. All of a sudden, out of the blue, Big gained the urge to kick the troll down again, but restrained himself. Although that brief appearance of his old foe reminded him why he was with Andreas; trolls took his brother and sister, so trolls must pay.

The Troll Queen couldn’t sleep. Thinking a walk would help clear her head and give her time to think about things, she left her village, donning her normal wear: a green sleeveless dress that reached to her ankles, a tiara under her eyestalk and a pair of slippers that matched her dress. Watching the swaying trees and rustling grass, she realized that she had spent so much time enjoying the daylight she had forgotten just how beautiful the night could be. At that point she didn’t care if anyone saw her in her true form or their reaction. Even her plans and her troubles had been forgotten during this moment.

After much walking, listening to the sounds of rivers gurgling, the wind blowing and owls hooting, the Queen came to a large fjord that sparkled in the moonlight, where she sat on the edge. As she stared at the sparkling waters, she popped off one of her shoes and placed her foot in the water. A strange calm spread all over her body, instantly replaced by a rush. Off went her other shoe, and she stood in the water up to her heels, looking at her reflection. She looked beautiful. Immediately, for reasons she didn’t know at the time, she took off her tiara and her dress, revealing her naked form. She kicked her legs in the water, watching the droplets fall off her toes, then took a deep breath and dove right in.

Trolls were natural swimmers, normally lurking in waters to catch prey, the colours of their scales blending in with the water. She didn’t intend to hunt, she only wanted to embrace the fjord and let it wash away her worries. Kicking her legs frantically and thrusting her arms, she felt like she was exploring an unknown place, with secrets and surprises to unlock. After swimming around the fjord in search of its wonders, she rose, reaching for the moon hanging proudly in the sky, which silhouetted her as she raised her arms to welcome the heavens.

The Queen swam to the surface and looked at her reflection for a while; looking at herself without royal apparel made her think for a while how things would be if she had been born a commoner, without the huge responsibility and the troubles of the past that her position gave weighing down on her shoulders.

She slipped her dress back on, staining it with water as she did so, and then her tiara and slippers. After taking another moment to stare at the moon, she walked away, making her way back home. She did, however, decide to take her time in returning.

As she walked away from the fjord, she came across another troll.

Her brother.

The troll again. That troll.

They stared.

He looked nervous, twitching and biting his lip. ‘I…’

They stared.

‘I…I’m sorry.’

Sighing loudly, she slumped her shoulders and rubbed her face.

‘I know you are.’

They stared.


Suddenly, they ran to each other, wrapping their arms around themselves, both glad to have a shoulder to cry on.

Gruff – Chapter 5

None other than that troll – that troll – standing right on the bridge. Big didn’t know what it was, but something told him that there was no way it could be just another troll, as if he had a sixth sense about his old enemies. The drooling teeth, the snarl…it was him and no other troll.

Big expected him to attack any minute. He should have pounced or charged with wide open jaws and a fierce glare. He stood still, wringing his claws.

Once again, Big lost control of his body, charging right at the troll’s gut and knocking him over the bridge. Even as he tried to get up, Big felt it necessary to whack him in the eyeball with his horns. Andreas would be pleased. His tribe could hold the troll hostage. They could get information from him.

They could spite the Queen.

Damn it. I’m such an idiot.

Why did I leave her? Why am I out in the open without any form of disguise where anyone could come and kill me like the monster I’m supposed to be? Why did I just allow that goat to knock me off that bridge?

Now I’ve got her mad. She hates me even more now. Hell, she’s hated me my whole life.

It all started when Mum died. If I hadn’t been born she’d still be alive. She died giving birth to me. I remember Dad telling me that when I was born, she locked herself in her room all day and cried.

I used to think she avoided me because I was a boy. I used to think she gave me those heartless glares because I was a boy. Young boys hate girls, and vice versa. Young boys hate their elder sisters and vice versa. She always played and made song and dance with the other sister, but treated me like a common elf. It was my fault though. My fault she lost her beloved mother. My fault father had his ‘cousin’ for frequent visits…

But she was somewhat happy back then. I had heard her laugh, I had seen her smile. It couldn’t have been that bad. Maybe some day she would forgive me.

But why would I want her forgiveness? She’s a hag, an utter fucking lunatic. She actually thinks she can control humanity! She thinks goats are a threat! And why all this? Because of some fucking human?

I was right there when it all happened, standing right next to Dad. It was his idea, said it would continue his legacy as well as ‘prove a point’. I remember her bringing to the mountain that Peer person, while disguised as a human. I remember trying to avoid looking at her; her human form was just ugly. I also remember that glimmer of optimism I had about the ordeal; maybe she and the human would be happy together. Maybe he would accept her as a reptile, and me as his brother-in-law. The new-found love in her life would make her a happier creature, and maybe she would accept me.

Instead, the human…he did it with his mind. His fucking mind. The idea just makes me sick to my stomach.

He ran. He ran while being chased by tiny little trolls, ones who worshipped Dad so much they thought of him as a father too. He wouldn’t father her child. He wouldn’t stay by her side while she was pregnant – the child wasn’t even hatched!

I hate that little brat. Utterly despise him, that fucking bastard hybrid. And he’s my nephew?

She lay in her bedroom for months. I don’t think she ever came out. One time I pressed my ear-hole to her door and I swore I heard someone talking to her. I swore she laughed.

Then came the day. It refuses to leave my head, no matter how much I forbid it to stay.

She screamed and howled, twisting and turning furiously in her bed. Trolls, natural trolls, are hatched they said, but since she was pregnant with a human’s child, she couldn’t give birth unless…

A knife. A knife that gleamed in the light of the torches. Her green blood gleamed in the light of the torches.

WHY? HOW? How can she get impregnated from a human’s damn thoughts? They say we turned to stone in daylight because of a powerful witch’s curse, or because of an angry god’s wrath, it changes with each telling, perhaps this is the same as that.

The baby’s newborn cry sounded like the unholy screech of a demon. I don’t think I ever took a look at it. Our sister ran in.

‘Have you given birth? Oh, you…it’s…is it a boy?’

Her last words.

Her last words before her sister’s claws grasped around her neck and tightened. Her last words before her head repeatedly slammed against the bedroom wall. Her last words before she was reduced to a mere corpse, a lifeless shell of her former self. All the while, the baby wiggled on the floor, tossed there by his mother.

Then in came Dad.

The minute he entered, his daughter, his own fucking daughter, punched him right in the eye and kicked him right in the gut. He screamed when he saw the last to die, but he screamed louder as he took more beatings from her. His screams were her delight.

Yes, that’s right! Nothing’s my fault; it’s his! You wouldn’t have met Peer if it weren’t for him! I’m blameless! DIE DAD DIE! I HATE YOU, DAD!

But I detest you, sister.

After you killed Dad, I ran away from you. I ran from the village and into the world outside. I remember our village. It was such a fine community, where you could meet trolls of all shapes and sizes; green trolls, blue trolls, fat trolls, thin trolls, trolls with horns… Some would sell fruits and sweets, others would show you the pigs or brownies they bred, and I knew one who had dancing elfs. They would never forget to greet each other with a warm smile and a wave of the claw. Now when I look back at them I feel nothing but disgust. All those trolls are monsters and I hate them because of you. I even threw away my princely clothes, so, thanks to you, I run around naked like a commoner…or better, an animal.

I’m an animal. That’s what I’ve become after I’ve run from you. I’ve slept in caves to avoid the sunlight. I’ve hunted rabbits and birds, and if I can’t find any meat, I eat grass. Like those damn goats you’re so obsessed with. And yes, humans have chased me, but I survived. If I died, would you give a damn? Hell, one time I met these drunken milkmaids who wanted me to court them! You wouldn’t give a damn about that either, would you?

I am an idiot. I actually thought you would forgive me and give me a second chance. I actually had the nerve to go back to my former home and see you.

‘Get away from me,’ you said, ‘Things are bad enough without you returning.’ At least you recognised me.

To think I actually got on my knees and begged! ‘What have you done for me? Where were you when I was in pain?’ And then you burst into tears. You’ll be getting no sympathy from me; you never gave me any.

You did give me a second chance though. You gave me one day to find a goat and bring it to you. You said they were trying to stop you; even now it sounds ridiculous. You sent me without weapons or armour or even a cage to hold the animal. I think you wanted me to fail. Did you curse me like you did that human? Why don’t you curse the goats then? You gave me sunlight though…

Yes, thanks to you, I experienced sunlight. I must admit, it felt rejuvenating, basking in warm and holy light I had been deprived of my whole life. I saw lush green fields, sparkling fjords, pine forests in all their majestic glory. Thank you, sister.

Fuck it. Maybe it is my fault. I should have taken the little goat. I thought you’d be happier with a bigger one. I had such a headache. Such an idiot…

Dare I return to you? No, I shouldn’t. No…you’ve had a deplorable life and I’ve done nothing about it. I almost think I made it worse…

FUCK YOU. I shouldn’t feel sorry for you!

Now I’ve been defeated by that big goat for the second time, as if Fate is mocking me. I should have just killed him. Maybe I would have been happier.

It had taken all night, but it had been worth it. Big bit tightly onto the troll’s tail, dragging him across Norway as he lay unconscious after the “battle”. Not once did Big ever spare a thought about the likely possibility that he would be attacked by his prisoner, especially not after the way he didn’t defend himself. The prisoner was heard to be grunting and groaning, but Big ignored it. Perhaps, thought Big, the troll has learnt its lesson, and will thus be more co-operative. He liked to think he had put the fear of God into that troll, and could now be considered a force to be reckoned with.

The pair reached the rocky path to the goat’s cave, and Big tried to take a breather while still biting the troll’s tail. Upon travelling to Andreas, Big had to endure several ‘ows’, which served as a minor – extremely minor – irritation, but when the troll had the nerve to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Big cringed and let go. As the troll lifted himself off the ground, hoping he had been “freed”, Big slammed into him again and bit his tail tighter.

The journey resumed, and soon they came to Andreas, outside, observing the daylight.

‘Big?’ His one eye rested on the troll, and he immediately began prancing theatrically. ‘Excellent! Bring it in here!’ Big slammed into the troll, sending him into the goats’ base, the residents all gasping. ‘Brothers and sisters in Amalthea,’ said Andreas, raising his one front leg, ‘We have one of the Queen’s lowly subjects in our midst. What do you suggest we do with this scum?’

None of the goats answered, still in shock at the troll’s presence. Each expected the troll to strike, but he just lay there, letting Andreas pin him down. Big stood with a smug look on his face.

‘Stop this,’ croaked the troll, ‘I don’t know nothing about the Queen.’ Andreas whacked the troll with his horns.

‘We know about her twisted plan already.’

‘Then let me go!’

Andreas looked deep in thought. ‘I’ve thought of what we can do with this beast.’ Before the troll could even attempt to escape, his head was suddenly slammed into the ground by Andreas’ horns. The other goats, their fear quickly evaporating, took part as well, butting into the troll, biting him, kicking him and bashing his head against the wall. Big just stood there, feeling rather queasy. Sure, he deserved it, but…

‘Tell the Queen we have a message for her,’ said Andreas, with a fierce grimace, ‘Tell her that you’re living proof not to underestimate us and no more.’ The troll stumbled away, tears dripping from his eye. ‘You did good, Big.’

I am an idiot. I just let those goats beat me with smiles on their furry faces.

Why didn’t I just kill them all? She would have been so pleased with me, she would have forgiven me. Maybe…I’m afraid of them? Afraid of goats? A joke, a fucking joke. That’s exactly what I am.

So what do I do? Do I slash them all to pieces with my claws? Tear their heads off? Take a big juicy bite out of them?

I just lie outside the cave and cry.

Then I run away.

Gruff – Chapter 4

‘La la la! La-dee-la la!’

As if her whining and wailing weren’t bad enough, Little had begun to compose her own music in hopes of keeping her spirits up. As tuneless as it was, Middle admitted it worked as a distraction to his new surroundings. The cold breeze that dominated the surroundings, the cold, damp stone walls, and these small things crawling all over the ceiling.

Their humanoid structure and their grinning teeth clearly showed they weren’t spiders.

As two of those creatures tittered at the two goats’ plight and crawled over to the next cell, the Queen herself, along with her shrouded creature, descended the stairs. She held in her claws a lump of hay for Middle and Little to eat.

‘You had better make yourselves comfortable,’ said the Queen, baring her teeth, ‘you’ll be staying a while.’

Middle looked up at her. ‘What?’

‘Let’s just say your brother isn’t the most pleasant of guests…’

‘That idiot!’ Middle growled, which caused the small creature to take refuge behind the Queen’s legs. After pushing the hay between the bars, Queen and her little pet departed, leaving the two goats alone.

‘Ugh! The trolls have a fucking Queen, and what does he do?’

‘Middle! Stop being so mean!’

Stop being so mean. Well, what am I supposed to do?’



Little cried again, as Middle tried to get some rest.

The Queen slumped herself down on a sofa as that little creature of hers made its way to bed.


A groan echoed through the halls. ‘What is it?’

‘Don’t take that tone of voice with me! You’re mine!’

‘The Great Boyg is no-one’s. You just bound me with spells.’

‘Anyway, have you cleared up the mess in the lab like I told you to?’

‘It was your own fault for allowing goats of all creatures into your palace. They always make a mess.’

‘I had to. Those goats are becoming such a nuisance.’

‘The Great Boyg remembers that you were more concerned with the humans.’

‘Of course! The goats are just a minor irritation, the humans are the ones that truly need dealing with.’

‘And why, may the Boyg inquire, is that?’

She cringed. ‘I’ve told you, it’s for the good of my subjects. They would be thrilled if the humans were to become a lower lifeform. I remember one woman told me about her husband going out to pick some berries and he was attacked…’

‘It’s more than that, the Great Boyg knows.’

‘Stop referring to yourself in the third person, it’s irritating.’

‘Your subjects mean nothing to you, they are empty automatons just there to be ruled over.’

With that, the Queen sprung off her sofa and gave the Boyg a fierce stare. ‘LIAR!’

‘It’s about him, isn’t it?’ She fell back onto the sofa, sighing heavily.

‘Maybe it is. Now shut up about it.’

‘The Boyg was there, it was a fond memory…’

The sofa fell over backwards with a thud as the Queen ran upstairs, trying to ignore her servant’s words. Still, the memories came flooding back to her, looming rebelliously in the darkest corners of her mind. When she met that young man…he said his name was Peer Gynt…

No! NO! Banging her head against the stone walls, she attempted to force the memories out of her head. Her father…that bastard…she was an innocent victim. There was a dearth of troll kingdoms, and there was no-one for her to marry. A shame…she remembered dreaming about marrying a handsome, kind troll prince and living happily ever after. Hah! Pathetic childhood fantasies! Her father had a different idea though…

The Queen stared at a portrait of him on the wall, and slashed it with her claws. The man had a lot of ideas, none of them worth a shit. He claimed to have found the difference between human and troll, and through this, some humans were truly trolls. To man, to yourself be true. To troll, be enough. She didn’t believe it for a second. She was never enough. Each day, she grew more and more. More. She knew the true difference: trolls like her were victims, spoken of in hushed tones as monsters, to be hunted and feared, never respected.

Humans? Scum. And that fateful night only proved it…

One of the most popular magic tricks for female trolls was to wear a special cloak that made them resemble a beautiful human. At first it was just to go out in public but then they thought of a more delicious alternative. They would approach men out walking and seduce them to their doom. They would push the lusty fools off the edge of cliffs, drown them in the depths of fjords or just stab them. Why? The same reason they were hunted: just for existing. Indeed, the Queen knew poor women that had been beaten half to death when the tail under their dress had been noticed.

She had to use that magic. She had to. The only way ‘Prince Peer’ would accept her before speaking with her father. He may look human, said father, but he is a troll internally.

She came to him as a green-clad woman.

He said he’d never beat her.

‘Black it seems white, and ugly it seems fair,’ she said.

‘Big it seems little and dirty it seems clean,’ he said.

She actually loved him. That reminiscence made the Queen feel like she was going to vomit. She loved an arrogant human. She rested her head on his shoulder and anticipated… Immediately she wanted to forget and just continue her life. The memories continued and refused to stop though, causing her to collapse on the floor.

They rode on a bridal steed – the most beautiful boar in the kingdom. Peer didn’t find this strange; maybe they did fit. Maybe they would have happiness. Maybe later she would reveal her true reptilian form and he’d still accept her…NO. Get away from him, the Queen inwardly screamed at her past self. Kill him! Go back to your home and forget he ever existed, damn it! You idiot!

When father saw him, he was pleased. Well, he would be. Come to think of it, those two were just alike. They were both despicable creatures, stupid and useless little twats. At the mountain, all hopes of Peer being an ideal husband melted like butter, into a thin and disgusting mess.

He felt like he could just stand there and mock her kingdom, her species, her, as if it were his right and due. The other trolls should have killed him like they said they would! When the musicians played, he called it, “a bell-cow with her hoof on a gut-harp strumming!” The nerve!

‘And this we must hear and put up with, when I and my sister make music and dance.’

The Queen immediately snapped out of her memories. Her sister! Yes, thought the Queen, I should play with my sister.

Her sister was always in the courtyard, and when the Queen played for her, she laughed and cheered.

From the music room, the Queen grabbed a small lyre, one of her favourites, and hurried down to the courtyard, where she lay there in waiting. The second Queen saw her, she lay in the grass and started to play.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Go away. I’m playing for my sister.’

‘How can a stone be your sister?’ A graveyard in a courtyard. An unpleasant eyesore. ‘She’s dead. Accept that.’

‘No, she’s not.’

‘And as the Boyg recalls…’


‘And what about your broth…’

‘I SAID SHUT UP!’ The Queen returned to her quarters.

‘You idiot!’ After that little encounter with the Queen, which led them back where they started, Big found himself facing Andreas’ wrath. ‘Why couldn’t you control yourself? Now you’ve gone and made her mad. Your siblings are probably dead now.’ Big felt a huge lump in his throat at that remark. His brother and sister may have been somewhat unbearable, but he still loved them, as is the law of things. But now…

Images of their deaths flashed in his brain. The Troll Queen, with a blazing red eye and thick saliva dripping from her reptilian fangs, unlocking Middle and Little’s cell door, scooping them up in her long pointed claws and swallowing them whole, their blood splattering everywhere. It was all his fault. All his fault. Just look at Andreas. As tightly as he bit his lip, he still felt tears welling up in his eyes. Thanks to him, his brother and sister of all people, were dead. He would get no cheers, no hero-worship, but would be looked down on and despised. He closed his eyes tightly, both to avoid Andreas’ gaze and to hide the tears, weaselling under the bridge as Andreas walked away.

Perhaps Middle was right. Perhaps Andreas was some insane old coot chasing after things he would never achieve. Accepting that viewpoint, however, meant that he would be agreeing with the Queen as well, that detestable monster. She couldn’t be right – could she? She was probably torturing Middle and Little right now…and she was so young.

He heard footsteps on the bridge above, that sounded so…familiar.

What Big saw made that certain burst of energy return.

Gruff – Chapter 3

‘Your majesty!’

Darkness engulfed the Queen’s throne, leaving nothing visible in the inky shadows except a glimmer of her eyeball. However, upon hearing of her soldier’s arrival, she lit a nearby candelabrum, allowing her to have a good look at her prisoners, and vice versa. Middle and Little, held back by leashes in the herald’s grasp, took a look at the Queen and gasped. Just the sight of her left the two goats with chills down their spines and dry mouths.

‘Ah.’ She lifted herself off the throne and walked towards her two prisoners. ‘Two. Good.’

‘Hear that?’ said a guard, ‘We did good! We pleased her!’

Shut up.’ The guard stood silent. ‘Take them to the dungeons. Their leader should arrive tonight. We’ll end this silly little rivalry once and for all.’

‘Come along.’ The herald yanked the leashes as he and the guards descended down a spiralling staircase into the murky dungeons. A particularly strong guard lifted both goats by their stomachs and threw them into a cell, their heads banging against the stone wall. With the click of a key, Little did the only thing she could do: whine and make Middle’s imprisonment even more torturous.

‘When mankind was in its infancy, the great spirit of Amalthea rose from the earth to observe these new creations. She was pleased at what she saw so she decided to give humanity a gift. She detached one of her horns from her head and sprinkled her magic on the ground. From the mud there formed hundreds of goats all over the world to supply the humans with food, milk and materials.’

The story of the goats’ spirit guide, Big thought, had some strangely fascinating elements, although the thought of being formed from mud felt a little disturbing, but he still would rather hear about troll-fighting then parables…

‘The demons were enraged that a spirit had given the humans, which they despised, such a gift, so from their violent and hateful thoughts, they created Jotun, the horrible giant, to destroy the gift as well as Amalthea herself. She, however, grouped the goats and humans to fight Jotun and banish him to the mountains of the Dovre. He lay in solitude until he died, and with his final breath, he created a race of reptilian monsters from the sweat of his armpit.’

Big felt like he would vomit from hearing Andreas’ account of how trolls were created, but still, it was appropriate.

‘Many years later, my grandfather met Amalthea. She recounted the entire story of how she brought us a great gift to mankind and told to make sure her deeds were never forgotten. She then told him to gather all the goats he could and rally them into aiding the humans in their battles, thus, this tribe was born.’

After the little encounter with the troll army and that mysterious disembodied voice, Andreas had taken Big back to his “base of operations”; a simple cave, with stalagmites protruding through the floor. Andreas had told Big that this cave was near the place Amalthea slumbered before she was introduced to humanity, and this, thus, was a constant reminder of their goal.

Andreas suddenly leapt and stood on his hind legs, waving his one foreleg about. ‘Our goal is to show that we are not mere beasts!’ He leapt in front of Big, acting like he was holding a sword. ‘We can have the heart and soul of a warrior.’

Big briefly wondered if Middle was right about Andreas, yet Andreas’ enthusiasm, how he had all these other goats hanging onto his every word and even the way he said ‘Warrior‘ made Big feel almost as energetic as his little sister, in a way he couldn’t explain. Staring at the old goat’s good eye He even felt the strange urge to leap in the air as if he were battling with a sword as well.

Andreas gave a chuckle. ‘Let’s have a fight.’

Big bent down his head, as did Andreas, then they collided, tussling with their horns. Big thought this would be an easy task, especially given Andreas’ ‘condition’, but he struggled under his weight when trying to move forward. With a mighty thrust, Andreas pushed Big over on his backside.

Laughing, Andreas helped Big up. ‘You’ve got to try harder than that, if…’ The laughter immediately ceased, replaced by a regretful expression.

Big fought Andreas one more time, losing again, then listened to him tell a few more stories, this time concerning his tribe’s victories. How his father knocked a troll attacking a fellow goat unconscious until the sun came up and the troll crumbled to stone. How he saved a human from a female troll disguised as a beautiful woman through magic. And of course, how he lost his leg and eye to the current Troll Queen, who smirked and cackled as he writhed in pain.

‘Well…’ said Big, ‘I…’

‘Enough!’ Andreas cried, ‘It’s getting dark, we should be going.’

Both Andreas and Big trotted away from the cave, down the rocky path, straight to the place where Andreas’ tribe was buried and Big had his encounter.


Big asked again, ‘Who are you?’

‘Myself.’ Big snorted in irritation.

‘Is it possible to speak to the Queen herself about this matter?’

‘It is.’ A cacophony of bird-like screeches dominated the air, blowing gusts of frenzied wind into the faces of the two goats. The wind seemed to take on a life of its own, as Big felt long fingers that he couldn’t see wrap around his stomach. The winds blew faster and stronger, lifting both Big and Andreas into the air. Big tried his best not to look down, which would only make his stomach churn more. Andreas had a straight face the entire time, while Big closed his eyes tightly and tried to think of better things.

Upon opening his eyes, he met with the snarling face of a wolf.

Silly Big. It was just a statue. There were two of them, standing in front of a grand staircase. Candelabra illuminated every nook and cranny of the room, yet it still felt dismal and sinister.

‘Hello.’ A door, near the right wolf statue squeaked open and the Queen herself emerged. Her single, unblinking eye fixed itself on Andreas as her tail twitched slightly. She didn’t seem to notice Big’s existence.

‘We have come here to discuss the prisoners’ release.’

She sighed. ‘Come with me.’ Big and Andreas followed the Queen into the room from which she had emerged from: an elegant dining room, with a table that Big thought a hundred people could sit at, the wall lined with paintings of other trolls and an array of candles slap bang in the middle. No one sat at the table except a small creature, a shroud draped over its body that made it look like a ghost. The Queen sat at the head of the table, under a painting of another female troll, adorned with myriad jewelry. ‘Sit.’ Andreas sat on her left. Big sat further away; he couldn’t bring himself to sit anywhere near her or that small thing.

‘Have you ever heard of the legend of Fenrir?’ The Queen gestured to the stone faces framing her and the portrait behind her. ‘Some people of the village say that someday he will be awakened and devour the humans, leaving only trolls. I personally don’t believe it, as delightful as it sounds, but nonetheless, he has been a symbol of my family for years.’

‘We don’t care for foolish myths,’ barked Andreas, ‘Why have you captured this goat’s brother and sister?’

‘I had to. You didn’t think I actually enjoyed it, did you?’ Big snarled.

‘What about the prisoners?’ Andreas jumped onto the table, his face right in the way of the Queen’s.

‘Oh yes,’ said the Queen, her voice lacking any kind of emotion, ‘I want to show you something.’

As she said that, a hairy lump entered the room, a tray of food in its hand. It served the Queen a plate of meat, with grass for the two goats. Andreas returned to his seat and munched on the grass.

‘What I propose,’ she said, holding out a piece of parchment, ‘is peace.’

Almost choking on his dinner, Andreas blurted, ‘What?’

‘This war between us has been going on for long enough, and to be frank, it’s all a bit silly.’ A burst of mocking laughter escaped her throat. ‘You think you can be just as experienced as humans when they’ve got weapons, experience, and most importantly, fingers? How ridiculous.’

‘We want to fight beside the humans…’

‘You shouldn’t care about them. What have they ever done for you? They’ve certainly never done anything for me.’ The table shook as she slammed her fist on it, which terrified the little creature. She took a deep breath, and then continued, ‘Follow me.’ Big, Andreas and the small thing followed her out of the dining room, and through another door on the bottom floor. ‘Behold.’ Flasks and pipes, holding glowing liquids of many colours, which bubbled with glee.

Big spoke up, his face grimacing, ‘And what are those supposed to be?’

‘Many of my family have studied magick, but I’m taking it further than any of them have done.’

‘And what is that meant to mean?’

‘I am tired of my species being forced to hide in dingy, dank, sunless caves, because we were cursed to find sunlight fatal. We’re reptiles, we need sun!’

Andreas grunted. ‘A curse well deserved. But I have heard you managed to lift it.’

‘True. Now I am going to show the humans that my species is not one to be messed with. That curse has caused so many deaths…’ She slammed her fist on the wall, her facial features twisting. ‘But no more. Using these potions, I will cast the curse upon the humans.’ Both goats gasped. ‘It will be the dawn of a new age, where trolls will rise as the new dominant species, and you goats will be a part of it too.’

Andreas stepped forward. ‘What the hell do you mean?’

‘I mean that my kind won’t devour your kind anymore. You will be citizens, our equals, you will be above those humans. They don’t care about you, they just want to eat you. In that sense, our species aren’t really all that different. And seriously, with that missing leg and eye…’

‘It’s your fault I lost them!’

‘…I’d have thought you would have realized how moronic you’re being.’

The energy. That energy from Andreas’ enthusiasm returned to Big, but it felt different. The Queen had caused its return, and it kept demanding Big to use its power against her. His body took on a life of its own, running towards the Queen, leaping into the air and butting her right in the stomach, sending her tumbling backwards, and thus knocking over the table. The flasks smashed to the floor, hissing and bubbling. Emerging off the ground, fiercely growling, the Queen tightened her thin claws around Big’s neck and throttled him as he spat in her face.

That’s it,’ said the Queen through clenched teeth, hurling Big at Andreas, ‘If that’s the way you’re going to act, you can forget about having those two back.’ And with a wave of her finger, the two goats found themselves back at the bridge.