Scene Sixty Eight
In which apples should have been brought
Greg looked down the gorge. it was a sheer cliff going down a very long way, and at the bottom a fast moving river carved its way across the landscape, it had foam on it. Greg shook his head, fording the gorge just wasn’t an option.
He turned his attention back to Crazy Sven, who was still arguing with the troll. Greg had tried to explain that there was no point in arguing with a troll, but Crazy Sven seemed to see that as a challenge to yell louder.
“LOOK TO ME YA BIG LITTLE GIRL” said Crazy Sven, “I AM NOT BEING, HOW YOU SAY? ARSEHOLE, THESE ARE BEING APPLES.”
Greg thought that that was stretching the truth a little bit; Crazy Sven was offering McDuffs apple pies to the troll, they were warm, a fact that Greg chose not to speculate on.
Greg settled back against an old pillar which didn’t seem to be supporting much. He knew that they were wasting time, but at this point they seemed to have an infinite amount of time to waste. He didn’t think it could go on for much longer anyway; Crazy Sven had been yelling at the top of his lungs for the last half-hour, and his voice would surly break soon.
Greg became aware of an old man walking along the edge of the gorge. He took a closer look at the man; wondering when his brain had decided that harmless looking old men were more interesting than a huge man of unclear nationality hurling abuse at a troll.
The man looked up and met his gaze. He was a dignified looking old man, like a county gentleman with his estate somewhere else at the moment, and his eye contact was steady, apparently the man also considered Greg more interesting than the altercation that was happening on the bridge, Greg wondered what sort of life he had led.
The man pulled level with Greg and stopped. There was a long moment where the two just watched each other, neither willing to give anything away. Then the man nodded, and leaned against the pillar next to the one that Greg was resting on, Greg made no move to stop him.
“Goodday to you” said the man
Greg nodded and said, “Goodday”. Then he turned back to crazy Sven and the troll, the other man did the same.
They stood like that four a small moment. Each just watching the scene in front of them, without apparently paying attention to the person next to them. Then finally the man spoke, “If I may ask, how did this happen?” he asked.
Greg thought it was a reasonable question; after all it wasn’t something you saw every day. He answered, “We were driving along this road and we came across this bridge, we want to go to the other side, but the troll that’s guarding it wants his weight in apples before he will let us across.”
The man turned his head slightly to take in the taxi parked just before the bridge, and then he turned his head back to the troll.
“So as a result your partner is trying to convince him that a McDuffs Apple pie is much the same thing?”
“I do believe that’s stretching the truth a bit”
A thought seemed to come to the man, “I was under the impression that Troll’s ears are pitched too low to even hear human speech.”
Greg nodded slowly, his eyes still on the Bridge, “That’s right,” he said, “And it works in reverse as well, the speech that trolls use to communicate is too low for humans to pick out.
“And your partner is aware of this?” asked the man, his forehead creasing.
“Then why is he attempting to yell at it?”
Greg shrugged “In the time it have known Crazy Sven I have come to realise that its often better not to ask questions that start with ‘why’.”
The man nodded, “Perhaps so. Where were you attempting to get to?” he asked
Greg thought that this was a rather personal question, but something told him that he could trust this man. “There’s a town not too far from here” he said, “Founded by Lord Redfox, I was planning on heading in that direction.”
The man nodded, “Foxvision. I’ve been there once or twice, a nice place I thought. But now you have found yourself stuck because you cannot cross this bridge?”
The man seemed about to say something, but then another thought seemed to drive the first out of his mind, “If you can’t communicate with him then how do you know what he desires as a toll?”
Greg indicated towards a large sign sitting in front of the bridge. It had large letters painted on it which looked like they had been painted on by someone who couldn’t really write, but who were copying the letters from another piece of paper. The sign read, “Toll for Troll, One Troll Weight in APPLES”
The man looked at the sign in confusion, and then he hopped down from the pillar and walked up to it. He stopped in front of the sign and looked at it in confusion. Then he walked around to the back of the sign in confusion. Then, without much confusion, he started to wrench the sign out of the ground.
Greg thought that the dissonance was hurting his brain; the man looked to Greg like a grandpa of the ‘Dignified but kind’ mould, suited to giving gentle encouragement and advice to his grandchildren, or maybe just sitting on his deck with a glass of fine champagne, and admiring his rose garden; heavy physical labour simply didn’t suit him.
The sign was rammed hard into the earth, and Greg could see the sweat beading on the man’s forehead while he wrenched at it. Greg didn’t really think that the sign would be parting with the earth for anything less than heavy earth moving equipment, but to his great surprise the dignified looking man gave a huge grunt, and the sign came away.
Greg wondered what was going to happen next. He watched as the man turned the sign around and planted it back in the ground, rather more gently than it had been before. Greg forgot himself and stared.
There was writing on the other side of the sign as well; it read, in rather neater writing “We are pleased to inform you of the opening of a new toll less bridge to ease travel through this region, you will find it approximately one kilometre to the left of this sign along the gorge. Many thanks and a safe journey, Gileppi the bridge builder.”