“You big oaf, put me down this instant.”
Through the parted ferns Reginald could just make out the tiny form of the fairy being held between two of the troll’s large fingers. A rumbling response issued from the captor. By the time the sound reached the edge of the clearing it was a vibration in the young prince’s bones.
Reginald shifted his position and tried to weight up his chances. He was an accomplished archer, considered a mark above his four older brothers. From here, even flat on the ground, he could hit the troll, but that was not the problem; felling it with one shot was the challenge.
The creature was far bigger than he had expected. There had been many stories told to the princes when they were little and not a few tales recounted in the ale houses they visited around the city. Reginald had always presumed that most of these were fiction dressing up by a small amount of fact. Trolls probably did exist in the wilds, but the likelihood of them being three times the height of a man was small indeed. Now, watching as the grey skinned colossus toyed with its captive, the prince wished he could remember the details of those stories.
One arrow to the left eye seemed the best option. As long as the brain was penetrated the troll would fall; hopefully. On the off chance the first strike failed there would still be a space of four heartbeats before it was on him. That was time for a second shot and hitting a moving target had never been a problem.
If it all went to plan the fairy would be freed, the prince would be the hero and he would return home with the blessing of the fey. Archery skills may not have made him stand out in his father’s eyes, but such an accomplishment as this would make Reginald more than simply the youngest prince.
With his bow in hand, arrow notched, Reginald took a long slow breath to relax his body. The head of the troll has in his line of sight. He exhaled and released. The shot was true. The troll had not seen it. All was perfect until the fairy called out a warning.
One heartbeat and Reginald was on his feet, the troll had turned to face him, a shaft sticking out of one muscled shoulder. Two heartbeats and another arrow had been drawn and notched; the troll was running. Three heartbeats and the shot was loosed, the ground began to shake from the force of the charge. Reginald dropped his bow and reached for his sword. The arrow was a hand span from the troll when it transformed into a grass snake, bouncing harmless off its target. Four heartbeats and the creature was on him.
Reginald saw a fist the size of his head come at him from the left. He raised his sword and adjusted his balance ready to parry the attack. As he shifted a cascade of sparkling dust rained down across his eyes. His sword missed its target and the blow hit him in the chest. Air was forced from his lungs as he was lifted off the ground. When he hit the tree he had been thrown into he lost consciousness.
The prince opened his eyes. His vision has blurred and a heavy weight rested on his chest.
“I told you he would be okay.” The voice was high pitched, female and close by. “Which is a good job because I don’t think killing the locals would go down well.”
“Well I hope he’s got some broken bones,” came the gravely reply. “My shoulder is going to take hours to heal.”
As his sight returned Reginald was greeted by dirt covered toes pressed up to his nose. He raised his eyes and followed the large foot to a thick ankle and a leg the width of a man’s chest. The troll peered down from what seemed like the height of a castle turret.
“What do you think you were doing, shooting at us like that?”
Reginald turned his head so he could see the fairy. She was a tiny creature no larger than his hand. The blur of beating wings shimmered at her back. Her body was lithe. For a moment the prince was stunned by her beauty.
“I … Er …” He swallowed his nerves. “I was trying to save you.”
“Save me! Did you think I was about to be eaten?”
“Well … Er … Yes.”
The fairy looked up at the troll. “There you have it. We don’t need to practice the act anymore. If we can fool this slow-witted woodsman it’ll be easy to convince an audience when I’m screaming for mercy.”
Both the creatures began to laugh.
10 September 2010
A circus currently performing in Australia has been ordered to drop an act involving a woman swallowing a live fish and then regurgitating it.
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