The Troll’s Apprentice (464 Words)
It was one thing to resist a lord’s command, but another, to ignore a child’s plea. So Orvald went to the elf. When he saw him, he forgot for an instant who or what he was, or had been, and saw only pitiable suffering. The troll nursed the elf-captain as best he could to ease the death that was inevitable.
He cleansed the elf’s wounds and bound the crippling injury in sinew and bone. He salved the raw marks on his back. But the elf was less alive than dead. As the human child sat beside him and talked to him, he would rest his hand on the boy’s knee–but his glance was dimmed and to the many childish questions asked, he did not reply.
The little boy loved him. That was plain. What danger they had faced and overcome together Orvald could imagine. The mining city was overrun with crawlers and blood-drinkers. How these two had survived at all was a miracle. But in the troll’s home in the hills, a secret place of healing, they were safe.
“What is your name, boy?” Orvald asked the child.
The human child looked at him with wide eyes. Whether it was his troll shape or short disposition that surprised the boy, Orvald wasn’t sure.
“You should eat,” said the troll. He placed a bowl of gloth in front of the child.
It wasn’t long before the elf-captain sank into his final sleep. It was a pitiful thing, to see the child watching him, waiting for him to wake. But the boy was sleeping himself when the elf quietly died, and the troll was glad. He didn’t know why he should care.
He was surprised himself when he saw the boy walking out the door the next morning with a pack on his back.
“Little thief,” said the troll. “That is my bread. Where are you going?”
The child didn’t answer.
The troll scooped him up and carried him back inside.
“The elf is dead,” he said, placing the child in a chair. “That is true. But before he passed he spoke to me. He said, ‘The boy has no parents. He has no place. Take care of him and I will rest easy in Obb.’”
“Obb is where the gnomes go when they die,” said the boy.
“Fine,” said the troll. “Valhalla. The point remains.”
The child’s face furrowed as he looked down at his feet.
The troll raised the boy’s chin carefully. “You’ll stay with me,” he said. “That is what the elf would want. He would also want you to give me your name.”
“Marco,” said the boy.
“Very good, Marco,” said the troll. “You can be my apprentice. I think we will get on well together. You will make a fine troll.”