Once upon a time, there was a lonely and angry troll. He only wanted to cause misery, so much so that even the other trolls weren’t fond of him. Because of this, he one day decided to move far away from the rest of his kind, into the enchanted forest that they had originally come from. This was a forest troll. A human like creature, covered in black fur and with a massive nose. He also had small, impotent horns.
The ancient forest was serene and peaceful during the day. Bathing in the sun, the nature was rich and sprawling. Tall trees, vibrant grass, colourful flowers, mossy rocks and running water could be found everywhere. It was a paradise, and as far as the troll was concerned, it all belonged to him. During the night, however, the mood was quite different. It was colder than usual as a fierce wind blew though the trees. Some nights, the wind was so harsh that it almost sounded like a threatening screech. Regardless, the troll insisted on staying there. Not wanting to freeze at night, he scouted for a place to sleep. He wandered around the forest and eventually got to know parts of it like the back of his hand, but didn’t find a good place to settle – until he found something very rare.
He came by a wide river which could only be crossed by a stone bridge. Very few structures remained there from the old days, so this was quite a special discovery. “This is it.” he thought, “This will shelter me from the wind, and provide a perfect hiding spot for me to hunt. I will eat anyone I find passing this bridge. Bleurgh!” (Trolls say ‘bleurgh’ btw)
Summer came and went as the troll thrived in his new home. The forest was turning. Leaves began to wither and fell to cover the ground. Big spiders were leaving nasty webs in inconvenient places. The cold wind was returning, and so were the noises it made at night.
One day, just as the troll was starting to feel hungry, he heard the unmistakable sound of little hooves approaching the bridge. “Perfect timing!” he thought, preparing himself for the feast.
Just as the animal was right above the bridge, he jumped up and saw that it was a little goat! “Bleurgh!” he yelled!
The goat leapt backwards. “Bwaah!” he exclaimed, “Uh, I mean hi! Sorry, I go native when I’m startled.”
“Wait, what?” asked the troll, “You talk?”
“You really shouldn’t be that surprised. It’s an enchanted forest.” said the goat.
The troll was embarrassed, but shook it off. “Whatever, I’m still going to eat you! I’m the apex predator around here!”
“Wait! Me?” the goat whimpered, “Seriously? I’m tiny. Are you on a diet? I mean, you could use one, but I didn’t figure you’d care!”
“Hey!” yelled the aggravated troll, “When I say 'bleurgh' then that means I get to eat you! Not much you could do about it anyway.”
“Of course, but there are bigger goats out there than myself. My older sister will cross here by noon, and she’ll last you far longer.”
The troll rubbed his chin for a bit. “So what you’re saying is that you’re willing to sacrifice your own family in order to survive.” He burst into laughter. “That’s cold hearted, man! I like your style. You can cross, but know that I can smell your blood and track you down if I wish to do so. Your sister better be there.”
“You have my word.” said the goat, as he continued over the bridge and deeper into the forest.
Time passed as the troll waited patiently. As hours went by, he spent more time sitting under that bridge than he was used to. Because of this, he noticed a row of symbols engraved in the stone. He couldn’t read, so they didn’t provide much insight. He eventually did remember seeing that arrangement of symbols on other human structures. A more well read troll had claimed it was some kind of ‘warming’. Well, it certainly was warmer under the bridge, but that clearly had nothing to do with those markings. Stupid humans.
Noon arrived, and sounds of hooves were once again heard. The troll prepared himself to do the same stunt. As the goat was right above the bridge, he jumped up and yelled “Bleurgh!” once again.
This goat wasn’t nearly as frightened as her younger sibling, only raising her eyebrows a bit at the sight. “Okay, so my younger brother crossed here a few hours ago, right?”
“Yes.” answered the troll.
“So you let him go because he promised you could eat me?” she asked.
“You better believe it!” The troll looked at her, “What a trade-off too. You’ve got enough on you to last me days!”
“Figures he’d say that. Well, if I can last you days, than surely my dad can last you weeks?” remarked the larger goat.
The troll laughed once again. “Oh, you’re doing it too! Your whole family is a bunch of traitors, I love it! You can go, and I’d usually mention that I can easily track you down if you’re lying, but your brother told me the truth.”
“That’s because our family is also enchanted to speak with honesty.” said the goat as she continued onwards, “Father will be here in the evening. It’s a long wait, but consider the reward.”
She disappeared into the woods just like her brother.
Annoyed and hungry, the troll waited for evening to come, tossing stones into the river to pass the time. It was going well for him, though. He wasn’t missing his people, and had managed to live life alone for half a year. In his mind, he had proven himself better than all of them; a troll in his own environment, just like his ancestors. It was a lost art for his kind, who now mostly relied on bothering and stealing from humans.
Still, the hunger was rough on him. There wasn’t much to do but to practice the jump over and over. As he perfected the technique, he noticed that the sun was finally starting to set, colouring the sky orange and sending blinding light through the trees. From then on, he didn’t dare move far from his spot under the bridge.
About the time when the shade of the trees reached the riverside, another set of hooves were heard in the distance. It was finally time for the big score.
For the third time that day, just as the goat was right above the bridge, the troll jumped up. “Bleurgh!”
To his surprise, the goat father was so big and so strong that the two seemed about evenly matched, and he showed no fear.
“Hello.” said the goat, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this isn’t going to happen. My family and I walk this path every autumn, and we heard rumours that a troll had chosen to live here. We split up as a way to trick you into waiting for the biggest goat, and it appears that you fell for it. You either let me pass or risk your own life fighting me.”
The troll couldn’t believe it. “You tricked me!? I’ve been starving all day! I need to eat someone! You, though... I can’t risk taking you on.”
“Relax.” said the larger goat, “Something even meatier is walking this way, and it isn’t with us. We don’t care much for it, so you can have it. Have you ever heard of unicorns?”
With those words, the troll’s eyes widened. “Yes. Yes! I’ve heard they’re the most beautiful creatures of them all. They walk on elegant hooves, their breathtaking manes flow gracefully in the wind, and their eyes are so gorgeous that they remind you of all which is good in the world, and being in the presence of one makes you feel like life is a wonderful dream. They must taste so sweet!”
The largest goat chuckled. “Yes, you have indeed heard the stories. Well, our family have travelled this way for years, and we know that a unicorn always crosses this bridge after we've left - only it doesn't arrive until midnight.”
“Go then, get out of here!” yelled the ecstatic troll, “You win! Whatever! I’ll be eating unicorn for a month!”
After the largest goat had left, the troll started dancing with joy. He completely forgot all about his hunger as he tap danced, river danced, did backflips, rubbed one out, and ran back and forth over the bridge. It had been such a stupid day, full of time wasting nonsense, but all of it would be worth it. Goats? Food for chumps is what that was! This troll was about to have a feast worthy of kings!
It took a while for him to take a break and sit back down. He kept going over the recent events in his head. The goats had all been honest, because they were enchanted to never tell a lie. One of the goats had promised him a unicorn. Unicorns weren’t known for fighting back. All the pieces were in place for this to be the greatest night in his life.
As the sun was setting, the troll began to feel tired but refused to fall asleep. An opportunity like this would not pass him by. He tried focussing on the flowing water, as he suddenly saw something shining in the orange light of dusk. Picking up a nearby stick, he managed to guide the object over to his side of the river bed. It was a knife. Distinctly human made. He looked in the direction that it had come from. Seeing as there were no human villages anywhere close to the bridge, it would've had to be from somewhere far away. It was a wide river, so it would make sense that it stretched far.
He looked at the knife. It was still sharp and could definitely prove useful in killing the unicorn. It wasn’t like he had a plan anyway. Only when seeing the inscriptions on the side did he change his mind, and so he threw the tool back into the river with disgust. Humans weren’t better than him, just because they could write and read. Nobody was better than him. He could just tip the dumb horse over anyway. He could crack its head on the cold stone bridge and let it bleed out. Now that was a plan!
Night arrived, shrouding the mystical forest in darkness. The troll had slapped his own face sore just to stay awake. As per usual during the colder months, the wind was making its beastly noise. This time it seemed louder than usual. “Odd.” mumbled the troll, “Maybe it’s always like that during the autumn.”
Not long after, something could be heard. The troll excitedly crawled into position and tried to identify the sounds. It didn’t sound like hooves. The noise was much fleshier. “Strange.” thought the troll, “Maybe unicorn hooves are softer because they're so delicate? At least the wind has quieted down so I can actually listen.”
This was finally happening. An entire day of starving was about to pay off. Nothing the unicorn could say or do would change that. He was done listening to anyone or anything wanting to cross the bridge.
A weird smell caught the troll’s nose. It was unpleasant, as if someone had dug up a corpse. “Weird.” he thought, “Maybe the knife belonged to someone who drowned in the river, and now they are floating by too? Whatever, I can live with it.”
The sounds were getting louder and louder, but the creature was still clearly far away. As time went on, the troll started to feel nervous. “No.” he thought, “I’m not backing away now. The goat couldn’t lie, and he promised me it was a unicorn.” Whatever was up there, it stopped. Nothing but the flowing water could be heard, until loud sniffing noises. As it started walking again, vibrations from each step could soon be felt.
Once it had come so close that its breath could be heard from under the bridge, the troll jumped out the same way he had done with all three of the goats. Only what he saw that night was nothing like the tales he was familiar with.
What stood before the troll was a creature of pure terror, far from the innocent being he expected to witness. Instead of elegant hooves, it walked on meaty palms with monstrous claws. Instead of a breathtaking mane that flowed gracefully in the wind, it had rough hair pointing in all directions. Instead of eyes gorgeous enough to make one fall in love and remember all that was good in the world, it had bleak, whitened eyes in which no soul was to be found. Everything was wrong. Scales were covering its legs. Sharp, carnivorous teeth occupied its mouth, as did a lizard’s tongue. A vile stench of death was emerging from it, inescapable now that it was up close. Worst of all, however, was that the unicorn’s horn was pointier than any spear, and visibly stained with the aged blood of its previous victims. The massive, muscular beast did not sparkle or shine in any way, nor did it make the observer feel as if they were dreaming. It was just there, real and in the flesh; a repugnant and horrible reflection of what the myths would have made one believe.
Breaking his fear-induced paralysis, the troll ran. He ran as fast as he could, with all his might, being reduced to pure instinct at the sight of a monster that he knew he could not best. While he put as much distance between himself and the unicorn as he possibly could, he heard it let out a bone chilling roar as it gave chase. It sounded just like the wind.
As the unicorn drew closer, the troll came by a cave that he was familiar with. He knew that it tunnelled all the way through a rock, and that it had a large pitfall in the centre. He ran inside. Being an excellent climber, he stuck to the rocky walls and made it over the pit with ease, waiting eagerly for his pursuer to fall in. That is not what happened. To the troll’s endless horror, the unicorn used its strong claws and flexible legs to climb from the right wall of one side – over the cave ceiling – to the left wall of the other side. This beast might have vaguely resembled a horse, but it acted nothing like one.
Once again, the troll had to sprint with everything he had. As he reached the more dense side of the forest, he had another idea. He would climb a tree, and then jump to another one. Surely the monster was too heavy to follow suit. He ran towards the nearest tree big enough to support him. Closer. He reached out and prepared to jump. Closer. He was just about to set off...
That’s when he felt it.
The unicorn had impaled him through the chest. Its speed had been no match for the starved troll, and he was violently flung all the way back into the cave. In there, the mighty beast went to work. It stomped all over him to tenderise his meat and crush his ribs. It tore him apart with its claws, and bit off large chunks of flesh. Not long passed before all that was left were bloodied bones, laying bare so that they could one day be seen as a warning to anyone else who dared challenge a force of nature so powerful.
When the unicorn was done feasting on its most recent victim, it let out one final victorious roar before disappearing back into the night.