The terrace troll

 

Like a rock pile misaligned

With protruding buttocks pushed behind

Grey knobby legs spayed out front

and supporting one big most ugly lump

of rock, that was his knobby head

that lay cradled within his arms atop his knees abed

 

That he aroused sounds like rocks a clatter

Sort of rumbling as  he breathed, didn’t begin to matter

That shrubs had fought in desperation around his  limbs

let him play games of ‘I’ll guess who wins’

and when he was right, plans he’d refine ,  Like stay right here until I dies,

but the bird shit was sometimes slipped down in his eyes

 

and so for many, many seasons,

nature would come betwixt his reasons

from ere the last snow’s comfort would depart

or autumn leaves falling, broke his heart

always watching the misty valley, far below

change a bit with every year, so nice and slow

 

this was nigh the sunset of that  age of power

highborn still most often, yet cautious to deflower

Old lands filled with ancient legends and caprice

Where in times fore this arrival  all peoples here had vanished thrice

but short lived men grew old and worried  less for that

to scoff at tales of  ruin from far places on the map

 

Over the years farms came to the valley and he watched them spread.

“ All most as fast as fire he mused” and wondered where it lead

Many  times changes from such fires, where all was turned to ash

with the growth, in later years where the forest returned at last

This was new, it came in squares and varied with the days

as he watched the growers, cut and turn the barley and the hays.

 

Roads appeared and soon a town

That turned to stone, while it gathered round

Walls and towers and a then keep

With a blue encircling  moat both wide and deep

At troll’s hill's base appeared small warding signs

Saying the king forbids any to cross this line

 

But folk often  picnicked near there anyway

finding it a pleasant place to waste such time away

During  summer nights the thieves sometimes arrive to mark

plans for the nights or to carouse a bit , and then depart

Troll up there didn’t mind, He was content having all he’d ever need.

But just like the birds, thieves sometimes peed.

 

A time was when a horde of men and machines appeared outside the walls

the sky filled with smoking balls of fire, stones and the lightning  that they called

to strike down repeatedly on the city’s pavements, the ramparts of the walls and great towers

magic marking trails and glaring ribbons of  light  flowed back from the defenders at all hours

Flaring upon  gruesomely varied  layers and clouds of smoke  while sun and moons were covered

As time passed the rectangles in the valley began to distort and  blend into one another,

 

One night the ;lights were gone save for a few small scattered  fires

Some voices spoke in the darkness  up upon the hill , “You know they are always liars”

A woman’s voice, “If I don’t go to him 300 more each day will die”

another says “But your the last one bound to this land, If you  go we can’t even try”

“We won’t let you” say another”, and there are sounds of running and pursuit

The troll feel branches brushing on it’s face as a climber comes through the roots

 

He feels the creature scale a leg and then clamber above his eyes

and wonder precious wonder, feels drops like rain from a clear sky

and traces one such droplet in a crevice, that trickles very slowly

for an eternity , Its important, so important, that quickly it should move quickly

to touch his own eye before he can think

now the rare unrecorded, in all the ages, He wills himself to blink

 

And forces the tear to mix with new tears suddenly born of his own

As reaches up gently to lift the princess from where his head was overgrown

rises feeling such complete certainty that shakes it the mountainside,

Absolutely  he will right the wrong, that for the first time has made him cry

Magic he binds to sooth her with the love that encompasses everything he has been or seen

And what he would do comes to him like whispers in a dream

 

Down In the valley is what troubled her, something in the lands below

It’s but a stride to step down from the hill, once he decides to go

The first thing he sees and crushes are all machines he can feel that she hates

He circles the city crushing them meeting an army at the gates

They wheel around him, none that near, mages sending magic across

He pauses, yes, They pain her too, so he tells the earth to toss  

 

putting the army deep underneath and in a moment it is done,

The land is empty, outside the walls mounds of dirt steam in the sun

He looks for the rest of her pain, Can tell the keep is where it dwells

Stepping quickly through the walls, up to the moat, he never notices that the towers fell

He swings his fist at the castle wall but its slippery and he can’t reach

He is pushed back by a wall of magic as he tries to grip it underneath

 

He pounds at it for an hour, But it stands his ripping fails,

Then he tears the ground around asunder, also to no avail

And magic, that even he can notice, occasionally gives him pain

and now a shadow covers him and he turns to be bathed in flame

by a crimson dragon, summoned somehow by those within keep

and the dragons flame it pains him and it pains him deep

 

So he reached out and crushes it, between his cliff like hands

and steps back considering the keep and his trust over the land

Since they summoned an ancient power , he could use the same

and dragons were nearly the smallest power he could name

He turned and began walking back up to his place on the hill

While the ground began to quiver, like a bowl of water sometimes will

 

A tumbled ridge of boulders running down from the hill’s crest

Lumpy head supported by one arm’s  tower of rock  that’s pressed

underneath it, while the other palm spreads as a ledge between

The troll and the smoking mountain in front that could be seen

His palm is open there so he can also see one other thing

Though her bones are long since gone, she had a silver ring

 

Saul Scudder,  December 1999