Grenlon was considered unintelligent, even for a troll. He couldn’t count. He couldn’t identify left from right. He couldn’t look at his reflection (it got him very, very confused).
But still Grenlon, as unbrained as he was, had a job. An important job. What Grenlon had to do was to make sure no-one stole from The Rubble.
The Rubble, you see, is a pile of rocks stacked in a heap about yay-high, and it is very important to trolls. It is hard to explain quickly, but basically stealing from the rubble would cause “all hell” to “break loose”, and this is best avoided.
So, when the Drolls came along intending to steal from The Rubble, Grenlon became the most important of trolls. The thing was he did not know it.
The day the Drolls came to steal from The Rubble, Grenlon began his morning as normal: he woke up, scratched away filth, batted clean a garment, clothed, ingested dietary requirements (as he could not identify hunger), and, with his picture list ticked, he strolled to work.
Once Grenlon was at his post before The Rubble the Drolls began their plan. (Honour restricts Drolls from stealing when anything is unguarded. Otherwise it’s unfair.)
The plan of the Drolls unfurled: with many slights of hand, misdirection, and some fake identification, they garnered passage to The Rubble. Here, they believed matters would be simple.
At first it took no more than a tap on Grenlon’s shoulder, and a point at some obscure illuminated object, to divert the attention of this most unintelligent troll. To be safe, a droll stood at Grenlon’s side and asked questions about the appearance of the pre-arranged, randomly positioned flicker of light. Meanwhile other drolls stole stones from The Rubble.
Yet, as perfect as this seems, the Drolls did not get far.
Sure they had been devious in getting to The Rubble, and the elaborate light system seemed to distract Grenlon, but there was one thing they did not count on.
As the Drolls secreted rubble-filled-bags past Grenlon, Grenlon did not look at the bags, or the Drolls, or the dusty trail, or the rubble. He looked at the sun, and the sun was way too high.
‘That light is too high,’ said Grenlon.
‘It is late in the day,’ said an alert droll.
‘No,’ said Grenlon, ‘It is still now.’
As careful as the Drolls were, the silently disappearing peak of The Rubble altered Grenlon’s horizon. Grenlon liked his horizon. He liked the horizon and knew roughly how much time elapsed since he last looked at it.
‘Still now,’ said Grenlon factually. ‘You not troll,’ added Grenlon factually.
The droll waved authentic looking papers at Grenlon, but Grenlon did not pretend to read them.
‘You stealing Rubble?’ Grenlon asked the droll.
‘Yes,’ said the droll honestly. (It’s unfair otherwise.)
Grenlon was not smart, but being a troll he was a lot stronger than a droll. He was a lot stronger than eight Drolls. The Drolls did not escape.
Bonnie was a small horse, not like a Shetland, just small, like someone who’s undersized, not like a dwarf, just short, you know what I mean, and because she was short all the other horses her age made fun off her, especially Errol who was a big horse for his age. These other horses would run around, leap over things, stick their heads above fence railings and talk about things visible just above crests. Bonnie resented it.
What was even crueller was that even elder horses, who really should know better, would be a bit nasty to Bonnie. They would do it in a snide way because they knew they should know better and didn’t want to be caught out by Bonnie’s mother – who was a top sort, and her father – who was a bit rough around the edges to look at but honest and straight working. The elder horses would quibble about Bonnie’s genetic stock when her and her family weren’t around, that’s one example, and there was other stuff like not picking her for activities.
Anyway, this story is about Bonnie, the shorty who couldn’t jump a stream. You see, the horses her age would mock Bonnie about all kinds of stuff, and leaping over things was one of them.
As a general rule horses can leap lots of things. They leap over flower pots, they leap over shrubs, they leap over specifically heighted horizontal bars, and they can leap across streams. But Bonnie’s gape was low (that’s the distance between strides… strides as in the distance covered between footsteps, not trousers), and her ability to saunter over objects was pitiful.
So one day the other horses decided to go for a walk, and as a joke they invited Bonnie along. They jumped over pot plants, which Bonnie had to go around, they jumped over shrubs, which Bonnie had to push through, and they jumped over specifically heighted horizontal bars, which Bonnie had to go under. All the while the horses laughed at Bonnie for not being able to copy them, and all the while Bonnie followed them because it was nicer to feel like she was part of something, rather than stand in the back paddock alone like she usually did.
While laughing and talking about items just over the horizon, the horses came to a stream and all, bar Bonnie, jumped across. They passed from one bank to the other without getting wet but as Bonnie approached Errol, the lead horse here, turned and yelled at her to stop.
From the other bank, across the two meter gap, Errol called to Bonnie and told her that she couldn’t follow them anymore unless she could cross the stream without getting wet.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to tell a story about how Bonnie invented a boat, or gnawed at a tree to create a bridge, or that she summoned some sort of amazing extra athletic performance and leapt the distance, a distance more than twice as far as she had ever leaped before, but the fact is she couldn’t.
Bonnie was a horse, and so unable to conceptualise enough design principles to construct a boat using only her hoofs, and there were no trees nearby to gnaw, and she was not fit enough to jump across the stream without getting wet.
And so Bonnie stood there, on the other side of the bank, and considered her options for about four seconds – which for a horse is a very quick bit of brain activity. At the end of her four seconds Bonnie stepped out and strolled right through the stream and onto the other side.
Errol protested this blatant ignoring of his rules. He told Bonnie that she did it wrong and had to go back to the home paddock on her own. Bonnie, with the other horses looking on, told Errol that she was out for a walk and didn’t care what he said, and that over the horizon was only more paddocks ‘cause she went there once and saw them, and that he and the others were just making things up about windmills.
Errol suddenly felt his inflated sense of pride being damaged by this honesty and bit-out at Bonnie. Bonnie dodged the attempted nibble, kicked Errol in the knee, and pranced (horse’s often prance) away to the edge of the pack.
All eyes focused on Bonnie – which for horses meant they had to look straight at her, none of this sideways glancing stuff, they all looked at her front on, noses leading, two eyes beaming. Bonnie could feel the tension.
Some horses were clearly siding with the viciousness of Errol, while some thought this whole thing was getting out of hand – after all trying to bite someone really is crossing the line.
Bonnie stared at Errol and Errol stared at Bonnie. One of the watching horses raised its tail and dropped a dollop of poo out its back passage, another’s ear twitched, another’s neck got bitten by a mosquito and shook.
Errol, for all his bravado, didn’t know how to break this tension. He thought of bitting at Bonnie again but didn’t really want to get into a fight – much like modern superpowers Errol knew that the threat of war was more cost effective, and with a higher rate of survival, than actual war itself.
Bonnie on the other hand knew what to do. She was afraid to do it, she thought it would be shameful, but she did it all the same, she walked away. She decided that, screw them, she didn’t need to be friends with jerks, and she didn’t need to pretend to be all about fighting like Errol did. What she really wanted was to go for a walk, so she did.
The other horses were quite surprised. You could say they were dumbfounded, but they were only horses and there is a limit to their emotional depth. Dumbfounded might be beyond them, but if they were to invent a word for what they felt then dumbfounded might be it. As it were they settled with being very surprised indeed.
When Bonnie got home, and snuggled up to her mummy and daddy, she was told that all the stables had been talking about her. They had all said she was very brave, even the young horses who made fun of her that afternoon said she was brave, and Bonnie’s parents were very proud. Bonnie slept soundly.