An account by Hunter, as provided by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Art by Leigh Legler
The following account was provided to me by an individual identifying himself only as Hunter, and “problem solver of a more cryptic nature, if you catch my meaning.” I approached him in a tavern and presented myself as representing a town in need of his services. This is a faithful recording of what he relayed about the ecological disaster of recent memory that affected the so-called “Troll River Bridge” community.
To begin with, there was no billy goat. That would be absurd. There were three of them, though–there always are. The thing to understand is that anything we don’t like, anything we find distasteful, or anything that has overstayed its use, we tend to redefine as something unwholesome. That isn’t what those things begin as though. They begin as useful and wanted and even necessary. Left unchecked, even good things can become dangerous.
So this bridge was built to cross the waterway. It was intended so those who sought wisdom could go to the banks and make their requests, while those who just wanted to get to the market could cross over without bother to themselves or to the old ones. For a long time, this worked very well. People would come to seek wisdom in all manner of circumstances, as they always had. They would approach with the appropriate deference and offerings and would depart, oftentimes confused, but if they were open-hearted and thoughtful, in time the thing would unravel itself. Sacred mysteries aren’t just going to be spoon-fed out to you. But the less clever and less thoughtful people just tromped over the bridge again and again, and grew fat on the success of the market, which was in no small part the success of the bridge. In time it was only the very old, and the seekers, and the desperate who came to the water’s edge. In time, the bridge fell into disrepair, but no one wanted to pay to fix it. And eventually, predictably, someone was crossing the bridge, fell into the water below, and didn’t come out again.
The villagers grew angry and resentful. They were being prevented from crossing the river, they said. Why should they be forced to maintain a bridge to avoid these old ones, these monsters, these trolls? It was better to do away with the trolls.
This is where I come in. I saw the notice posted among wanted posters and ordinance declarations on the wall in the tavern: “Troll Hunter Wanted.” They never understand what they are asking for. I went to the village leaders and they wanted me to just kill it, or make it go away.
What about living with it? What about finding out what it wants and living together in harmony?
No, harmony was not for these sturdy folk.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2019 collection.
Hunter is a naturalist and explorer, a citizen of the world, who specializes in non-empirical creature/human interspecies conflict resolution. He currently resides at the edge of The Great Forest. Those in need of his services may rest confident that “a little bird” will tell him, and he will be in touch soon.
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines is a writer of fairy tales and other fantastical things. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, a one-eyed cat, and a snake.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“The Fae Catcher’s Tale” is © 2019 Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler