The Ten Terrible Tasks of The Trimblewood Troll
Princess Patricia’s problem became everyone’s problem, as princesses’ problems are prone to.
She was, as it is compulsory for bards to mention when speaking of the daughters of powerful and warlike monarchs, a very beautiful girl. Her father, the King, was very very powerful and very very warlike, so it must be stressed once more that she was very very beautiful. She had a long nose, long and pointed; but bearing in mind the long and pointed spears carried by her father’s armies no one seemed to mind that.
But Princess Patricia had a problem as has been mentioned. Her father’s court magician had been in a fouler mood than was his custom one day (his enemy the Hopping Hag of Haslemere had eaten his lover and sent her bowels back in a bag) and had not been in the mood for the Princess’s persistent prattle. So without a second thought he cursed her nastily, gathered up his things and walked out never to be seen again. The poor Princess was left in a dreadful state, unable to close her mouth and consequently drooling all down her front and making incoherent and most un-regal noises.
This was no way for a Princess to be treated! And her father the King summoned his most noble Knight.
“Most noble Knight,” he said, “Tis time to act most nobly! My daughter whose beauty is beyond compare and whose pretty nose in particular is to be praised, has suffered a dreadful curse! Get you out, noble Knight and travel to Trimblewood. For in Trimblewood lives a Troll who can lift any curse with a wave of his wizened wand!”
The noble Knight gave a bow to his King and then turned to Princess Patricia.
“Your highness,” he said, “It is my honour to-”
Princess Patricia was not in the mood for delays and stamped her (need I remind you) very beautiful foot, and shook her dainty fist, and drooled down her gown some more. Her foot splashed as she stamped it in a pool of her own saliva.
“op asting ime!” she snapped, “et on ith it oo ood or othing oron!”
What a pretty voice she had, as pretty as the many armed men at her father’s command, and the noble Knight left at once on his quest.
Oh it was hard going. The way to Trimblewood was fraught with peril. Up mountains he climbed and down valleys he scrambled. Waded through swamps and sneaked through dreadful caverns. By the time he reached the edge of Trimblewood he was exhausted, cut, bruised, battered and slightly dejected. Also he’d just realised that Princess Patricia had called him a moron and he was feeling quite hurt. A good night’s sleep would help him out though he decided and he found a cosy little inn on the very edge of the wood.
“So tell me your story, noble Knight,” said the cheerful young landlady as she put a bowl of stew in front of him. “You look like you’ve had a hard journey.”
“You’re not wrong,” he said with a deep sigh, and in between mouthfuls he told her the story of his quest and his journey so far, and his quest to find the Trimblewood Troll. The landlady listened sympathetically and when he had finished she kissed him on the forehead.
“Poor sweet baby,” she said, “you’ll feel better after you’ve rested.”
And taking him by the hand she led him upstairs to a very comfortable room and took his boots off for him and even, when he was quite ready to sleep, tucked him in.
He awoke the next morning bright and early and, being a noble Knight, he said his prayers three times aloud before he fastened on his armour (and his boots) and he went downstairs to the smell of fresh bread and sizzling bacon.
Then when he was quite ready to continue his quest the landlady came to him with a basket covered in a red checked cloth and handed it to him.
“Something for your lunch,” she said, and then she stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek very near his lips. “Call in on your way back, so I now you’re safe.” And as he departed into Trimblewood he glanced back to see her waving and smiling.
But there was nothing in Trimblewood to smile about. The paths were narrow and dark with clutchy grabby branches and tuggy snatchy brambles that snagged and snared and pricked and scratched him. Nasty big eyed creatures scuttled by the way and giggled and whispered mockingly as he passed and, though the noble Knight was too modest to talk about it, he did slay a small dragon that tried to do him a mischief.
At length he came to the cave in the heart of the woods where dwelt the Trimblewood Troll. And there it was. Tall and broad, and as large around as a troll should be, with warty skin and wiry hair and bulging eyes that pointed in different directions.
“Trimblewood Troll!” quoth the noble Knight, “I have come on a quest to find you.”
“More fool you,” said the Trimblewood Troll with a cackling guffaw, “for I! I am the Trimblewood Troll! And I am no man’s vassal or servant! What is your quest, noble Knight!”
The noble Knight stood tall and did not show the fear he felt when faced by this fetid fiend.
“I come on behalf of Princess Patricia,”
“With the prominent proboscis?”
“Precisely!” continued the noble Knight, “Who has been dreadfully cursed with an ever-open mouth. Lift this curse, oh Trimblewood Troll, and her father’s gratitude is thine.”
The Trimblewood Troll tapped its fingertips against its tombstone teeth and thought hard; scratching itself and breaking wind as trolls are prone to do when cogitating.
“I will break this curse with a wave of my wizened wand,” it said after an hour had passed.
“My thanks-” began the noble Knight, but the Troll cut off his
words with a thunderous belch.
“I will break this curse with a wave of my wizened wand, but FIRST you must complete Ten Terrible Tasks.”
“Name them!” said the noble Knight.
“First slay the Gryphon, in the mountain’s height
Then learn the secret name of Dragon’s king
Third catch a wolf with hide of purest white
Fourth teach the Ogre of Balhoom to sing
Fifth you must pluck a poisoned thorny rose
Sixth task is simple, build a house of straw
Seventh find a word that no man knows
Eighth task is bottle up a lion’s roar
For the ninth just drink a vampire’s blood
Your final task’s to turn the devil good.”
The Trimblewood Troll nodded, satisfied at its challenge.
The noble Knight blinked a couple of times and thought of his duty, of Princess Patricia and her dreadful curse (and her stamping foot) and then coughed and said.
“Actually no, I don’t think I’ll bother. Sorry to have troubled you.”
He bowed politely and made his way back through Trimblewood, at first wearily and then with increasing speed and with a smile spreading across his face as the trees thinned out and he saw ahead of him the Inn.
He rushed inside and saw the landlady polishing the brass ornaments over the fireplace. She heard his approach and turned and smiled at him.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” she asked.
When he had finished kissing her, and hugging her, and smiling at her, they both knew the answer.