The Sword of Paracelsus: The Troll, Part 3

Sword & Stone 2 001

“Who was that?” cried Eny, pointing after the little man.

The shopkeeper looked up from an unruly heap of invoices and receipts.  “The name escapes me,” he said.  “Though I’ll admit that he has been in here quite a lot the past few days.  Someone said he’s a troll.”

A troll?  Immediately Eny’s mind flashed back to her adventures in the Sidhe.  In the Otherworld she’d seen giants, angels, shape-changers, and tough, spindly dwarf-folk.  But in all her strange wanderings she’d never come across a troll.  “You mean like the trolls in The Hobbit?” she said.

He laughed.  “More like Billy Goat’s Gruff.  I take it you’re new around here.  ‘Trolls’ live under bridges.  In this case, freeway bridges.”

She was out on the sidewalk in ten seconds.  It didn’t take long to spot him.  He had crossed the Boulevard and was making his way north along Gower Street at a surprisingly rapid rate.

Eny clenched her fists.  The light was red, and she felt as if it would never change.  When it did, she bounded off the curb like a hound after a hare.  Up the first block, past the Greek Deli and the falafel stand, past the dirty yellow apartment buildings she pursued her quarry.  She ran like a deer, but she was still about fifty yards behind when the little man slipped into the shadow of the church’s big brick gothic tower.  That’s when she saw the crow.

It was sitting in the same position as the day before—on a stone window sill just below a hanging lantern of wrought iron.  As she drew near, it fluffed up its wings, cocked its head, and clacked its beak threateningly.  Eny felt a chill go down her spine, for it was strangely cool in the shade, and she imagined she saw a glint of green in the bird’s beady black eyes.  For a moment she slackened her pace and almost slowed to a stop.  Then, tearing her eyes from the crow’s hypnotic gaze, she forced herself to push ahead, fixing her attention unswervingly upon the object of the chase.

The man in the hat had now passed the church grounds and was fast approaching the freeway overpass just beyond the corner.  Of course, she thought—the bridge!  With that, she picked up her feet and ran as if she were running for her life.  She just had to see where he’d go next.

She had almost reached the end of the block when seemingly out of nowhere something crashed into her ear with the force of a sudden blast of wind.  In the same instant another something—something like an ice-pick—struck her hard on the crown of her head.

“Ow!” she cried, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and sprawling onto a patch of weedy grass.  Bewildered and stunned, she looked up in time to see a swift inky blot go darting and wheeling away into the high blue air.  The crow!  It had knocked her down, and now it was making off with a lock of her coppery hair!

Gingerly she reached up to touch the smarting spot on the top her head.  There was a warm, sticky fluid in her hair.  Licking the blood from her fingers, she got to her feet, picked up her backpack, and looked towards the freeway overpass.  The little man was nowhere in sight.

As if in a daze Eny crossed the street and plunged into the vaporous and echoing shadows below the bridge.  Except for the cars and trucks rumbling by, she was alone in that dim place.  He must be in here somewhere, she thought, her heart pounding fast.  He couldn’t have disappeared that fast.  But though she searched a long time, she saw nothing under the bridge that looked like a potential dwelling place for a troll.

At last she glanced up and noticed a high concrete ledge on the right.  Above the ledge was a hole about four feet high and three feet wide—an opening like a small door in the wall:  an obscure, secret portal lurking in the shadows, both inviting and forbidding.  It was dark inside that door, so dark that nothing was visible within.  But something told her that he was there.

Climb up, said a voice inside her.  Climb up and take a closer look.  But try as she might, she could not pull herself up to the ledge.  For a moment she stood staring up at the hole.  Then, with a shiver, she took a step back from the wall.  At last she turned and ran back to the church.

Later that evening, as she and Moira passed the corner of Hollywood and Gower on their way home from the Lord’s Lighthouse, Eny couldn’t help but notice:  the pawn shop had vanished without a trace.

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