Canto 5 – Across the Open Arcanum
The next morning Tod and Flute invited the girls to look at the map with them.
“We are here, just south of the Troll Bridge and about to enter into the beanfields of the Arcanum, west of the Slow-One Fortress called Duffy’s Farm.” Flute pointed to the spot in the center of the map. “We have to cross the bridge, and cut across an expanse patrolled by heroes from Demarceaux’s Hero Tree, but controlled mostly by the Unseely Court, surfacing from Castle Stoor over here. Gobbuluns like Wartoles and Cyclopes mostly, but a few other wicked creatures as well.”
Looking across the gravel road of the Slow Ones, they could see the old bridge of metal and wood and gravel.
“There are Trolls beneath?” asked Glittershine.
“Possibly, but more likely they are sleeping during the day and will not bother us in the sunshine far above their sleeping holes under the bridge,” said Tod.
“Perhaps we should go quickly now, as the sun is bright this morning,” suggested Poppy, not wanting to risk encountering Trolls. She had hated serving them green slime in the kitchens of Mortimer’s Mudwallow, and here there was no powerful necromancer to stop them from eating a butterfly child they happened to catch out in the open.
As the roosters crossed the road, suddenly the smell of rotten, moldy flesh told the group of Fairies that Trolls were on the bridge.
“Tod! Spur your rooster and make it run!” shouted Flute.
“I see the trolls. They are lying dead in the road, slowly turning into stones in the sunlight.” Tod pulled up to a stop beside one of the three Troll bodies. Poppy could actually hear the Troll-flesh crackling as the sunshine cooked it and made it into rock.
Flute pulled his rooster up too, and he and Glitter dismounted to look at the bodies.
“These bodies show signs of sword cuts,” said Glittershine.
“Yes. A Fairy sword. Possibly the Fyrehandle, the great sword of Lord Lancelot himself,” said Flute.
“Who is Lord Lancelot?” asked Poppy.
“He’s a great Fairy war hero, a Storybook Fairy since the time of the Slow One’s King Arthur,” said Tod.
“The son of the immortal Lady of the Lake,” added Glittershine.
But before they could do anything more, one more Troll was lumbering towards them, smoking from Troll sunburn and moaning in an angry way.
“This one is yours, Poppensparkle,” said Flute. “Use your polymorphing spells to turn the creature into stone. Put it out of its misery.”
Poppy could call the spell instantly to mind. But when she pointed her power finger at the Troll, her stomach began to churn, and she couldn’t make the spell kill the Troll. Not after she had seen the Necromancer kill Fairies and laugh about it afterwards. The White Stag had taken those memories away from her. But the situation now brought it back.
“I… I can’t do it!”
“You have to, Poppy! Before it reaches us!” shouted Tod.
She tried to control the swirling sickness in her guts as she wrestled with killing the poor thing. And then the spell came out of her pointer finger in a cloud of orange smoke and enveloped the Troll. And that was somehow not right… because the smoke was supposed to be smoky-colored, not orange.
“Oh, no…” She fell to her knees and emptied the contents of her stomach on the gravel road.
The cloud dissipated, leaving behind a… small sylph boy? He was naked and crying. His brown skin still was dripping with the leavings of the magical orange smoke.
Flute approached the weeping child. “Who are you? Did the Troll eat you, or something?”
The child looked at him with frightened eyes.
“Am no Trollz food! Am Schtinker! Am baby Trollz!”
“Whoa! Poppy? Did you turn the Troll into this sylph boy?” Flute gasped.
“I couldn’t turn him to stone. That would be killing…” Poppy had to stop there and throw up some more.
“It’s alright, Poppy. This Schtinker is still a Troll on the inside, but the new form is far less dangerous,” said Tod.
“Danger-us? Schtinker no know danger-us. Am no killah! Dat nite be doe killah!”
“What did he say?” asked Poppy.
“So, what do we do with him? If we just leave him here he will go back to the Unseely Court and be evil.” Tod shook his head sadly as he said it.
“We could kill him here and save him the trouble,” said Flute.
“No! He’s just a child!” said Poppy, horrified at the callousness.
“We can take him with us and teach him to be good,” offered Glittershine.
“That would be too much work,” said Flute.
“How do we decide? Take a vote?” asked Tod.
“We let Poppy decide. She created him, he’s her child, her responsibility,” said Flute, looking her in the eyes.
“Well, that’s it then. We take him. I will take care of him.”
Flute looked at her with eyes she thought showed great intelligence. And then he smiled.