"W-what? Wait, I
I can't stay here!" Gerry exclaimed a little too loudly, lowering his voice the second the troll raised a bushy eyebrow at him. He knew the stories about a troll's temper and what they could do to anyone or anything that angered them. He forced a smile on his face while he tried to explain his reasoning. "Not
not that I don't appreciate your uh, your generous hospitality but
I really shouldn't impose. My um, grandmother wouldn't like it if I didn't come home tonight. She'd be worried sick."
"And would you gram-ma-ma like it if she find only piece of you in forest?" the troll asked as he reached for some equipment beside the fire. He stuck two poles into the ground on either side of the fire and tested a hanging hook before he set the last bar across them. "That is what will happen if you walk in forest now. Hounds probably hungry. May not leave piece behind after all."
Gerry gulped at the thought of never being found again. But then again, for all he knew, he'd never be found again if he stayed in that cave with the troll either.
"You like tea?" the troll asked, oblivious to Gerry jumping at the question.
"E-excuse me?" Gerry stammered. His heart was still sliding down his throat and back into his chest when the troll shook an oversized handmade kettle in his hand. "Oh. Um, yes. Thank you."
Gerry watched the as the troll picked up one of the logs from the fire, using it as a torch, and walked across the cave towards the sound of rushing water. He could just about make out an opening in the cavern where the troll was bending down to fill the kettle. An underground stream ran a few feet outside of the hole, and if Gerry was seeing correctly, there was a path leading somewhere away from the cave like a riverbank.
It was when the troll returned that Gerry got an idea.
"Will take some time." the troll stated when he set the kettle above the fire. He proceeded to the cavern walls with his torch and started setting a series of rusting metal lanterns alight. Their glow was not as bright as the campfire itself, but they were more than enough to stave away the darkness of the cavern. The troll stopped in front of Gerry before he spoke again. "Excuse, please."
Gerry inched away from his space on the wall when he realized the last of the lanterns was hanging over his head. If the troll noticed how much Gerry was shaking being so close to someone so tall, wide, and burly, he made no effort to show he cared. He tossed his torch back onto the fire once he was done and continued to search through his junk piles once more. It took him a few minutes, but he eventually found what looked like a large pail with a handle melded onto one side and the most ancient thermos Gerry had ever seen. He only realized what the pail's purpose was when the troll settled himself back down to add leaves into the kettle: it was the closest thing to a mug that he had for his size.
"Hope you alright wit'out coo-keys for you tea, eh? A-yek-yek-yek
Wall is no place to be, leetle man." the troll said, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen between them. Gerry had, once again, been startled by the deep voice and clenched the rock behind him. "Rock is too cold. Come, sit by fire. Is nice and warm. Get, eh, what is word? Com-fur-tah-bool."
Gerry vigorously nodded his head in agreement, but was slow to act on the suggestion. He was wary of the troll's intentions and the thought of somehow being thrown into the fire at any moment had popped into his head. He crept towards the warm fire however, taking a seat out of the troll's reach. Or so he hoped. In either case, the morbid thought reminded him of his plan and with a tense gulp to center himself, he started to implement it.
"So you uh, you really are a troll, huh?" Gerry asked, concentrating on the dented kettle while the troll added more leaves.
"Yes, I am troll. We discuss this few moments ago, no?" the troll answered, a slight smile on his lips as he checked on the kettle and added another leaf or two until he was satisfied.
"Are the troll stories true? That you guys are really strong?"
"Oh yes, is true. Trolls very strong. Very doo-rah-bul."
"And that you guys know magic?"
"Wee-men trolls better at magic, usually. Very few men trolls know spells. Better at eh
crafts is word, I t'ink. Make objects with our hands and the like."
"I've heard that you really like your, um, e-eating contests too
"Oh yes, food is good. Always, this is true, for anyone. Troll or human alike." the troll commented while he poured the tea, the slight smile now a broad grin across his face. He filled the thermos first, and did his best to squeeze his fingers around it without crushing it. As he handed it to Gerry, however, he made a dent that sent some of the tea overflowing onto his fingers. Gerry was reluctant to take the hot tea at first, but realized it would be considered rude if he didn't. He wasn't about to upset his "host" now that he had him talking and accepted the thermos with a nod of gratitude. "Any contest worth having is good with trolls. We always like a good challenge. Matter of pride and honor with some trolls, even."
So if I were to challenge you right here and right now to a contest, you'd have no choice but to accept to uphold your uh, personal troll pride?" Gerry asked in as innocent a voice as he could muster before he took a satisfying sip of tea. It was a surprisingly sweet and refreshing blend of leaves, and he would have asked for the ingredients if he hadn't noticed the odd expression on the troll's face just then. He could only assume that his naive tone was not enough to fool the troll, and he seemed to be sizing Gerry up where he sat.
I t'ink we have not made introductions yet, yes? Is only polite to do." the troll stated in an even voice before he took a slow gulp from his handmade mug of a pail. After wiping his lips with the back of his hand, he stared straight into Gerry's eyes. If Gerry didn't know any better, he could have sworn they were boring straight into the very essence of himself. "I am Ovek of Norway, Traveling Troll of the Grønn Skog tribe."
"I'm Gerry, well, Geirleif, actually. 'Gerry' is just short for it. Of America. College student of the uh, Thorsen tribe?" Gerry replied as the troll -Ovek- reached out one of his massive hands towards him. Gerry wasn't sure quite what to do with such an immense limb and gently squeezed one of his fingertips to "shake" it instead. He took it as a good sign that his plan was working that the troll didn't try to rip his arm off right then and there. "So uh, does this mean you accept my challenge?"
"I want to know what we will play for before I accept you challenge. What do you want if you win, eh? And what do I get if I win?"
if I win, I get to leave this cave. And if you win, you get
you get whatever it is you want."
Gerry tried to hide his anxiety while he and Ovek stared each other down over the fire. He was the most imposing person Gerry had ever met even without the extra height, bulk, and tusk size. The scrutinizing stare was enough to make Gerry want to make a run for it. If his legs would have listened to him, that is. But he wasn't about to give up without even trying. He had always joked that he wouldn't go down without a fight if anything had ever happened to him. It seemed that it was time to finally prove that tr-!
The boisterous laugh echoed within the cave, and Gerry's head, in such a fashion and for so long that he was afraid the cavern and his skull would collapse from the sheer magnitude of it. Ovek's pounding of his fist on the floor while he laughed did very little to help matters in that apsect.
you is very funny, leetle man. Very funny." Ovek informed him in-between breaths when he had finished laughing long enough to talk again. "I cannot accept you challenge. Is too funny to me."
"And just what's so damn funny about it?" Gerry asked in the hardest tone he knew. He wasn't about to let some giggling mythological menace ruin his chance of finding his way back home, no matter how tall or threatening he was.
"Would not be much of a challenge if we both want same thing, is why!"