Those were very old runes that he etched on his staff when even the oldest of the trees in the Forest was nothing more than a seed.
The willow of the staff caught on bright fire and in the next moment the Old Troll had to step back, giving room to a ten-feet tall blazing torch.
“I'm sorry.” he whispered to his old faithful companion, as its powers were going out in flames, turning the magic staff into a useless charred stick.
The rival parties froze on the spot and even the Witch's evil stew pulled its green tentacles back into the cauldron.
“Shame on you!” said the Old Troll, and his voice suddenly rumbled across the raveen like thunder, “What are you doing?”
“So you're still alive, you old buffoon?” said the Witch loudly, “Haven't you done enough to us? Step aside, let us deal with those invaders once and for all!”
“It is you and your ilk who needs to be dealt with!” sounded a low, husky voice.
The Old Troll turned around and saw the Red Jaeger with a smirk in his fiery beard. But it wasn't him, it was another man who was talking, a big man with a big belly hanging over a wide buckskin belt.
“We will not leave until the forest is clean and we can all feel safe!”
The peasants behind his back babbled and shook their pitchforks.
“Stop it!” cried the Old Troll again, but this time he sounded completely helpless, as indeed he was, without his magic staff.
“What's the hold up?” shouted one of the hunters.
The dogs were tearing up their leashes and the peasants started to scream and shake their weapons again.
“That's the troll! Shoot him! He’d snatch our children!”
“It's not true!” sounded a clear child's voice.
Of course, if the children didn't listen to their own parents, why would he think they'd listen to some old troll? Still holding each-other's hands, Mary and Peter came over and stood by his side. One of the peasants gasped and sprinted towards them.
“Mary, Peter, get away from this monster! He will eat you alive!”
“It's not true!” said Mary, “They lied to you!”
“And he's not a monster,” added her brother, “He's our friend.”
A loud murmur of confusion went among the rival parties. The villagers were putting down their weapons and the charms on the other side of the valley were dissolving in the air, unused.
The Red Jaeger looked around.
“It will take more than a couple of kids to stop us.” he said, lifting up his weapon, “Hunters! Aim!”
The Old Troll was very glad he couldn't feel his legs, otherwise they would carry him away against his will. He looked helplessly into the narrowed eyes of the men before him and suddenly, he saw a very familiar glimmer in their eyes. It was hard to mistake for anything else, for it was the lust for gold, an ancient curse of the human race, the curse that ruined countless lives. He knew how to deal with that.
“All right.” the Old Troll said, “I will make a deal with you. I'll give you my gold. All of it.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Witch's jaw drop. The men before him exchanged glances.
“I'll give you my gold.” continued the troll, “If you send those people home and never set foot in our forest ever again.”
The Fat Landlord pushed down the Jaeger's gun and grinned.
For the second time on this sunny Spring day, the Old Troll found himself at the shores of the Leech Swamp. This time, however, instead of two frightened children, he was followed by two dangerous men, one of whom held him at gunpoint.
“Don't you think for a second to pull a trick on us,” said the Fat Landlord for the tenth time, “It will be the last thing you'll do in your wretched life!”
The farther they went, the more nervous he was getting. The Red Jaeger, on the contrary, looked extremely contained, as if everything went according to his plan.
“We're here.” said the Old Troll.
He pointed to a little island connected with the shore by a thin lane of dry soil. It had a giant boulder that looked like a human skull right in the middle of it.
“See that rock? There is a hole at its foot on the Western side. The gold is all there.”
The Red Jaeger gauged the distance and said, “My lord, I can't let the troll go there, I will not be able to shoot him if he runs. You'll have to go.”
The Fat Landlord's face reddened, but he didn't argue.
“I'll remember this.” he uttered, treading carefully on the narrow path.
“Sure, my lord.” replied the Jaeger into his beard.
He watched his master grunting and searching in the withered reed until his hand sunk into the secret hole.
“It's here!” shouted the Landlord in agitation, “I can feel it!”
He pulled out a fistful of golden kronas.
“Stay where you are.” said the Red Jaeger, breathing heavily.
The Old Troll wanted to reply, but when he saw the Jaeger's face he only flinched and shut his mouth, for he was looking into the eyes of a mad man. Shoving and cursing each-other, the treasure hunters pulled out a large pot filled to the brim with shiny gold. With great effort, they carried it onto the shore and sat on the trunk of an old tree, holding the gold between them.
“Oh! Oh!” cried out the Landlord, brushing coins with his fingers, “I'm the richest man in the Northern Lands!”
“Of course you are, my lord.” said the Red Jaeger softly.
He stood up straight, looming over his master, and The Old Troll suddenly realized what was about to happen. He looked away. There was a sound of quick fight, wheezing and grunting and finally, a loud splash. When he turned back, the Fat Landlord was nowhere to be seen.
“And now one last thing.” said the Jaeger, picking up his gun, “Oh, how long I've waited for that moment! Any last words?”
The Old Troll looked into the black abyss of the barrel and said calmly, “You shouldn't have put the gold on that log. It's really easy to wake them up this time of year.”