“WHO’S THAT THEN?”
“I’m… well, I’m… I’m not sure.”
“NOTSURE. TERRIBLE NAME.”
“No, I don’t think that’s my name.”
“THEN WHY’D YA SAY IT WAS YOUR NAME.”
“I did not.”
“I did not mean to!”
“WELL WHAT’S YOUR NAME THEN?”
“I don’t really know.”
“…what’s your name?”
“I DO NOT HAVE ONE.”
“Well then why are you asking mine?!”
“WE NEED NAMES.”
“How do you know that?!”
“Alright… alright then.”
“Bryn. I like Bryn.”
“I don’t know! It sounds like the wind!”
“NICE. I LIKE IT.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“WHAT SHOULD MINE BE?”
“WHAT SHOULD MY NAME BE?”
“I don’t know. You don’t want to pick it?”
“DON’T KNOW ANY GOOD NAMES.”
“Alright! Um. How about… Stig?”
“Okay. You like ‘Gerald’?”
“Pick it yourself then!”
“Oh come on! Fine. You’re Roald! Because I wish you’d roll away!”
“I LIKE IT. ROALD.”
“OH. Oh. Did not know I was shouting. Never used this before.”
“…where are we?”
“What are we.”
“I like you better when you’re not shouting, Roald.”
“You are a bunch a’ rocks.”
“Well I take it back, then! I don’t like you loud or quiet!”
“No, mean it. You are a pile a’ some rocks.”
“FUCK YOU, ROALD!”
“No Bryn. It is what you are. I am looking at your sound. You are a pile of rocks.”
“Telling ya. Two biguns, then a little ‘un, then another littler ‘un. With some tiny bits mashed up top.”
“I don’t know!”
“…What am I?”
“You are… also a pile of rocks.”
“A real big one here at the bottom, gray and round. Then two still rather big ones. Then a smaller one, and another small one- very blue, I’m very fond of the shade of it to be quite honest. Looks like some stuff mashed up there as well. I’m having to look up. You must be taller than me and mine.”
“What is the word you used before?”
“Uff da. I like it. Feels right. Uff da. Two big piles of rocks.”
“Have you, well, been here before, Roald?”
“No. Have you?”
“Nope… I don’t think I’ve… been before. But I also don’t feel all that new.”
“Mmmm. I understand.”
“You hear that?”
Roald and Bryn observed, as their second observation ever, two sets of trousered and booted legs approach them.
The clothed legs stopped right before them, and began to speak.
“Look what I made ya, Bill! Two little stone trolls to guard your driveway! Ha! Aren’t they fun? Me and the missus saw ’em all over those scanda-whosawhatsit islands last summer, so when you said your new missus was Norwegian, I thought they’d be a hoot!”
“They’re great, Todd, thank you. She’ll adore them. Plus, that’s half a dozen stones I don’t have to clear out for the mower!”
The two men, as Bryn decided they must be men, moved back up the path they had come from, speaking about the trees and grass that they passed and how it must be changed in different ways.
“So Roald, we’re not piles of rock, we are piles of stone.”
“We are stone trolls, Bryn. And we are to guard the way.”
Bryn and Roald took their task very seriously.
Partly because it seemed like a thing that should be taken seriously,
and partly because they weren’t all that sure what else to do.
“You there!” Roald shouted.
A young buck stopped in its tracks, velvet mouth barely open before a bush of wild blackberries.
“Are you an authorized member of this mountain’s herd, sir?” Bryn called out.
The buck dropped its head, shaking it confusedly.
“Well then move on, my boy,” Roald scolded, “these ‘ins for those that have gotten approval from Mrs. Folgrav!”
The buck hesitated.
“Now sir, you’ll need to-” Bryn started.
“GO ON! GET!” Roald shouted.
The buck sprinted away, scattering gravel in its wake.
“Lady WhiteTail? Your babes are welcome to munch again. The stranger has gone,” Bryn called.
A sandy-shaded doe and her twins came out from their secluded space behind a cluster of birch, along with a small family of quail, preparing for the fallen berries.
The doe nodded to the stones as she passed.
The mother quail tucked a bit of moss into each crevice of the stones before she left for the evening.
“Can you kneel down a bit, Sota?”
“MooOOOm! These are my new pants!”
“I didn’t say sit directly in the dirt, I said kneel down a bit- squat.”
“There ya go!”
“Look, ma! How about this?!”
“Ha ha ha, look at you! Just like that, hold still a second! Sweetie, stand back there with your brother! Perfect!”
The chilling sound of stones scraping against one another bore against Roald. After what seemed like hours, he called to his friend.
A cough. A wheeeeeze. “I’m… fine. I’m fine.”
“The young master Folgrav decided to stand upon me. It was alright. I just was not prepared, may have a few pebbles out of place.”
“Terrible, Bryn! I wish he’d chosen me!”
“Do not wish such a thing, my friend. I believe when he gets older and bigger, it may come true.”
“…I don’t like ’em.”
“You don’t like any one.”
“DO YOU THINK I AM WRONG?”
“No, Roald! No, I’m sorry. I agree with you.”
“Oh. You do?”
“Yes, I’m sorry, yes. I do not like them either.”
“Good. They make loud noises day and night.”
“They do. Their big trucks go up and down our road, stirring up the dust, disturbing our herds and all the Folgravs. The raccoons are coming out later and later, and you know it bothers Mr. Barred and his daughters to share dusk hours with them. It is messing up everything, even me, so I apologize for my shortness with you.”
“Yes. Yes, I see.”
“What do we do, Roald?”
“We guard. They do not come up our way, Bryn.”
“Are you sure?”
Bryn steadied himself, ruffled the beloved moss that had grown around him from the small patches once placed, “How are you always so sure?”
It was odd, Mr. Folgrav thought, that the construction company eating up the mountain had yet to darken his door, as they’d met with all his neighbors.
But the construction workers and their managers found it even odder that their trucks could never turn up the Folgrav drive, always having some sort of strange malfunction. Once, they even found acorns in the fuel tank! The workers had become suspicious and could not be convinced to work on that side of the mountain any longer.
Quick, small crunches.
“Here she comes.”
The crunches grew nearer. As they did, another more hesitant set began a few feet in the trees across the drive.
“Ope, he’s here too.”
“Spotted him when he got here.”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Roald?”
“Like the game. I am winning.”
“Roald, sometimes I wish you would rust.”
Roald’s chuckle sounded like bounders rolling down hills.
The two crunches intersected, paused.
“Bryn, I do not like him.”
“You do not like anyone.”
“If Master and Mistress Falgrav do not like him and I do not like him, why does she like him?”
“Roald, in decades that was your longest thought.”
The crunches left down the drive together.
“I don’t know. But he’ll be gone soon. And we will keep her safe in the meantime, yes?”
“…think she’ll be back on time, this time?”
An unexpected rustle in the dark.
Another movement across in the bushes.
“I know it wasn’t you.”
“Guard up, Bryn.”
The noise grew. From the undergrowth, a claw stretched out into the moonlight, casting a shadow across the graveled way.
“This is a guarded place!” Bryn called out, his voice wavering.
“COME OUT!” Roald roared.
A nervous porcupine plopped himself into the moonbeam, eyes wide and mouth agape.
“Oooh-oooh!” Called the owl from his perch far above.
“Thank you for your input, Mr. Barred.”
“And you, friend?” Roald inquired of their spiked guest.
The porcupine looked around, recollected the scraps he’d been foraging, and scurried away.
The small fingers traced his eyes, then down his nose, and began to tickle his chin.
“I will not hold much longer.”
“Yes, you will. You must!”
Green eyes stared into gray.
“Do. Not. Blink.”
“What is blink?”
“It is a thing you should not do.”
“You anger me.”
“Good emotional expression. I’m proud of you.”
“Uff da. Get this one OFF ME.”
“No. She’s having fun.”
The tiny fingers began to roam again. This time twirling themselves into dirt and moss. And then the whole being was swaying.
“What is it?!”
“It is a young mistress Folgrav.”
“Impossible. Mistress Folgrav has grown much larger.”
“No, Roald. You misunderstand me. This is young master Folgrav’s fawn.”
“Oh… oh my.”
The small fingers pulled at the small bunch at the top of the pile of stones.
“Oh dear! No, sweetie! No no!”
“Oh dear! Young lady! Mistress! Damn it, YOUNG LADY!“
The small being tumbled onto her padded behind, bewildered. She stared up at the two stone stacks before her with amazement.
“…sowwy.” She whispered. But then she noticed her short fall had caused her hands to encounter the gravel, resulting in tiny scrapes across each palm.
“Oh no,” whispered the trees above the stones.
A great wail echoed through the mountains, and several madam and master Folgravs came scattering down the drive, cooing comfort and expressing bewilderment at the small one’s quick escape from the herd.
The hoots came fast and uncertain.
“Mr. Barred, we hear you- please define what you’re talking about.”
“He is just SCREECHING TO SCREECH!”
“Hush, Roald. Mr. Barred never talks without something to say.”
Mr. Barred hooted haughtily in agreement.
“Fine. FINE. Then what, WHAT is the great problem?”
A quiet hoot. Another. Several more.
“Yes, they are.”
Dawn broke across the top of the drive. Large tires pulled upon the gravel.
“Do not like this.”
“I don’t either.”
“They are messing it all up. Gettin’ silly clay-“
“-everywhere. Have not seen the wood herds in too long.”
The moss around the top of Bryn ruffled in agreement, “You’re right. All the different people and their different sounds have frightened off our furry friends. But they may return.”
Roald did not answer.
“…Shall we stick around? See what happens next?”
“You are right. Alright then. We’ll get going.”
“How do you propose we get going, Roald?”
Roald was quiet a moment. Then another moment. Finally, Bryn heard a shift, then a small crunch. He turned his head just enough to see Roald’s bottom big stone moving a bit.
“Roald… what have you got going there?”
“Wait. Working hard.”
Tiny little pebbles were rolling up under Roald, like an unfelt breeze was blowing them just so. Bryn swore there was a drop of sweat across Roald’s mossy brow.
“How… are you…”
“Don’t know. Feels right.”
Bryn laughed, and it was the echo of a babbling brook bouncing off the trees. He reached his self out into the earth beneath him, until the small sticks and pebbles around him began to gather as well. He soon also had two nice little mound-feet to carry him wherever he needed to go.
“Where to?” Roald grumbled.
For many years now, there have been stories from hikers deep along the Appalachian mountains, of strange stone stacks, or cairns, that are there one moment, and gone the next. Always two, one tall and one small. They look like they almost have faces. It is said that if you see them, you’ll have an easy hike the next day on the trail, without storm or stumble, for they are guards of the way.
Or maybe it’s just a couple piles of rocks…
Stone (noun): 1. A hard solid nonmetallic mineral matter of which rock is made, especially as a building material. 2. A piece of stone shaped for a purpose, especially one of commemoration, ceremony, or demarcation; a gem or jewel. 3. A hard seed in a cherry, plum, peach, and some other fruits. 4. A unit of weight equal to 14 pounds (6.35 kg). 5. A natural shade of whitish-gray or brownish-gray.
(verb): 1. Throw stones at. 2. Remove the stone from (a fruit). 3. Build, face, or pave with stone.
This is one of those times I just like to sit and admire what we as a species have done to words. Look at all those definitions! We’ve got an object (common AND rare), a color, violence, edibles, creation, all in a one-hand-count word! Amazing.
Bryn and Roald are based on real stone trolls that sat on a real driveway that I’ve been up and down many times in my life. The home there was even named after them- Troll Top! Even as a kid, I knew those two just had to be up to something, and now that I’m older? I’m sure of it.
There are some little pieces of the world that never lose their magic. Stone seems to have a very powerful hold on that ability. Perhaps it’s the lasting ability. Stones hold up the fantastic places of earth’s history for us to research, the fossils of our before-world. But they also keep moving, rolling onto the next place, pushed by sand or wind, carved apart by rivers, picked up by the passing magpie or magpie-inclined human. Stones are the quiet, knowledgeable travelers in our world. In today’s story, we just got to hear their side of it. I hope you enjoyed it.
Happy reading 🙂