As was her normal routine, Trollina danced before a group of travelers. They waited at the edge of the bridge and watched with delight as she pirouetted and promenaded. Soon, she would finish and they would toss money at her feet, for the troll family no longer frightened people into paying to cross. But before the final curtsy came, a loud roar sounded in the sky. Trollina lifted her head, but as soon as she did, two sharp objects pierced her shoulders. The people gasped and fell to the ground. A strong wind tore across the bridge. And then, to Trollina’s amazement, her feet lifted into the air.
Her father, the big mean troll, ran toward her and reached out, but it was too late. Trollina was lifted higher and higher, away from his reach. The people below appeared as little more than small specs until eventually vanishing from her sight. The pain in her shoulders intensified, but she knew better than to pull away. Even if she managed to free herself from the large talons, a long drop to the ground below was all that awaited her.
In the distance, a castle came into view. Crumbling towers and cracked stones formed the outside walls. Apparently, the castle had been abandoned for many years. Trollina’s captor flew up to one of the towers, roared, and then released her. She fell and landed with a hard thump against the stony surface. Massive wings blew sand and lose rocks across the tower, forcing Trollina to cover her eyes. When the beast landed in the courtyard below, Trollina peeked out and saw a gust of fire that shot out of the creature’s mouth. It roared before settling down by a pile of bones.
“A dragon,” she said. Panic surfaced in her chest, but she quickly pushed it down. “I need to find a way out.”
She peered through a crack in the floor to see a set of stone steps. But they had mostly broken away and were too far to reach. And so she crawled to the side of the tower and poked her head out over the edge. Jagged rocks were what awaited her should she try jumping from such a great height. And then she noticed a spec in the distance. It was black and round and slowly took the shape of her father.
“Father!” she called out, but then thought better of it. It could not be him. He only ever roared at her or ignored her; coming to her rescue would require a love and care he did not possess. Risking his own life to get her back? No. Things would be easier for him now. One less mouth to feed. One less body in his way.
And yet the approaching figured looked very much like her father — tangled black fur and glaring yellow eyes. The dragon noticed too. It leaped up and charged the castle entrance as fire streamed out of the sides of its mouth. Each step thumped against the ground, which shook the tower. Trollina had to hold tight against an old battlement to keep from falling.
A loud roar filled the castle, but to Trollina’s surprise, it came from the dark figure, not the dragon. For a moment, the dragon hesitated. It nearly took a step back. But then anger flared in its eyes. With an open mouth, it uttered a loud reply. The hair on the figure fluttered in the wake of the dragon’s strong breath, but he did not back off. Instead, he sucked in a deep breath of his own and responded with a sound nearly as deafening.
Trollina knew that inflection well. It was the same one she heard whenever her father was in a bad mood. The memory of sleeping late and failing to bring him his food flashed in her mind. Shaking her head, she squinted and focused in on the figure. Her heart pounded as full recognition came. It was him. It really was him. It was her father.
The dragon cringed as the mean troll stepped closer. He was strong with anger. A resolve shown in his eyes, which represented one word: danger. Even though the toll was less than half the size of the dragon, his determination was much larger. Greater. Even frightening.
Twitching its tail, the dragon looked up at Trollina, then turned back toward her father. With a snort, the great beast took to the air and flew out of sight, leaving the mean troll and his daughter alone.
“Daddy!” Trollina cried as her father scaled the side of the tower. When he reached her he threw his arms around her and squeezed her tight.
“I’m sorry, Trollina,” he said. “I’m sorry for being such a terrible father. From this day on, I will do my best to love you the way you deserve.”
With Trollina on his back, the mean troll climbed down the tower. At the bottom he set her down and guided her past the bones and out of the castle. Walking side by side and holding hands, they made their way back home.
For Cosette, 6/26/14