In a weird planet story from the rarely free flowing pen of Sebastian Tombs
Colonicus Irrigatus, better known as Colon the Ballbearing, was at it again. Rare plants that is, he couldn't resist them, and King Thud's garden was full of them. One in particular interested Colon labelled with an ornate wooden plaque bearing the legend: - 'The Only One of Its Kind in The World' Don't Touch!
Colon just had to have a cutting. Trouble being he only had his big sword and as a result when he got the hardwood cutting he wanted, all that was left was a four-inch stump sticking out of the ground. To add insult to injury when he threw the ornate wooden plaque over a nearby hedge it landed on the head of King Thud's current girlfriend.
So we join Colon moving fast down the mountainside. In point of fact he was running. To be very precise he was running like hell, and so would you be if you had twenty of King Thud's elite bodyguard of trolls chasing you.
Now as everybody knows trolls do not sleep and never lose a trail on rocks, this did not worry Colon when he set out. Trolls move slowly and Colon was on horseback. Unfortunately some loose shale on a high trail above the Godless River saw Colon and horse topple over the edge, and pitched into seven hundred feet of thin air to the roiling river below.
As a hero, Colon the Ball-baring was no slouch, and in true heroic tradition grabbed what was important, satisfied it was going nowhere, he grasped sword in one hand and the cutting in the other and landed with disgusting ease on his feet, on a jutting rock sticking out of the water. With a nimbleness belying his years he skipped from jutting rock to jutting rock across the river.
Safely on the far shore Colon turned and holding sword high in one hand and exhibiting the cutting in the other he indulged in the time-honoured pastime of hurling insults. Insults like 'Numbskull', 'Moss face' and 'Stone brains' even.
Trolls are about seven feet tall and around three feet across. Should you be rash enough to try and measure the inside leg of an average troll, you might see the tape measure read eighteen inches before the half tree trunk they carry as a handy club, crashed down on the top of your head, and the trolls really took umbrage at Colons insults. For example, 'Numbskull' as all trolls know is patently untrue. If you hit a troll often enough over the head with a sledgehammer the message slowly travels through the body to the brain and pain, supposedly travels back. Unfortunately any person stupid enough to attack a troll with a hammer has never lived to confirm the truth of this. In fact the only thing in the entire multiverse that maybe could have hit a Troll with a hammer and lived is Thor god of thunder. But Thor, in keeping with most Gods, is a tight-lipped bugger and pushing his own agenda, (Mainly up some select Valkyrie's.) and he ain't saying a dickey-bird. To be fair to Thor there are worse Gods, they speak, or so some claim.
Never mind 'Numbskull', 'Moss face' is evil. Only rocks collected moss, and trolls spent a lot of time standing in the rain grooming, thus ensuring they do not look like rocks. All trolls were paranoid on the subject of metamorphism. As for 'Stone brains' don't go there.
Trolls are good at some things, like imitating rocks, and ... well imitating rocks, so they turned themselves into an avalanche and began their descent of the precipice.
Colon was a man who prided himself on knowing a thing or three and he definitely knew it was time to stop slinging insults. Looking round for his horse, he was just in time to see it being swept away by the river, so Colon done the truly heroic thing. He turned and ran like hell! And six hours later he is still running.
With sheer heroic strength, or maybe adrenalin born of 'the need to fulfil his mission' (Find a toilet!) Colon had reached the great stone plain ahead of the trolls, and was now putting distance between himself and his pursuers.
Ahead the tree line showed at least a half hours run away, Colon was glad to see it for two reasons. The first and most pressing, it marked the end of the stone plain and the beginning of earth. The trolls would no longer be able to chase him as nothing but stone will support their weight. The second? He would be able to stop and relieve himself.
As Colon settled in to a long loping stride he began thinking. Yes, Colon in common with most men had a masochistic tendency, but he'd never 'gone the whole hog' and got married. No Colon was thinking, about Death. You know Death, a tall, thin, bony guy with a black cloak, some hourglasses hanging from his belt and a big scythe.
Colon and Death had an agreement; the deal was some nine hundred years old and over that period of time Colon came to the conclusion Death was as bent as a 'nine bob note'. Death he concluded was lazy, uncharitable, out to line his own pocket, a bully, and a good drinking partner if you were buying. All in all, a role model for politicians.
Death however did not agree with Colons assessment of his character, death he argued wasn't meant to be charitable, but in many cases it could save suffering. Death was adamant he was not 'on the make'; it's just that a body has to make a living. Even a bony one like Deaths, and lazy as Death told Colon "is not in my vocabulary my dear Colon. You mistake delegation for laziness" He added "if I did not delegate think of all the jobs that would be lost, including yours and I don't bully, I'm just the Boss".
Colon the Ball-baring crossed the tree line and the yet another reason to be glad occurred to him. About a mile to the south was an Inn. He had last visited it about one hundred and forty years ago. Left without paying if he remembered rightly, still it was a long while ago. His credit should be good and if not well he'd got a big sword.
Approaching the Inn what Colon saw made his heart sing. Horses! Four horses to be exact, a plan took birth and damned painful it was too. Running an experienced eye over the animals, the big grey was definitely the best. What with irate husbands and things Colon had stolen a few horses in his time and knew simple plans worked best. This brilliant plan was to lead the big grey into the forest and tether it, then the clever bit. Spook the other three nags; and rush into the Inn yelling rustlers. All the patrons would rush out to chase the spooked horses and Colon would persuade Mine Host to part with bread, cheese, and ale on promise of payment at some future date and be gone before anyone discovered there were no rustlers.
Easy, peasy, japaneasy.
It didn't work.
The grey horse wouldn't move, tug or shove it was stationary, like immobile, and the other three horses were equally as intransigent.
It got worse, Colon heard voices and they were speaking to him, all three of them.
These voices were not so much 'The Brothers Grim' more 'The Brothers Grim Asses' His workmates, sort of, Plague, Famine, and Pestilence. "Not nice to see you Colon" said Pestilence. "Definitely not nice, Colon" added Plague. Famine, ever practical said, "Bog off, Colon".
This Tweedle Deeish, Tweedle Dummish act the lads had been working on for the last few hundred years was in Colons opinion too Deeish and not enough Dummish.
Colon straightened up from the horse he had been trying to lift bodily and let fly a stream of invective that would warmed the cockles of his old mother's heart, could she have got out of her grave to hear it. "Temper" said Pestilence. "Yes temper," agreed Plague. "Colon" added Famine, determined not to be left out.
Colon who had experienced a tiring day by anyone's standards opted for diplomacy. "I'm in a hurry you bird brained pieces of dung. I have a delivery for Death". "Death" said Pestilence "Does not" whined Plague "Accept deliveries" snapped Famine "From part-timers" from all three in unison.
They managed to make 'part-timers' sound worse than any insult Colon could utter. And herein lay the nub of their antagonism. The Brothers agreement with Death made them employees, and involved centuries of wrangling over hours, holidays and sick pay etc. Where as Colon was self employed, and got paid (the ability of continue living) on results only. Colons brief was every ten years he would supply an exotic plant for Deaths garden. Not just any exotic plant but the sort only a hero can obtain.