Home > Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(10)

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(10)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“It would help if I could see it,” I told him. Green, I thought. King Kong, though, so we were dealing with something that looked like a large, green gorilla that was big enough to toss cars around. And it stayed on the bridge.

I closed my eyes and envisioned the book I’d borrowed once, a book that detailed a lot of the fae, what they were, what they could do, and how to protect yourself from them. It had been written by a fae—Samuel’s Ariana, in fact—so the information was pretty accurate.

“Troll,” I said, opening my eyes. “It could be a troll. Green—how tall?” Some of them were green.

“Like a semitruck,” Willis said. “That tall, not that big, though it’s big enough.”

Someone let out a shout, and I looked at the bridge. Right at the top of the arc, I could see movement—something green and about the shape of a gorilla. It leaped and grabbed one of the cables—which were bigger around than both of my hands could reach together—and used the cable to climb upward.

“So look at it,” said Tony, and he handed me a pair of binoculars.

It had skin the color of a green bell pepper. Sparse, lacy moss green . . . stuff grew out of its shoulders and feathered down from its head. It wasn’t hair, but it would give that appearance to anyone not holding a pair of binoculars. Smallish eyes were set a little below a wide-nostriled nose. On either side of the nostrils were slits that looked as though someone had cut its face open with a sharp knife. The inner edge of the slits was bright red—gill slits for breathing underwater, maybe. Trolls lived near water by preference and, when they could, around bridges. There is magic in places that are between: crossroads, thresholds, bridges. Which might explain why he stayed on the Cable Bridge rather than running over the top of the police and into Pasco or Kennewick.

It was certainly a he, and he really was enjoying his climb. I was a shapeshifter, and I’d grown up in a werewolf pack—body shy I was not. But bright red was still really, really shocking next to all that green.

“Yup,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant because it wouldn’t do to run around screaming in front of a group of police people I was trying to impress for the good of the pack. Ever since the werewolves had admitted to their existence, they’d had to fight for the goodwill of the communities they lived in. Goodwill made it safer for everyone. “It’s a troll.”

Somehow, a troll hadn’t seemed as scary when I was reading about it in Ariana’s book. The drawing had been about four inches high by two inches wide. The real creature was terrifying, even half a mile away—elephant-sized or a hair bigger, judging by a rough comparison to the cars nearest him.

I couldn’t see any of the wolves—not even Adam or Joel. The bridge was slightly angled from where I stood, and the center barricade between the opposite lanes blocked what line of sight was left with the battered cars littering the roadway, but from the agitation of the troll, I expected that they were there.

Having evidently gotten as far up as it intended, the troll swung for a moment from both arms, which were overly long for his body, longer than his legs. That accounted for the instant association with gorillas—though his features and coloring were nothing like one. His mouth was horribly humanesque despite the eye placement, until he smiled and displayed teeth, sharp and wedge-shaped, in double rows like a shark’s.

He opened his four-fingered, thumbless hands and dropped from maybe thirty feet up—it was tough to judge from that distance, binoculars or no. I couldn’t see him land. The inconveniently placed center cement barricade hid my view. But I could feel the impact on the ground under my feet from half a mile away. I heard it, too, and saw the bridge shudder. I handed back the binoculars. It hadn’t landed on any of the wolves, I told myself. The pack sense would have told me if someone had died.

“What’s a troll?” Tony asked as he took the binoculars, then made an impatient sound. “I know what it is in the stories—‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and all of that. But how do you stop it? Our guns didn’t seem to do much more than tick it off while we were trying to get the civilians to safety.”

“They’re tough,” I told Tony. “Usually more brawn than brains, though they can talk, or most of them can. A troll’s skin is supposed to be very thick; the book I read about it compared it to a suit of armor, for whatever that’s worth. It must be tougher than most medieval armor if your guns didn’t hurt him.”

I tried to remember everything I could. “He’ll be equally comfortable on land or the river—you should warn your guys in the boats.” There were a number of boats gathering on either side of the bridge, more now than there had been five minutes ago. I judged that most of them were gawkers, but I thought I saw a couple of official boats, too.

“Any idea how we can kill it?”

“Back in the day, people used to hunt them with lances,” I told him apologetically.

Tony gave me an unamused laugh. “Mercy, we’re all that stands between the citizens and that thing when it comes down off the bridge. I don’t have any mounted knights down here.”

“J.C. has a horse,” the guy with the bloody sleeve said.

“Yeah,” said another guy absently. Like Tony and a few others, he had a pair of binoculars. He was staring through them as he spoke. “But his lance is too small.”

“You’d know about small lances,” said still another guy. This one apparently was J.C. because he continued, “But my horse is afraid of sheep and small children. I don’t think I could get him within a mile of a troll—and no one’s lance is that big.”

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