The Once Pristine Valley

Sharambali shook her head. Her vision doubled then doubled again. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply and clenched her body and will against the twin waves of pain and nausea. She dropped to one knee, her blood pounding in her ears. 

After a few minutes, her heart slowed. She tried to slow it further by breathing through her nose. That was a mistake: the stench of the bound human overwhelmed her. 

Sharambali’s body arched and retched. There was nothing in her stomach save bile, and her stomach heaved for long minutes after even that was gone. 

When the spasms finally subsided, Sharambeli found herself on all fours, staring at the carpet of sweet-smelling grass and miniature flowers that carpeted the mountaintop. A small breeze ruffled the flowers and Sharambali’s thick, multi-hued hair.

She spat, trying to clear the blood from her mouth, then wiped her lips with the back of one hand. 

Slowly, painfully, Sharambali worked her way to her feet. She wobbled, once, twice, then found her balance. She was glad to see the human remained bound, ankles and wrists tied and its body stretched between two pines and quivering with fear. 

Sharambali wished she could calm it, but only because its terror made it smell worse than usual. However, like all trolls, Sharambali could not lie, and the human would not welcome any truth that she had to tell. She said nothing.

Please, the human begged in its reedy voice. Please. I have — 

Sharambali knelt and shoved a wad of pine needles and dirt into its mouth. The effort made her head swim.

The human disgusted her, from its foul odor to its smooth, weak features and unsightly red hair and beard, to its high-pitched, grating voice and inarticulate speech.

Though annoying, these faults were comparatively minor. The human had ambushed her as she sat on the mountaintop savoring the cool night breezes and delighting in the interplay of cloud shadows and moonlight on the floor of the once pristine valley marred by not one but two human villages. 

Worse, it had attacked her from behind without announcing itself and requesting an honorable fight as an enemy troll would have done.

Most outrageous of all, Sharambali had felt the human’s fingers tugging at her trousers when she fought her way out of unconsciousness, her mind still reeling from the blow to her head. 

Her ancestors lent her the strength to free herself from the human and batter it into stillness. Once she had it stretched between the pines, her ancestors left her, and she crumpled to the grass.

Now, in the last hour of the night, Sharambali sat crosslegged a short distance from the human and searched its pack. It held nothing that interested her except a small bundle of finely woven fabric.

Letting the pack drop, she unwrapped the bundle slowly. A less offensive, almost pleasant odor of flowers and a scent Sharambali didn’t know clung to the fabric. It was amazingly soft and finely made, but of little use as clothing. Sharambali unwound it slowly. The fabric proved to be a long, narrow strip holding a wooden object. It was circular in shape with a long handle.

Sharambali turned the object over and stared into her own eyes. With a strangled cry, she flung it down. This bauble, she knew, formed part of the evil magic that allowed humans to spread so far and so rapidly despite the weakness of their bodies.

Already, in a few short years, they had torn up the valley’s meadows with their plows and hacked down the ancient forests with their axes. They and the brutish animals in their thrall had fouled the river up- and downstream of the villages. Where humans thrived and spread, trolls and wild animals suffered and withdrew. Soon, no place would be free of the human stain.

Sharambali spat twice, once on each side of her body while uttering the ancient words that would protect her from the human’s magic.

Finding she was no longer dizzy, she stood and brought the fabric and shiny disc with her as she knelt by the human’s side.

The human began to twist and writhe. Then it began to sob. Its throat worked, as if it would beg again. Sharambali clouted it with the back of one hand, and it quieted.

Whispering another ancient spell, she tied the fabric around the human’s eyes so that it would wander the afterlife blind. Then she took the wooden frame in both hands and twisted until the shiny disc shattered and fell glittering to the grass.

Slowly, carefully, she sifted through the fragments until she found a long, jagged one that was to her liking. Holding it between her thumb and index finger, she pushed it deep into the side of the human’s neck where the big arteries pulsed.

Its body jerked, its blood spurted, and then the human lay still.

It smelled worse than ever.

Sharambali wiped her hand first on the human’s tunic and then on the grass. She stood, took her bearing from the stars that arced slowly above her, and hiked back toward the mountains she called home, regretting nothing other than the fact that there were so many more humans than there used to be, and that it seemed nothing her people did, magic or otherwise, could stop their increase.

Prompted by Liz Sarabia: mirror, troll, mountaintop

Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.

Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

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