Once upon a time, there was a dragon named Sagittarius. He thought it was a weird constellation to be named after, but Draco was already taken. He also didn’t like it because as a young dragon, he was called Saggy on more than one occasion. He didn’t take that well, of course. Eventually, as all dragons do, he grew up and moved into his own cave. Well, sort of his own cave. Eventually a cat and a troll lived there with him.
Near the cave, well, near enough as the dragon flies, was a castle. Of course. There’s no point in having a dragon without a castle. The troll used to live under the bridge, on the only road leading to the castle, but that got to be tiring. He was constantly challenging people on their way in and out of the castle, and really, he shouldn’t have had to do that. He really wanted actual companionship, and a steady diet that was a lot easier to acquire than hassling people crossing a bridge.
One day, he wasn’t feeling very well. The last people he’d bothered had the flu, and when they coughed on him he caught the flu as well. Eventually he was so sick that he just crawled part-way up the river bank and lay in the sun. He hoped the sun would warm him and kill the flu. The cat had gone to the river in search of fish, and returned to the cave. The cat let the dragon know about the sick troll, and so the dragon brought the troll to the cave. Now you wouldn’t think that a dank cave would be all that great a place to recover from the flu, but the nice thing about sharing a cave with a dragon is that there is a constant source of fire if you need one. So the cat gathered things that burned and the dragon kept them burning. The troll was nice and toasty, and ate fish soup that the cat made, and recovered. After that, he just stayed in the cave with the cat and the dragon.
The three started passing their nights sharing tales of their past. The first to talk was the troll, since the dragon and the cat were most curious about him.
“Sometimes I forget my name. It wasn’t always that way! Once upon a time, I belonged to a rather decent family. I had a mother and a father and two sisters. We lived in a house in the woods, sort of near the castle. We did the usual stuff. We hunted game and caught fish. My mother would gather all these plants and roots and do all sorts of amazing things with them. Some were good for curing things, for healing. Some were the sorts of things that ladies put on their skin. Some were used for cooking. And some just smelled nice.
“She would sell these things by the side of the road. She would have everything ready, and when we heard a wagon coming from far off, my father would take the table out to the side of the road and my sisters would take chairs, and they would sit and sell things to the people passing by. Everyone knew them, and many a traveler watched my sisters grow up over the years.
“There were other trolls in the woods as well. People think that trolls fall from the sky one at a time or something. Nope. We had a whole village in the woods. I remember we had this one neighbor who had sheep. He’d take them out to graze every morning, and then every evening bring them back into the woods. He had a cozy set-up for them, for nights and bad weather. Then he’d shear the sheep, and his wife would use the wool to make cloaks.
“She would sell the cloaks to the passers-by, at a table next to my mother’s. Now, my mother and she would also use what they made to exchange goods with the others of our clan, of course. So you’re wondering why they needed to sell to the travelers for money. What need did we have of coins? Well, that’d be the tax. The king in his castle taxed us, of course. He claimed that the woods were his, and so we needed to pay taxes to live in the woods. Of course, most of the families didn’t do the sorts of things that would generate in income. They didn’t make things to sell to the non-trolls, things they’d like. Plus, most of us weren’t quite the sort, looks-wise, that could sell to the people. We were more along the lines of the sorts of trolls that people use to scare their kids into behaving.
“We didn’t mind that so much. It meant that we weren’t bothered that much by outsiders. We lived our lives, and my mother and the neighbor earned enough each year to keep the king happy. Because of this, the other neighbors were generous to us and the neighbor family.
“Did I mention the festivals? Every full moon was a night of feasting. A full moon meant fullness. But we were not all greedy or anything. It might not always mean a full belly. Sometimes we feasted on music, filling our ears with as much music as our ears could hold! Sometimes we ate something not very big, but we filled ourselves with flavor. There was this one pie, it had the richest taste and even richer smell. When the women were baking, the forest smelled so good that even the trees drooled. And that’s what we’d eat that night: Each family had a pie. One. That was the whole meal. But the senses had a feast – the tongue, the nose … you can see even now I’m drooling again.
“Sometimes we feasted on wetness. Really. In the warmest part of the year, we’d play in the river for that full moon. We’d splash, frolic, even try to swim some of us!