At Wadsworth Falls this troll family then worked in the mills along the Falls. The trolls fed themselves from the farmlands, fishes and wild game from the countryside. Then, as more years went by the mill and factories along the river became obsolete and disappeared. New houses popped up here -- there and everywhere on ground that was once gardens and the farms disappeared.
So, as the land slowly changed from country to suburb, still, the Raggys stayed on, hiding by day and roaming the land freely at night. There was food still to be had from what little farmland was left and garbage cans at the new houses gave them a enough food to get by.
Then one morning the Raggies were jerked out of bed by a rumbling and shaking of the bridge and their home.
"Get up!" shouted Father Raggy. Mrs. Raggy jumped out of bed and roused the two boys, Damion and Criton, The boys dressed quick as a wink and hurried down the passage that led away from the bridge and into the woods beyond. At that point the tunnel sloped upwards and they came out on a bluff where they could look down on the Falls itself. They came into the cool morning air, misty and wet, to see what was going on.
"What's that crane-thing doing?" asked Mother.
"Wrecking our bridge," replied Damion.
"Why?" asked Criton.
Father shook his head. "I knew it," he said, "See those signs: DETOUR it says. There's a new bridge they're puttin in."
"But, our home!" cried Mother.
They watched as the crane swung its wrecking ball through the air to
thud into the bridge which shuddered but held its own.
"Hang fast old bridge!" yelled Damion, "don't give in!"
The ball swung again and again but each time the sturdy old stone bridge held its own.
"It can't last forever," said Father, "good bridge that it is, it can only stand so much."
As if to echo Father's words the ball swung once more and a huge chunk of the bridge collapsed into the river.
"Oooh!" groaned Criton as he watched the ball swing again and return to knock another piece out of their home.
"Now what'll we do?" sighed Mother.
"Of course we gotta find a new home," replied Father.
"A new home!" said Mother with a look of shock on her face. "But where?" We lived here and our ancestors have too; the boys grew up here. Where can we go?"
Father shrugged, "We'll find someplace or sumpthin," he mumbled.
They went back into the tunnel to wait until dark when the construction workers went away. As night came on, the Raggys popped out of their tunnel and looked at the broken bridge. They climbed all over the cranes and bulldozers and tried to decide what to do. They tried to go back into their old home but water had got through and flooded everythin. "It's no use," said Father Raggie, "Everythin's gone, forever I'm afraid."
"Oh no!" cried Mother, "All our things, gone . . . What to do!
What to do!."
"I know," said Mother, "but I hate to . . . Couldn't we find a place, someplace nearby?"
Father shook his head. "Things here are changin too fast," he said, "We'd only get settled again and have to move on again. Nope! We gotta travel deeper into the forest, tha's if we can find any forest left in these parts. Of course we could move on up to Canada the north-cousins."
"Brrr! Too cold," replied Mother.
"Well, that's too bad but north it is," said Father, "Well maybe not all the way to Canada. Vermont and New Hampshire might be okay."
"I'm for stayin and fightin," said Criton. "Let's spike those cranes and bust their dozers."
"Nope Criton," said Father, "That trick might have worked once but not any more. They got insurance now you know. Next they'd set up a guard and probably catch some of us. That's not the right way anymore."
The family stayed on for a while longer, watching the once beautiful old oak trees be cut down by power saws. Each time one was cut Father held his hands to his head. "Oh God!" he mumble, "Another spirit cut down in its prime, not another one." Finally the glade was covered with the great giants. Father Raggie cried openly as he stood before the field. "Oh, the slaughter!" he cried, "I knew those tree-folks, every one, like relatives they were. Yeah, indeed, some of them were relatives."
"How's that?" asked Criton.
Mother took the boy troll to one side, away from his grieving father. "What people don't realize is that trees are live critters. Sometimes," she said, "a troll takes to living in a tree and gradually the two adopt each other. Sometimes, if both are willin, the troll becomes part of the tree and at some point the two become one and the same."
"I've never heard that," said Criton.
"Well, that happened mostly in the olden days," replied Mother, "When the world was young and magic was the thing. It's old fashioned now I'm afraid, and magic is nearly worn out. But some of those old trees, if you look closel at em, you'll find faces of trolls and other critters, dragons too, and gryphons, nymphs and fairies."
"Ogres too?" asked Criton.
"Yeah, ogres too," she replied.
It wasn't too comfortable in the tunnel but the family continued watching, hoping that the workers and their machines might one day go away and leave them alone. The boys tried to dive down into the water that filled their tunnel to get any of their stuff, but the water was too deep and too cold.
Finally, one morning, Father made up his mind. "Today's the day," he said, "Time to leave."
"Sounds like we're givin up," grumbled Criton.
"Father's right," said Damion, "And the sooner we get away from here the better. We need to get settled before it gets too cold."
So, that night they packed what stuff they could salvage and headed off down the road and away from The Falls. Mother turned back once, "Goodbye old home," she said with a wave of her hand. "Goodbye old ancestors, we'll be back to visit, someday."
"We gotta make one stop," said Father.
"What for?" asked Damion.
"To wish an old friend goodbye," replied Father.
"I thought all of em were gone," said Damion.
"Not quite all. Don't forget the trolls in the trees along the river and then there's the Straighten Road Bridge."
"Hmmm!" said Criton, "You mean old Albert still lives there?"
"Last I knew of him he was still there, even with all the fisherfolks and little kids comin to bother him all the time."
They hiked down the trail carrying what little they had with them which wasn't much and after a long hike came to Straighten Road. A few miles down the road they came to the bridge. Father went to one side and called out, "Albert! You hidin back in there? It's me Father Raggy."
"I think he's moved on," said Mother after a long silence then several more calls and more silence.
"Must have left a clue," said Father, "Look around for the signs."
They searched in the dark for a while and then Damion found them. "Here!" he called, "by the side of this tree, a circle of stones. Is that it?"
"Good boy," replied Father, "Let me look at them." Father studied the stones a while and muttered to himself. "Those stones could have been moved a little bit by wind and rain, maybe animals too, but I think I get the gist of it."
"Do you know where he went?" asked Criton.
"I think so. Let's find out," replied Father.
They hiked on some more, following the river further into the woods, sometimes passing through the backyards of suburban folks until they came to a narrow ravine. "It's gonna cost them some to build houses in this gully," said Father, "but I guess they will someday."
"How much further?" asked Criton.
"Don't get your eyeballs in an uproar," said Father, "We're almost there."
They climbed along the ravine and came to a house built into the rock, an old place, made by men years ago. "Here tis," said Father, "The pumphouse."
"What's that?" asked Damion.
"They pumped water up the hill for the monastery; its a very private place, hardly anyone goes here anymore or knows about it."
"Will Albert be there?"
Father shrugged, "We'll find out now, won't we?"
When they got to the pumphouse they had to walk down a long stairway, then climb down a narrow hole in the ceiling using a metal ladder which led to another room, then another. Finally, at the last hole, they stopped and Father called out, "Albert! Are ye down there. It's me, Father Raggy."
There was silence and then the sound of a frog croaking came up through the hole.
"It's only a bullfrog," said Criton.
Father smiled, "A bullfrog! With ice now on the river?" He laughed and yelled down the hole, "Hello you old bullfrog!"
Moments later a head appeared at the top of the ladder.
"Hello yourself!" said Albert, "I hear from the birds that you've lost your home. Sorry to hear it. But you're welcome here, You know that."
Father clapped his hands onto his friend's shoulders, "Good to see you
again old troll. How have you been?"
"Well I was good until I heard about you, but that's only part of it you know. They're gonna cutup this whole countryside before they're done and turn it into little squares; so when the Spring gets here I'm gonna be on my way north too."
"You're welcome to come along with us," replied Father.
"Thanks for the offer," said Albert, "but I think I'll hang on here as long as I can, got some stuff yet to sort out and some tree-folks to see to."
Father looked away from his friend for a moment, then looked back. "Yeah, I know," he said, "They cut em all down at our place. We lost a lot of good friends there. So, its gonna happen here too?"
Albert nodded, "That's what the wind says," he replied, "Commin up from New York they are, folks buyin up everything, turning good farmland into little squares with fences around them and lots of green grass that's pretty to look at but not good for eatin."
Father shrugged, "The world changes," he said, "That's the way of things."
"Hmmm!" replied Albert, "I guess you're right, but they could leave some of the old behind, just so's to remember what it was like . . . So, when are you leavin?"
"Tonight. We're on our way out of town right now."
"Where's your piper?" said Albert.
Father slapped the top of his own head, "Oh my god!" he said, "I'd forgotten."
"What about?" asked Damion.
Albert looked at the boy troll, "He don't know much about troll-lore, does he?"
"Sorry about that," replied Father, "I guess we've missed a few things."
"Okay," said Albert, "Here's the jist of it. When trolls move out of an area, I mean not just down the street, like I did, they have to cleanse the spirit of the land, and music, music of the piper, is that cleanser. Then the piper has to play again to give you good luck on your journey and clear the air ahead of you."
Cryton laughed, "Where do you find a piper around here?" he said.
"Normally one would be hard to find," said Albert, "since the last piper I knew died 20 years ago. But, as luck would have it there's a wee laddie visiting from Cape Cod and he's a young piper. Doesn't know many songs yet, but I've heard him playing away to the stars. And he's pretty good, for a wee lad."
"Would he play for us?" asked Mother.
"The boy's a good sort, not Scottish or Irish, but of good Italian stock and I'm sure he would, if you asked him."
"Where do we find him?"
Albert turned away from the family and cocked his ear. "Listen," he said, "He played early in the day and some of his music is still floating on the air. Just follow your ear and it'll get you there."
Since Albert didn't have the usual fingers he couldn't shake everybody's hands but each one of the family gave him a hug and Mother, of course, gave him a kiss on the cheek. Father hugged him long and seemed not to let go, but finally it was time to leave. "Find that piper," said Albert.
"We will and good luck," said Father. "Good luck to you too," returned Albert. The little green troll did a flip in the air and disappeared down a drain pipe.
"Where'd he go?" asked Criton.
Father shrugged, "That troll can change his shape into so many things you never know where he went or what he turned into."
"Shhh!" said Mother, cocking her ear, "I'm tryin to find the bagpipe vibrations."
They all stood still, each straining for the fine echoes left on the air by the "wee laddies" playing of the pipes earlier in the day. "I think I feel them," said Damion, "This way."
They followed Damien up the hill and down the road to a small house by the side of the road. "Right here," said Damien, proud of himself for this display of talent, "I bet they come from here."
"Wait, while I check," said Father. He scurried up the lawn to the house,
then went around from window to window. A short while later he came back
and he was not alone. "This is our piper, Jared," said Father. Jared smiled
as he put his pipe to his lips and played a few notes. "Careful," said
Mother, "We don't want to wake your folks." Jared pulled the pipe
from his lips. "It's no problem with them," he said, "they don't mind if
I go out to practice, even after dark. I like to look up at the stars and
play, sometimes I play for them, the stars, I mean."
"Good lad," said Father, patting the boy on the head. "I told Jared about our problem and he said he'd call up the good spirits of the river to send us on our way and tomorrow he'll go down to the Falls and clean up all the leftover bad vibrations there too."
"Thank you Jared. Thank you so much," said Mother.
Jared bowed, "I'm happy to do it," he said. The boy-piper put the pipe to his mouth and called forth an old Scottish melody from days long gone. Father pointed down the road and he headed out, followed by Mother and the children. They turned several times and waved to Jared who nodded to them as they moved away into the dark. For many miles they heard his music.
Later that night they arrived at the railroad tracks and waited. "There's a train should be due any time," said Father, "We used to hop them in the old days."
"We might as well get comfortable," said Mother, stretching out on the grass, "It might be a while."
The ever curious Damien was not content to rest but went off exploring along the tracks. In a short while he was back. "Bad news," he said.
"What!" said Father.
"The tracks end about half a mile up the gully and they haven't been used in years."
"Hmmm!" said Father, "More change here, too much change for my likes."
"Now what do we do?" asked Mother.
"On to the trucks," said Father, "There's a highway just over those hills yonder."
On their way up the road the Raggys stopped to fill up their packs with leftovers from the neighborhood houses. "Here's a leftover chicken," said Criton, picking through a garbage can. He sniffed it, "Smells good too," he said as he took a bite. They filled their packs with enough food to last them several days and trudged along the river toward the nearby hills. On the other side they found the highway north.
At a truckstop they explored the big rigs and picked one they could all fit on. "This one has Vermont plates," said Damion. "Good boy," said Father, "Let's try it." They climbed aboard the rig and waited for the driver to return. It was less than half an hour before the truck's engine turned over and the vehicle vibrated to a start. "Here we go!" said Damion, as the truck picked up speed and entered the stream of traffic on the highway. "Vermont here we come!"
As the truck moved along the highway Damion perked up his ears. "Listen,"
he said, "Can you hear it, very faint, coming over the hills?"
They all listened and gradually, each came to hear the sound of bagpipes, far away over the hills as the boy piper lived up to his promise. Father smiled, "Thank you Jared, thank you." And soon, as the miles ticked by, even the sound of that powerful music was only a whisper in their ears.
At night the trolls were wide awake as was their usual habit; then as sunrise came on and the truck continued northward they all became sleepy. "Stay awake," said Father, "It's dangerous to fall asleep. If you fell . . . "
When the truck came to a stop at one of the roadside eateries and the driver went in for his coffee and breakfast the family jumped from their hiding places and headed off into the woods. "I wonder where we are?" asked Criton.
Father sniffed the air, "Nice air here," he said, "We might look around for a while."
"Are we far enough north?" asked Damion.
"Maybe," replied Father, "Come on, let's see what's on the other side of that hill."
They found a land beyond the hill that was more countryside and woods than anything. "It's like our place used to be," smiled Mother.
Damion and Criton raced up the hill, shouting with joy and the excitement of boys at a new place. They found a river and quickly stripped off their clothes to dive in, though the water was not very deep. Criton swam down and came up with a fish in his teeth, "Breakfast," he said, taking the fish in his hand and holding it up for them to see.
A small campfire was made in the woods and the fish was roasted, while
the chicken from the previous evening was eaten too. "Now we have to find
a place to stay," said Father, "perhaps an old barn for a start until we
can dig a tunnel near a bridge someplace."
After breakfast they cleaned up the fireplace, made it look like they'd
never been there, and hiked further on. They stopped at a clearing in the
woods. "Hush!" said Father, "There's a house, over there. Come on let's
check it out."
Several old shacks stood, at the edge of the woods, most of them crumbling from old age. "Hey," laughed Mother, "We could stay here, in this one. She looked inside the doghouse, then climbed in and peered out. "That might be a bit crowded for the four of us," said Father with a wink at the boys.
There was a storage shed at the rear of the house. "Let's try that one,"
said Father. So, they crept up to the property and the boys helped Mother
up so she could look in the window. "Looks okay to me," she said. "Let
me look too," said Father. The boys helped him climb up next to mother.
"Yeah," he said, "Not bad, Let's go in and give a closer look."
As the door to the shack was unlocked they went in with ease. "Hey look at those couches!" said Father, "Just what I need a cozy place to lie down for a while. He climbed up on the couch and Mother joined him there. "Not bad," she said.
"We could stay here for a while," said Criton. Father looked around. "Not enough places to hide in if anybody comes by," he said. "It sure is comfortable though," added Mother. Father scratched his nose, as was his usual habit when he was thinking. "We don't know anything about the people who live here. We need to find out more about them."
"Criton and me will scout the place out," said Damion. Father nodded his head. "Not a bad idea he said. Go ahead, but be careful." "We will," said Damion, "And you too." Father agreed with a wink and a nod.
As the two boy trolls moved cautiously among the sheds and rocks toward the main building Criton said, "I keep hearing that boy piper's music and it makes me homesick. I really miss our old home; I wish we could go back there."
"Wishes don't work too well in this world," replied Damion, "You just have to make your own dreams come true but sometimes that takes a lot of effort, I guess. Don't worry, we'll find a new home, somewhere."
"Hey, what's that, over there by the house?" said Criton.
"Looks like a little house, just like the big one."
They started over to look at the miniature house when the heard the yells behind them. "That's Mother!" shouted Criton, turning and moving, with Damion by his side towards the sounds of the cries. They covered the ground as quickly as they could and found their parents hiding in a metal cage with a pack of wild dogs surrounding the cage. "Oh oh! Now what do we do?" said Damion as the leader of the dog pack turned his head toward the two boy trolls.
"Watch out boys!" called Father, "we're safe here, but get yourself
out of here. Quick! Those guys are mean."
The leader of the pack turned around slowly, his fangs bared and the other dogs turned with him. "Run!" said Damion to Criton, "head for the trees."
As quickly as the two boy trolls moved the pack moved too, racing toward their quarry, barking and growling enough to frighten anyone. Damion felt them just behind him, saw Criton trip and fall and knew the wild dogs would rip his brother apart if he was not quick. Damion leaped forward, did a roll and came up with part of a tree limb. He raced to his brother's side and swung out at the dogs just as they reached his fallen brother. Crack went the branch against one dog, and another but it gave Criton time to get back onto his feet. "Thanks brother," gasped Criton, moving in next to Damion.
The pack leader gave his signal and the dogs began to move in a circle around the boys. Criton looked for another branch but couldn't find one nearby. Both boy trolls backed slowly toward the trees until their backs were up against a tall old oak. "Can you climb it?" asked Damion. "Too wide and no low branches," replied Criton.
"Watch out!" yelled Criton as one of the wild dogs came at them from behind the tree. Damion pivoted and gave the animal a whack. "Watch out, Back here, the leader's comin!" yelled Criton. Damion swung and caught the leader with his stick. Growling, both animals backed off. "What will we do if they all come at us at once?" asked Criton. "Pray to the piper," replied Damion, "I hope Mom and Pop are okay."
The wild pack gathered and looked to the leader. "I think they're going to rush us," said Criton, "If only I had a club or something."
It happened then, a branch, old but not that old, dropped from the tree almost into Criton's hand. Startled he almost dropped the branch, but quick reactions caused him to hold on to it. "Ha! ha!" he said, "Now it becomes a different game." The pack leader looked confused as the two boys began their advance on them. The advantage was all the boys needed and the surprised pack scattered, making a wide circle. Guarding each other's backs Criton and Damion moved toward a smaller tree with branches they could reach. "Should we go up?" asked Damion.
"I think not," replied Criton, twisting his staff around and getting a good grip on it. "Let's show these wise guys what its like to tangle with a couple of Raggys." Damion smiled at his brother and took a better grip on his club. "Ready!" he said. Criton nodded. Then with the scream of two wild banshees the boy trolls raced toward the leader of the pack, swinging their clubs overhead as they did.
Confused, the leader split from the pack and raced toward the woods, followed by the others. But the boy trolls wouldn't give up the chase and kept after them for the better part of a mile. Finally they stopped and stood watching the last of the wild dogs disappear down the woodland trail. "Aah! That was good exercise," said Criton. "Indeed it was brother," replied Damion.
They jogged back to the house to find their Mom and Pop still in the
cage. "You can come out now," said Criton, "the beasts are gone."
"Can't," replied Father, "We locked ourselves in and can't get the door open, its stuck."
"We can fix that," said Damion and he and Criton used their staffs as pry bars to break the door loose.
"Aah! That's better," said Father, helping Mother out of the enclosure. "Thanks boys, those wild dogs were ugly creatures indeed."
"Lucky that club dropped into my hands," said Criton, "That's what saved us."
"Club! What club?" asked Father.
Criton explained their fight and the club dropping from the tree. Father wanted to take a look at the tree and they all walked across the grass, both boys carrying their branches, just in case. "It dropped from up there," said Criton.
"Please! Come on down," urged Father, "I know trollwork when I see it."
Then, from out of a break in the trunk, as if it were part of the tree
a figure appeared. "Glad to be of help," I said, as I jumped from one branch
to the next until I was on the ground next to the family. "Old Llort at
your service Mr. Raggy."
"You know us?"
"I heard all about your bridge and thought you might head up this way. So I wasn't surprised to see you when you came. Your boys are good fighters too, but they need to be better prepared, for the next time."
"We will," replied Criton.
"Do you live around here Mister Llort?" asked Father.
"Nope! Just passin through, like yourselves," I said, "on my way south."
"Sounds like a mission," replied Father.
"Yup! That's what it is, a mission. Gotta find a piper. So I can't tarry here too long. We've been hearin the soft strains of bagpipe music in the air for a while now, but far away. Do you know of any pipers down below? I'd be obliged if you did."
"Sure we know of a good one," said Father, "Jared, from Wadsworth Falls, down below, where we just came from."
"Good, that will help me a lot," I told her, "I'll find him. Gotta go now, Time's a wastin."
"We're just glad you were here," said Mother, putting her hand on Old Llort's arm."Thank you for your help."
"Twarnt nothin!" said I. "Gotta go now. Don't stay too long in this area, too many folks movin in, lots of changes. Country won't be the same in a few years. You folks just follow that woods path into the hills, you'll be safe there, long as you spend the night in the trees." We shook hands and I moved off into the woods. They watched me for an instant until I did my disappearing trick and blended with the trees to disappear.
"Come on," said Criton, "I want to show you the house we found."
"Well, come on," said Father, "We've got to move on, away from this
part of the country before those wild dogs come back. I'm sure you boys
could take care of them, but I don't want to push our luck."
So there you have it, another part of our tale. The Raggie family is
on the road headed North. I sure hope they have some luck.
But, don't you wonder what's happening with the girls, and Mister Balonie of course, as they run from the witch? There's a pond, over there in the woods. Let's look into the pool, look deep and use it as a crystal ball.
I don't see anything yet. Not yet . . . not yet. . . Hmmm!
Maybe. Ah yes. There they are, not a happy looking bunch, are they down
there in that ugly tunnel? Say now, what's that over hiding in the shadows.
There seem to be lurkers there. What do you think they might be?
Go to: Time Enough For All: Chapter 3.