The next morning, Hawke strode into the breakfast room. “Have you heard the news in the village?”
Her head aching from a late night writing her play, Wren sipped her tea and sourly eyed her disgustingly exuberant friend over her cup. “No.”
Hawke snagged a pastry from the table and cheerfully devoured it. “Harry Blacksmith swears he saw a troll by the bridge this morning.”
Her skin prickling at the similarity between her play and the village gossip, Wren snorted and set her teacup down with a rattle. “What nonsense. Trolls never venture south of the Walle, and if they did, it would not be in the middle of summer when their thick hides would literally boil them in their own skin.”
Selecting another pastry, Hawke arched his brows in surprise. “You are unusually gruesome this morning. What ails you?”
“Nothing ails me.” Wren glared at him and pulled the breakfast platter away from him. “I am merely tired.”
As he pulled the platter back and stole another pastry, a wicked grin lit Hawke’s face. “Reading my present?”
Abandoning her effort to control Hawke’s breakfast thievery, Wren shook her head and touched the pocket where the charmed pen rested. “No, writing with Kit’s.”
“That explains it.” Finishing his last pastry, Hawke licked his fingers and grinned at Wren. “What say you to visiting the bridge and attempting to see the ‘troll’?”
“Very well.” Wren finished her tea and rose. She wanted to know why the village gossip echoed her play.
After half an hour of brisk walking, Wren and Hawke reached the stone bridge at far edge of the village. As she got a clear look at the bridge, Wren drew a ragged breath.
“I had not heard the troll had painted the bridge blue as well,” Hawke murmured with a chuckle. “I would have thought that would have been of note.”
“I suspect the troll overshadowed the color of the bridge.” Nervously biting her lip, Wren peered at the bridge. “Do you see him?”
“The troll? No.” Grasping Wren’s hand, Hawke pulled her toward the bridge. “Let’s get closer.”
As Hawke and Wren stepped on the edge of the bridge, a deep roar vibrated the stones beneath their feet, and a twelve-foot troll leapt to the center of the bridge.
Shoving Wren behind him, Hawke crouched in a fighting stance.
Frozen with astonishment, Wren gaped at the troll. He was precisely as she pictured in her play—enormous and brutish but with lonely eyes.
When the troll roared again and Hawke tensed to attack, Wren grabbed his upper arm. “Hawke, no!”
Hawke frowned at her over his shoulder and shouted over the troll, “What? Why?”
Wren tugged him off the bridge and away from the roaring troll. “I shall explain shortly, but first, we need talk to Kit about that wretched pen she gave me.”