The motherly witch thoughtfully pursed her lips. “I do not have a spell to get rid of the troll, but I do know a potion that would give you the ability to understand all creatures and for them to understand you. Perhaps you could convince the troll to return north.”
Wren wrinkled her nose. “But how? It’s the middle of summer, and hot days are deadly to trolls.”
The witch rose and returned the large volume to the shelf. “He might survive if he travels at night. In any case, the farther north he travels, the better his odds of survival.”
Wren and Hawke exchanged a long glance. Squeezing her hand, Hawke shrugged. “We have naught to lose by trying.”
“True enough.” Sliding her hand from Hawke’s, Wren withdrew a small bag of coins from her pocket. “How much will we owe you for the potion?”
The witch shook her head with a faint smile as she began rummaging for ingredients. “The charmed pen is payment enough. I shall enjoy the chance to study my mother’s spell before I destroy it.”
Wren pocketed her money while the witch bustled about the room and tossed ingredients into a small cauldron above the fire. Wren was grateful the light was too dim for her to see what those ingredients where—she suspected some were rather vile.
The witch poured the potion into two mugs. “Here you are. Drink it all.”
Accepting the mugs from the witch, Wren and Hawke gagged down the potion, which tasted like a dreadful combination of lye soap and rancid butter.
Draining her mug, Wren slammed it down with a shudder. “This potion had better work.”
The witch chuckled as she collected the mugs from Wren and Hawke. “It does, but only for a day.”
Hawke arched his brows then glanced at Wren. “Then we had best hurry.”
Wren rose and nodded at the witch. “Thank you for your help.”
“Good luck, children,” the witch replied absently as she began to scrutinize the charmed pen.
Leaving the witch’s cottage, Wren and Hawke strode across the village towards the stone bridge. However, when they saw it, Hawke pulled Wren to a halt. “I should go first.”
Suspecting a misguided attempt to protect her, Wren scowled up at him. “Why? I am the one responsible for his appearance.”
Hawke scowled back. “He might relate better to a boy.”
“I doubt it.” When Hawke’s eyes narrowed, Wren hurriedly added, “Perhaps we should go together.”
Clearly not pleased by this compromise, Hawke relented and muttered, “Very well.”
Offering him a bright smile, Wren started towards the bridge again, and Hawke swiftly matched her.
Just as before, when they stepped on the bridge, the troll leapt on top of the bridge with a deep roar.
Wren drew a ragged breath. If anything, the troll appeared more enormous and brutish than he had this morning. When the troll roared again, Wren braced herself to speak.