Today Lexi George is taking us to the beach with Gertie from her Fledgling Magic series (writing as Alexandra Rushe). If The Rain Troll gets your interest, make sure you check out the rest of the series – A Meddle of Wizards and A Muddle of Magic.
The Rain Troll
“This is the life, my lad, sun on my fur and good wine.” Huge, powerful, and hideously ugly, the troll made a comical sight with her pointed ears poking through the straw crown of her hat. Gertie buried her huge paws in the warm sand. “Hard not to love the Valdarian coast, eh? Balmy and mild. And look at that sea. Blue as Magog’s good eye and calm as a lake.”
Brefreton grunted in agreement. The mild climate was certainly a welcome respite from the harsh lands to the north. The sky was clear, sea birds circled overhead, and the waves beat a steady, lulling rhythm against the shore. One day in Valdaria was much the same as the next, perfect and beautiful.
And dull as a Gambollian council meeting.
“How long are we staying here?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Haven’t decided. Why?”
“Bored?” Gertie rolled a yellow eye at him. “Don’t be ridiculous, boy. We’re in paradise.”
“I’m not a boy. I’ll be one hundred and fifty-three cycles my next name day.”
“A mere puppy. Wizards live practically forever, you know. Besides, you don’t look a day over twenty.” She leaned back, and the wooden beach chair groaned beneath her weight. “Be a darling and fetch Gertie another bottle of wine.” She rattled the empty container at him. “Have Beldoris add it to my shot.”
“You drink too much.”
She yawned, displaying a muzzle full of sharp teeth. “I drink just enough. Now run along,” she said, then closed her eyes and began to snore, her black lips trembling with each exhalation.
Grumbling to himself, Brefreton trudged over the dunes to the beachside tavern where they’d lodged. Tucked against the purple cliffs of the Valdarian coastline, Barrels by the Sea offered a stunning view of the ocean and the Plum Islands floating lazily in the distance. A tumbledown affair of sun-bleached wood and pitted stone, the inn resembled a saggy pudding, albeit one that had withstood three hundred years of wind, weather, and the caprices of sundry kings and queens.
The Barrel was small, boasting but six rooms in all, the fare was simple and the wine excellent. Nothing surprising in that. Valdaria was famous for its wine. Upon their arrival more than a moon ago, Brefreton had been given the smallest room upstairs.
Beldoris, the innkeeper, had regarded the troll sourly. “I suppose you’ll be wanting a room, as well?”
“Sleep under a roof with all this fur?” Gertie had given him a look of astonishment. “No, no, my good man. A bed of clean straw in the stables will suit me fine, thankee kindly.”
“As you like,” Beldoris had said with obvious relief.
“Though take my advice and put me well away from the horses,” Gertie had added. “Skittish creatures, horses, and easily spooked.”
Gertie’s choice of quarters had more to do with prejudice than preference, Brefreton suspected. Horses weren’t the only creatures that feared trolls. Humans feared them, too. Monsters, they called them.
But Gertie was no ordinary troll.
She was a kolyagga, a troll wizard, and one of the finest adepts in Tandara. Granted, she was no beauty, but she was an excellent teacher, and Brefreton had long since grown accustomed to her appearance. In the fifty years he’d been her apprentice, she’d schooled him in the craft of magic, an invaluable gift. Gruff but generous, foul-tempered at times and often foul-mouthed, beneath the troll’s surly exterior beat a kind and loving heart.
By Reba, he was fond of Gertie. She was more than a companion—she was the closest thing to family he had. Without her, he’d be alone and untrained.
Nasty things happened to green wizards who dabbled in the arts, as Falton the Flat had learned to his woe. Armed with naught but a smattering of learning—and much of that questionable—Falton had foolishly attempted to levitate a shop from one lot to another, a simple task for a skilled wizard, but not for a novice. Falton had managed to lift the shop, but then he’d panicked. He’d wound up dropping the whole reban building on his head, killing himself and several others, to boot.
Highly unfortunate and bad for the business of wizardry.
“Ho, young sir,” Beldoris said as Brefreton sauntered into the taproom. Customers lined the bar, and people sat at tables drinking and eating. “Here to fetch more wine for your hairy friend?”
Brefreton stifled a twinge of annoyance. He was a century older than Beldoris, though the innkeeper would scarcely credit it.
Sometimes, eternal youth was annoying.
The scents of roast chicken, herbed vegetables, and fresh bread made him forget his ill temper. He hadn’t eaten breakfast, and he was ravenous.
“Wine for Gertie.” Pushing his way through the crowd, he set the empty flask on the bar. “Chicken smells good. I’ll have a plate of that, but no hurry. I can see you’re busy.”
Beldoris nodded, and Brefreton wandered over to watch a game of darts.
A short while later, Aldoris, the innkeeper’s pretty daughter, hailed him. “Your food, good sir,” she said, dimpling at him.
She set the plate of food and a mug of chilled white wine on a small table by the window and hurried back toward the kitchen.
“My thanks,” Brefreton called after her.
He sat down and tore into the food. Basted in butter and rosemary until the skin was golden and crisp, the chicken was delicious, the vegetables fragrant with herbs, and the bread still warm. He cleaned his plate and sat back with a contented sigh. A piece of parchment tacked to the wall beside the window caught his eye. Wizard Wanted, the flyer proclaimed in bold letters.
“Here you go.” Beldoris bustled over and set a full wineskin on the table. “Will the troll be wanting a bite to eat later on, you think?”
“I’ve never known Gertie to miss a meal.” Brefreton waved a hand at the flyer on the wall. “Mind if I take this?”
“Take it and welcome. It’s been there since last Valdarblot.”
“Valdarblot?” Brefreton swallowed his disappointment. Valdarblot had been moons ago. “I daresay some wizard has answered it by now.”
“I doubt it. We get very few wizards in the Barrels, but travelers come through from Durngaria now and again. Word has it the drought still holds in the southern reaches.” He shook his head. “Seven years with no rain is a long time.”
Brefreton nodded and slipped the flyer inside his tunic. Hurrying back to the beach, he found Gertie surrounded by children. Odd how wee ones liked the ugly troll. What did they see when they looked at her, Brefreton wondered, a big, fluffy, exceptionally ugly dog?
Or maybe a bear, a red bear with long braids and mobile ears.
Whatever the attraction, the little scruffs were drawn to Gertie. Hardly a day passed that she wasn’t surrounded by moppets.
The troll had abandoned her chair and was entertaining the youngsters with sand animals. Magic wafted on the salty breeze, and a soft blue light swirled around the kolyagga as she worked. She formed a magnificent sand horse and sent it galloping along the edge of the surf.
“Hurrah, hurrah,” the children cried, jumping up and down with excitement.
Warming to her task, Gertie conjured a parade of funny, waddling birds, a clutter of sparkling sand fairies, and a leaping leopard.
“That’s it, mablets.” She lowered her arms. “Old Gertie’s tired.”
“One more, Gertie. Please.”
“Very well.” Gertie propped her paws on her wide hips. “What shall it be?”
“A dragon?” The troll beetled her brows at them. “Why must it always be a dragon? Scaly, smelly things, dragons. Why not a troll?”
A small, brown-skinned girl giggled. “That’s silly. We already have a troll.”
“You do?” Gertie looked around. “Where?”
“You,” the children shouted.
“Humph,” Gertie said, relenting as Brefreton had known she would. The troll could disembowel a man with one swipe of her claws, but she was soft as newly risen dough when it came to youngsters.
She raised her long, hairy arms, and a tremendous dragon rose from the sand, complete with gaping jaws and wide, spreading wings. The dragon soared into the sky and plummeted down, sweeping low over the beach.
“Off with you home, mablets.” Gertie shooed the little ones after the dragon. “Your parents will be wondering where you are.” Fondly, she watched them scamper away. “Little darlings.”
“Little nuisances, more like.”
“You say that now, but you’ll sing a different tune when you have a few of your own.”
Brefreton shuddered. “Reba save me from such a fate.”
“Your precious goddess won’t save you. That one thinks of naught but herself.”
“Why do you dislike her so? What did Reba ever do to you?”
“Never you mind,” Gertie said. “Where’s my wine? Sand conjuring is thirsty work.” Brefreton handed her the flask, and she shot a stream of warm wine down her gullet. “Ahh.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her paw. “That’s good.”
“I found this in the tavern.” Brefreton pulled the wrinkled parchment from his tunic. “It says Weather wizard for hire.”
Gertie peered at the advert. “So it does. Greendale . . . isn’t that in Durngaria?”
“Yes. It’s signed by the mayor of Greendale himself. Beldoris says there’s been a drought in Durngaria for seven years. It’s a good opportunity, don’t you think?”
“For me to make a name for myself. I can’t be your apprentice forever, you know.”
“Weather magic is tricky.”
He rattled the paper at her. “One hundred and fifty garvans, Gertie, to the wizard who can make it rain. That’s a small fortune.”
“I’ve gold aplenty.”
“I don’t. I mean to go on my own.”
Gertie’s eyes widened. “Without me?”
“Don’t look so hurt. I’ll come back for you. In the meantime, stay here and enjoy yourself. Sit in your chair and drink wine. Play with the little ones.”
“Durngaria is three weeks away on foot.”
“I won’t be going on foot. I mean to buy a horse.”
“Horses and trolls don’t mix. You know that.”
“Since you’re staying here, that won’t be a problem.”
“Let you go gadding off on your own?” She stuck out her tusks. “Supposing you bungle it?”
“Your confidence in me is overwhelming.”
“You’re a fine wizard, boy, but weather magic is—”
“Tricky, I know. So you’ll come?”
“Of course I’ll come. I’d worry myself to a frazzle if I didn’t.”
“Thanks.” Secretly, Brefreton was relieved. He was better with growing things than with winds and currents. Though he was determined not to ask for Gertie’s help, it was comforting to know she’d be there if he needed it. “I’d be more than happy to share the gold with you.”
“I told you I don’t want the gold.”
“Ale, then,” he said, knowing her weakness. “Remember that little place in Gambollia? What was it called . . . the Dirty Goat?”
“The Naughty Pig. Finest brew I’ve had in an age.” She smacked her black lips. “Dark and creamy, with a hint of oak. A marvelous tipple.”
“That’s it,” Brefreton said. “I’ll buy you a tub of ale from the Naughty Pig for coming with me to Greendale.”
Her whiskery snout twitched, a sign that she was wavering. “Three tubs, and you’ll hire a wagon to carry it over the mountains back home.”
* * * * * *
The trip took them closer to six weeks than three due to Gertie’s insistence that they explore every vineyard, large and small, along the way. Since there were dozens of wineries between the Valdarian coast and southern Durngaria, Brefreton’s patience was sorely tried by the time they reached their destination.
He climbed to the top of the hill and peered into the valley below. “We made it, Gertie. Come have a look.”
“But a moment, jack-o-warts,” the troll said. “I’ve a bit of a head today.”
“Too much brandy. You were in your cups last night.”
“The owner added a touch of orange to last year’s vintage and wanted my opinion. I had to give the matter proper consideration.”
“I see. It was your duty.” He grinned down at her. “But did duty require you to drink three bottles?”
“These things cannot be rushed, m’ boy.” She huffed up the slope and peered down at the cluster of grimy shops and cottages. “Not much to look at, is it?”
Brefreton concurred, though he kept the thought to himself. Dry he had expected, but not utter desolation. The village of Greendale was a thoroughly dismal place, gray with dust, the surrounding fields bone white and barren. Not so much as a brittlebush sprouted for miles around.
“Think how grateful the inhabitants will be when I make it rain,” Brefreton said. “We’ll be heroes, Gertie.”
“You’ll be a hero. This is your fizgig, my lad, not mine. I’m here to lend moral support.”
The village constable met them at the edge of town. “State your business,” he said, brandishing his weapon at them.
“Get that pike out of my face, lickspittle,” Gertie growled, “or I’ll shove it up your arse.”
The constable took a hasty step back. “Leave, sir, and take that monster with you. It . . . it threatened me.”
“My pardon, Constable. She’s a bit out of sorts.” Brefreton swept him a low bow. “Allow me to present myself. I am Archimedes Brefreton.” He lifted the wizard stone he wore around his neck. “You have need of a weather wizard, I believe?”
“That we do, indeed.” The man eyed him uncertainly. “If you be a wizard, then you’re welcome, but your troll is not.”
Brefreton held up a finger. “Ah, but this is no ordinary troll, my dear fellow. This is a rain troll from the Isles of Tamir.”
“Never heard of a rain troll.”
“You would not have. Rain trolls are rare. Be at ease. Your pluvious troubles are at an end.”
“Rain, my dear fellow.” Brefreton clapped him on the shoulder. “We’re going to make it rain.”
They were escorted through the streets of town to the square, where Brefreton positioned himself in front of a dry fountain.
Gertie stretched and yawned. “I’ll be right over here, cheering you on, as promised,” she said, then curled up on a stone bench and went to sleep.
The news of their arrival spread swiftly through town and attracted a crowd. Murmuring a prayer to Reba, Brefreton grasped his wizard stone and began the summoning. The scent of magic tanged the air, and a blue haze pulsed around him. Energy work was hard, and before long, he was sweating heavily.
Long minutes passed, but at last, Brefreton judged the thing done. Lowering his wizard stone, he wiped his brow. “And now, we wait.”
“Wait for what?” a bosomy matron demanded. “I see no rain.”
Brefreton twitched his cloak into place. “These things take time, my good woman. You must be patient.”
“Quackery.” The blacksmith, a beefy man in a leather apron, scowled at Brefreton. “Melnia has the right of it. Nothing’s happening.”
“And what about her?” The constable jabbed the end of his pike at the sleeping troll. “A rain troll, you called her, but so far, all she’s done is sleep. Does she snore up a storm?”
There were snickers from the onlookers and more than a few unhappy murmurings. Brefreton felt a twinge of unease. The mood of the crowd was quickly turning ugly.
“How remiss of me,” he said. “Thank you for the reminder, friend.”
He strode over to the bench and nudged Gertie. “Wake up, troll. Time to do your part.”
“Eh?” Gertie shook herself like a dog and sat up. “I thought you wanted to do this yourself.”
“And so I have. The spell has been cast.” Brefreton gave the onlookers a dazzling smile and opened his arms wide. “All that remains now is for the rain troll to perform the sacred dance.”
“The sacred—” Gertie lowered her brows. “Now, see here, boy. I am not—”
“Please, Gertie,” he said through his teeth. “They’re growing restless. If we don’t give them something, they’ll put us in the stocks.”
“Oh, very well,” she grumbled, “but you owe me another tub of ale for this. I’m not a performing monkey, you know.”
Rising to her hind feet, Gertie began to caper about, her movements surprisingly graceful for such a bulky creature. Much amused by the cavorting troll, the villagers hooted and laughed, but she ignored them.
“Look!” A boy pointed to a cluster of feathery wisps over the distant hills. “I see clouds. The rain dance is working!”
As the afternoon wore on, the wisps thickened to gray clouds. Thunder rumbled within the mass, and it began to drizzle. The drizzle turned to a light rain, and then a steady downpour. Laughing and crying, the delighted townsfolk poured from their houses and shops to celebrate.
“The rain troll! Hurray for the rain troll,” the people shouted, carrying Gertie triumphantly through the muddy streets.
“Well, I like that,” Brefreton muttered. “I did all the work, and she gets the credit.”
But he did not stay disgruntled for long. Everyone was so happy. That night, he and Gertie were feted, and Gollig Storn, the mayor of Greendale himself, presented Brefreton with the one hundred and fifty garvans promised. Brefreton was given the best room at the Greendale Inn, and the rain troll was relegated to the cowshed.
“For I don’t allow animals in my inn, and that’s a fact,” the proprietor said with a touch of regret. “Be she a rain troll or no.”
The next morning it was still raining, and the rain continued the day after that and the next. On the fifth night, Brefreton woke to the sound of the sea. With a whispered word, he summoned a light from his wizard stone and crept downstairs. Not the sea, he realized, looking about the common room in dismay. Rainwater. The bottom floor of the inn was flooded. Tables and chairs bobbed in the murky soup, and water poured through the mullioned windows.
“Merciful Reba,” he swore softly. “What have I done?”
Horrified, he fled out the back door of the inn and found the yard a lake. Ignoring his squelching boots, he slogged through the wet to the shed. The little building sat on a slight knoll and remained dry for now. Behind him, there were shouts of alarm. The village was awake and gathering.
Rushing inside the shed, he roused the sleeping troll. “Wake up, Gertie,” he said, shaking her hairy shoulder. “Wake up.”
She sat up in the straw, blinking. “What, are we dancing again?”
“No dancing. The village is flooded.” Brefreton felt sick with regret. Gertie was right. He’d made a royal mess of things. “We need to leave. Now. They’re coming for us.”
The doors of the byre burst open. “There they are,” the blacksmith shouted. “Get them! Hang the wizard, and skin the troll.”
“Ingrates,” Gertie said rolling to her feet. “You can’t help some people.”
Snarling, the mob advanced, and Brefreton backed away. “Run for it, Gertie. Save yourself.”
“Bugger that,” the troll said.
Flinging him over one shoulder like a sack of grain, Gertie bowled the angry throng aside and bounded into the night, her powerful legs churning through the swirling water. She didn’t stop running until they’d reached the border of Valdaria, some twelve leagues away. They kept walking until midday, when they happened upon a modest inn situated in an ancient olive grove and took shelter.
That evening, Brefreton sat at a table in the common room with his head in his hands. “I don’t understand what went wrong. I did it the way you taught me.”
“Weather magic’s tricky. I warned you.”
“I know, I know. I should have listened to you.”
“Don’t fratch about it, boy.” She poured herself another cup of wine. “Happens it wasn’t entirely your fault.”
He lifted his head. “It wasn’t?”
“No. I may have given you a little boost.”
“A boost?” He stared at her, aghast. “We flooded an entire valley.”
“In hindsight, I may have overdone it a trifle, but they can’t say they didn’t get what they paid for.”
“Gertie, Greendale is a lake, thanks to us.”
“Well, there you go. A few fish, and they’ll be back in business. We did them a favor, think on.”
He stared at her helplessly. “I’m ruined. I’ll be drummed out of Tandara, never be allowed to practice magic again.”
“Nonsense.” She patted his hand. “A few centuries, and it will all be forgotten.” She paused. “Unless they name the lake after you. Lake Archimedes has a nice ring to it.”
“Cheer up, Bree. You’re only as good as your last job.”
He groaned. “My last job was a disaster, and you know it.”
“That will be remedied soon enough.” She drummed her claws on the table. “I hear they’re looking for a wizard in Sethlar.”
“Hmm. Something about a fire demon in the mines. We’ll catch the next ship headed that way if you like.” She filled a cup with wine and handed it to him. “To us and to adventure. May they sing songs about us when we’re gone.”
“I don’t know about you, but I mean to stick around a while.”
“Of course, of course. Wizard’s boon, my boy, long life.”
He grinned and lifted his glass. “To us and to songs, and to the rain troll. May she dance like a thistle on the wind and her claws stay ever sharp.”
“Bah, what a load of bollocks,” Gertie said, and drained her glass.
Meet Lexi George / Alexandra Rushe
Lexi George writes paranormal romance about sassy Southern heroines and hunky demon hunters. She has written five books in the series, plus a novella, and is currently at work on the sixth full-length demon hunter book “Demon Hunting with a Southern Sheriff.”
Lexi lives in a small town in Alabama much like the fictional town of Hannah – charm and characters in abundance, a crater and a bridge spanning a river. Alas, it is sadly lacking in woo-woo and alpha male immortals. Her two spoiled felines, Sabrina and Sam, rule her with an iron paw.
Contact Info: Lexi George | Alexandra Rushe
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If you haven’t read Lexi George before, here’s what you’ve been missing:
Demon Hunting in Dixie (Demon Hunting #1)
So I Married a Demon Slayer
A Meddle of Wizards (Fledgling Magic #1) written as Alexandra Rushe
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