There was a country where every church bell cracked, and so the peals never rang out over the stony beach of the small bay, nor reached the little rocky islets off the coast, or up the steep hills. Even the village was still a half-wild place, where legends came to rest and farm for a while.
Sigrun came of age when her father died, his life sped out on a fishbone. She shed no tears, for the old man's doom had been foretold, and he'd ask for kippers every breakfast regardless. There was talk among the men and boys, for Sigrun was not ill-figured, and her farm was no small dowry - three cows, a pair of iron-shod goats, and many fat pigs - but the first wooer was too rough, and when she had paid the weregeld to his family, and his sad-eyed mother had laid down her curse, there were few others that wished to try their chances.
Now, the mother's curse was laid not on Sigrun, but on her pigs. Fever took the males, from the oldest boar to the youngest piglet, and never thereafter could Sigrun manage to keep one alive for more than a week. Yet in the spring a wily old boar would come sniffing around the forest, which came up just to the edge of the farm, and Sigrun would unlatch the gate to the pig pen. In time the porker would return from her honeymoon, and in some weeks there would be piglets, and all was fine for a while.
Yet on the second spring after the witch had laid her curse, the pig did not come back. Not after two days or five. On the sixth day, Sigrun put on her father's boots and walked out into the forest to find her.
You have never seen a wood such as that. It girdled the mountain Alflair, right up to the snow line, and no axe had touched those trees, not since the world began. Scrape the moss from the stones and the bones of the sea peaked out at you, and the trees towered tall and broad, so that the forest floor was fallow and in darkness, 'cept for creeping mistletoe. Yet there were acorns there as large as a big man's hand, and for that reason the old boar would sniff and root, to fatten up for the winter.
Sigrun strode through the forest, her eyes watching for pig-sign on the ground. She did not call for the pig, for she knew there was no use for that, but walked far, until the stars came out above - though she could not see it, because of the eternal twilight of the forest - and round and round she walked until she came out at a troll farm.
There is no reason trolls cannot farm, though most seem disinclined to the work. This was as fair a farm as Sigrun might have expected for a troll: a broad swatch of field marked off by stones and a fence of stakes, and a house built for the size of a troll, great river-stones at its base and a sloping roof that touched the ground, so a goat might walk up it. And in the field was the boar and Sigrun's pig.
Sigrun came up to the door and clapped her hands, one, twice, thrice loudly.
The troll emerged. She was not unfair, for a troll; each breast alone was larger than Sigrun's head, and the tusks in her mouth were small by trollish standards. Her ox-tail was clean, and held above the ground. Sigrun wondered if there was much human blood in her.
"Good even, neighbor, and well met. I am Sigrun, of the farm on the other side of the forest."
"Hail and well met, neighbor. I am Orthumr, called Short-tooth. What brings you here?"
"My pig had gone out to chase her boar, and after five days I missed her and came to high her home. I see her yonder in your field."
"The boar is mine," Orthumr nodded. "Captured in the forest. If you let your pig out, that is your own business, but she came to my farm of her own will, following her boar. Why for do you let your pretty pig out?"
"A witch's curse. No male pork can long abide in my house, so I let her out for the piglets."
Orthumr shrugged. "I too had hoped for piglets. Perhaps I still am."
"Think you not to keep my pig from me, Orthumr Trollkin." Sigrun warned. "I have wrestled worse than you to get my just compensation at the law-courts."
The troll laughed. "Perhaps you have. Yet I bethought me of...another arrangement."
They haggled, into the night, and sealed the contract with mead. The pig would stay with Orthumr for half a year, and in the end of summer dam and female piglets would come back to Sigrun's farm, and the boar and male piglets were Orthumr's. A good arrangement. Yet as the dawn broke, and Sigrun came heavily to her feet.
"Keep faith, O Orthumr. I shall be cross, if you eat up all my little girls!"
"And if I do so, Sigrun, you shall keep your pretty little pig at home, and we shall neither of us have any piglets. No, this way is better." Her tail bounced with laughter. "Yet next time, perhaps, we shall wrestle, just for the sport of it."
"Next time," Sigrun promised, and went back through the girdling forest to her farm. But as to what happened to her on the way home, that is another tale.
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