The Last Days of Gorlock the Dragon
y Don Arthur Torgersen

It was a warm, sunny day during that wonderful time of the year known as Indian summer. The red and golden leaves falling from the trees fluttered in the breeze like butterflies.

Torrek the gnome sat on a large rock near Red Rock Lake.
He was playing riddle-me games with four young gnomes named Nefer, Duncan, Huff and Puff. He tried to stump the young gnomes with an old riddle:

Riddle-me, riddle-me, riddle-me-ree
What flies forever and rests never?

Nefer smiled a great big smile and said:

Ratta-tat-tat, I know that!
The wind, the wind, it’s the wind
That flies forever and rests never.

Torrek tried another riddle:

Riddle-me, riddle-me, riddle-me-ree,
A nose from a rock, a tail from a tree,
What kind of creature do you see?

Again, Nefer was quick to answer:

Ratta-tat-tat, I know that!
Its nose grows from rock, its tail from a tree,
A troll is the creature that I see.

Huff and Puff, the two gnomes who looked exactly alike, began to get angry. Nefer was answering all the riddles.
"If you’re so smart, Nefer, tell us what else a troll is made of."
"Oh, everyone knows what trolls are made of. Rocks, roots, bark, leaves, weeds, lumps, and dead tree stumps," replied Nefer smartly. "But nobody knows how old they are."

Huff and Puff laughed. "There’s a lot more to know about trolls than that." Then the two gnomes unrolled an old scroll. They began to read aloud a funny poem they had written:

What Are Trolls Made Of?
Of worms and snails and salamander tails
Of beaks and claws and grizzly jaws
Of nettles, thorns, and caterpillar horns,
That’s what trolls are made of.

Of toadstools, slime, and crusty grime
Of moss and read and centipede feet
Of sneers and snares and scraggly hairs
That’s what trolls are made of.

Of itches, twitches, howls, and fits
Of wrinkles, warts, and grumpish snorts
Of beetle wings and creepy things
Oh, that’s what trolls are made of.

Suddenly, the gnomes heard a bellyful of deep laughs and chortles that came from the other side of the lake. Torrek pointed across the lake and said, "There’s a troll who lives in the shadows over there, and I think he liked your poem."
The gnomes noticed two large trumpeter swans swimming in the lake. Torrek called out to them, "Ko-Hoh!
Ko-Hoh! Ko-Hoh!" The swans glided toward shore to meet with Torrek, their old friend.
Torrek and the young gnomes walked down to the edge of the lake. As they talked with the swans, something strange began to happen. Great smoky clouds reached across the sky like a huge, dark hand.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh—the sound of wings, huge in size, filled the sky. A fiery-hot wind rushed in from the north, causing waves to rise and roil and torment the lake. The five gnomes looked up into a threatening sky.

A great dragon soared above, darkening the sky with his large, powerful wings. His hide was covered with bluish-green armor and shining scales. His long tail was forked at the end. Fire and smoke poured out of his mouth.

The two swans rose into the air and began to make loud calls that sounded like horns: "Ko-Hoh! Ko-Hoh! Ko-Hoh!
Torrek called the young gnomes together. "Quick! Follow me! Gorlock the dragon is back. Gorlock eats trolls in a single gulp. Five gnomes would hardly make a meal for him. Let’s scram out of here and hustle home."
The gnomes scrambled through the trees into the safety of Pepper Tree Forest. Gorlock the dragon landed right in the middle of Red Rock Lake with a great splash. His fiery breath scorched the trees along the shoreline. His slanted eyes darted back and forth, searching for a feast of gnomes and trolls.
Deep in the forest, all the gnomes had heard the alarms of the swans. Many of them gathered at the Tree of Weapons where they listened to Torrek tell about the return of Gorlock the dragon.

The young gnomes did not know about Gorlock, so Saga the Storyteller began to tell the tale:
"Long, long ago," she said, "our great grandparents used to live in the land beyond the Dark Mountains," and Saga pointed out to the distance. "It was a good land until it became crowded with dragons and goblins that bickered day and night and caused all kinds of trouble."
"Gorlock the dragon was the most wicked of wicked creatures. He tried to rule over the land with brute force and treachery. He would not let anyone live in peace. He burned the trees with his horrid breath and sent the gnomes scattering from many dragon wars."
"Our great grandparents built small boats and sailed away from that spoiled land. When they arrived at these shores, they planted crops and pepper trees. They built new homes. They made the forest a fine habitat for all forms of wildlife. They thought they had escaped dragon fighting forever."
"After many years, an elfin girl named Ella-nor betrayed her friends and told Gorlock where the gnomes had gone to live. He followed her to the edge of Pepper Tree Forest and tried to burn our trees with his fiery breath."
"Torrek and Gripper were our best dragon fighters. They drove Gorlock away during a great battle at Red Rock Lake. They chopped off his enormous tail and he hobbled away in pain. Gorlock felt a shame you could not describe at the loss of his tail. He had to wait a long time for it to grow back again."
Saga raised her arms above her head and shouted, "Now Gorlock has returned full of hate and revenge. We must get rid of him once and for all or he will ruin our lives forever."
Now spoke Torrek to the gnomes:
"I have a plan to lure the dragon out of the water and fight him on land. But first, Gripper and I need several things. We need a red woolen cap, a tattered troll jacket, and most of all, a rope that never breaks."
After hearing Torrek’s request, Saga began to comb out her hair. The more she combed, the longer it grew. The hair soon curled around her feet in a pile. Then she asked Gripper to cut off her hair with the blade of his axe.
Saga began to twirl her hair with her fingers, braiding it into a thick rope. When she was finished, she gave the rope to Torrek, saying, "Wizards, warlocks, dragons and drakes, Beware the rope that never breaks."

Torrek took the rope and slung it around his shoulder. He pulled down a sharp spear that was hanging on the Tree of Weapons. Then he climbed on the back of a swan.
Torrek’s friend Gripper held his axe with a mighty grip. He picked up a sack filled with the red woolen cap, a tattered troll jacket, and other things Torrek needed. Then he climbed on the back of the other swan.
The trumpeter swans opened their wings and rose into the sky. The two warriors rode on their backs, singing:

Ko-Hoh, Ko-Hoh, Ko-Hoh, Ko-Hoh
To the dragon fight we go, Ko-Hoh,
To smite the dragon a mighty blow
The wickedest dragon we know, Ko-Hoh.

The swans landed behind a clump of trees near Red Rock Lake. Gorlock sat in the middle of the lake, breathing fire and smoke. Torrek, Gripper and the swans crouched behind the trees and made their plans.
When night came, it was dark as pitch. The dragon’s eyes drooped and he began to doze. Quietly, Torrek and Gripper tied one end of the rope that never breaks around the trunk of
a great oak tree.
Now the dragon was in a deep sleep, snoring loudly in the middle of the lake. Torrek and Gripper crept out from behind the clump of trees.
The two gnomes rolled a large rock up to the top of a bluff near the shoreline. They dressed the rock with the tattered troll jacket. They used a sharp piece of rock to make a troll’s nose. They found a long pine branch with bristles at the end and used it for the troll’s tail.
The gnomes used charcoal from the charred trees to draw eyes and a mouth on the face of the rock. Finally, they put the red woolen cap on the top of the rock and began to chuckle.
"Shh," said Torrek. "We’ve built a scaretroll on the bluff, yes, a scaretroll. When Gorlock sees it in the morning, he’ll have to come out of the water to eat it. He’ll think it’s nice, juicy troll meat, but will he be surprised!"
"That’s when you tie the rope that never breaks around his tail so he can’t get away," whispered Torrek to Gripper. "The swans will fly into the air and make loud, trumpeting calls to confuse him. I’ll run underneath him and drive my spear through the chinks in his armor deep into his stony heart. And when that hard heart cracks from the force of my spear, that will be the end of him!"
Then the two gnomes snuck back behind the clump of trees to wait for morning.
When dawn came, an ugsome scaretroll was sitting on the bluff above the lake. It was good bait for a dragon. The troll was so ugsome that it even scared off the scavenging crows, who cawed and croaked in disgust.

The caw, caw, croaking of the crows awoke the dragon. Gorlock’s slanted eyes darted back and forth. He soon caught sight of a nice, juicy troll sitting on shore and belched a cloud of smoke. Gorlock opened his mouth and snapped out his long, forked tongue which stung the air like a whip.
The great dragon splashed his tail from side to side and climbed up on shore. He opened his mouth as wide as he could and snatched the scaretroll with the jaws of doom.

He raised the heavy troll into the air and began to chew. But instead of chewing on nice, juicy troll meat, his teeth began to grind on hard rock. The dragon belched in anger because the troll meat was so tough.
While Gorlock’s mouth was full of rock, the swans flapped their wings, flew above the dragon, and filled the sky with the sound of trumpets and horns.