Part of the Love Unlocked Anthology
Size: 13.40 x 20.50 cm
Due to a misunderstanding, the troll that lives underneath one of the most romantic bridges in Paris inadvertently unlocks every single padlock lovers have left there over the years. L'Authoritié de Fée Folklorique are up in arms. He has no idea what all the fuss is about. The noise was driving him mad. He just wanted a bit of peace and quiet.
A spell is cast, leaving the troll in a bit of a predicament. He is charged with the seemingly impossible task of fixing the locks before the spell can be reversed and he is allowed to return to his home. There are other complications, the least of which is the insistence and persistence of a fairy who is determined to help him against the wishes of his own people.
Now the troll has a dilemma. What is more important to him? The only home he has known for two thousand years, or a fairy he has just met?
* * *
A story from Love Unlocked - a collection of seven short stories and novellas - unique LGBTQ romances inspired by the Love Lock Bridge.
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Tropes: Antihero, Body Modifications, Cross-Species Friendships, Fish Out of Water, Interspecies Romance, Magical Disaster
Word Count: 42000
Setting: Paris, modern day
Languages Available: English
Tropes: Antihero, Body Modifications, Cross-Species Friendships, Fish Out of Water, Interspecies Romance, Magical Disaster
Word Count: 42000
Setting: Paris, modern day
Languages Available: English
Chapter 1: Locked on a Bridge
What is that bloody noise?
It’s been going on for years now. If it was just people trip-trapping over my bridge, then I wouldn’t bother. I haven’t bothered since that incident with the goats.
This is different, though. There’s not just feet, there’s wheels squeaking and engines growling and metal clanging every time someone or something wanders over my bridge. How’s a troll supposed to sleep?
It wasn’t always like this. I thought this bridge was a safe bet: old, a bit rickety, not well used and sitting on the outskirts of a small settlement. I didn’t think I’d be disturbed that much. After the incident with the goats, I went into hibernation, and I haven’t had much to do with the outside world since. I keep to myself, mostly. I only wake up every other century or so. A troll’s got to eat sometime.READ MORE
I woke up a couple of centuries ago to find the bridge had been rebuilt around me, and I’m now living under one of the busiest bridges in the middle of one of the busiest cities ever. Humans. They just have to keep multiplying and building bigger and noisier things.
It’s not only humans, though. The bloody fairies have moved in, too. Bureaucrats and jobsworths, the lot of them. I tried to complain to them about the noise, but there was a bit of a language barrier.
I spoke to a different one every time I woke up, so complaining became a bit of a joke. Plus, I speak Troll-English and they speak Fairy-French. None of them bothered to even ask my name. Not that I care, really, because I never asked them theirs. Never mind.
I suspect I may be the only troll in France, so I don’t think they really knew what to do with me. Instead of trying to find out that my name is Sol, and I just want some peace and quiet, they ignored me. That’s suited me fine. Until now.
The trouble is, during my last hibernation, my bridge appears to have become the destination of choice for every bloody human that visits this city. No idea why. It was hardly used when I first came to live here; it wasn’t much of a bridge back then, and the people living ’round here weren’t that attached to it. Probably because of the scary troll. My space was respected back then. But since I went into extended hibernation it’s become a free-for-all.
Almost everyone that comes here leaves a padlock as some sort of memento. A bloody padlock? What’s that supposed to do? It’s not even locking anything up. I went up to have a look, and that’s what all the bloody clanging is. They couldn’t leave something sensible, like a bell. That would have been nice to listen to. No, it had to be padlocks. It’s driving me bloody mad, it is.
Not only have all the locks appeared, but there’s also this permanent fairy guard. He’s been there for at least two centuries that I can recall. No idea what he’s doing, except bloody stalking me. I can’t pop my head out of my door without seeing him.
What do they think I’m going to do? I know there’s more humans about now. I’m always discreet. Humans tend to freak out when they see a seven-foot-tall, black hairy troll walking about in the open, so I keep to the shadows, but a bloke has to eat. No one ever sees me, except the fairy on guard, that is.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Troll.” My eyes are assaulted by a mess of flaming auburn curls and pink, flushed cheeks.
My fairy stalker.
He’s tiny, compared to me. He’s probably small by human standards as well, but I wouldn’t know. I just know that he’s small, annoying and perched on one of the bridge posts, grinning at me smugly. His tiny legs are crossed at the ankles while he casually eats pink-coloured ice cream with a spoon. It’s the middle of the bloody night. Where did he get ice cream?
This one’s pretty determined. I’ve seen him around before. He doesn’t just sit and watch; he tries to bloody speak to me as well. All I ever do is grunt at him, but he never seems to give up and he always sounds so bloody cheerful. Bloody fairies.
“How are you this fine evening, Monsieur?” His very blue eyes regard me with interest.
Ha! The only interest he has in me is whether or not I’m up to no good. This time, I’m up here to do something about the noise. He doesn’t know that, though. Let him try and stop me.
“Is there anything I can help you with, Monsieur Troll?” He just won’t give up.
“Nuffing, fanks.” I grunt and then turn my back. He’ll get the message.
He doesn’t get the message.
“Ah, but I am forgetting my manners.” He rolls his sparkling eyes that are framed by thick auburn lashes. “Allow me to introduce myself. Je m’appelle Lucien.” And now he’s speaking to me in French. This is going to be interesting. “Would you like some of my ice cream?”
I wish he’d make his bloody mind up about what language he’s going to speak. At least he speaks decent Troll-English, but only doing it when he feels like it is a bit irritating really.
I regard his ice cream with curiosity. I haven’t tasted ice cream before. I wonder what it’s like. Why’s he offering me some of his? What’s his game? I narrow my eyes in suspicion.
“No!” I refuse abruptly, withdrawing my claws, which had reached out to take the tiny spoon he offered me.
“Okay, but it is your loss. Il est très bien.” He shrugs and finishes off the tub of ice cream with an exaggerated lick of his lips. “It’s very nice to finally meet you, Monsieur Troll.”
He jumps down from his perch and holds out a delicate, pale hand. His fingers are slight and slender and well-manicured.
Next to my long thick, hairy claws, they are almost doll-like.
I look down at his hand as if it’s something completely alien. I know what he’s doing, but I don’t have a fucking clue why he’d want to shake hands with a hairy old bastard like me.
“Er…alrigh’?” I manage to grunt, not wanting to sound too encouraging, but not wanting to seem bad-mannered either. I don’t shake the hand, though, and he tucks it away behind his back with an awkward grimace. “Look, Looshi, or whatever your name is—”
“It’s Lucien,” he corrects brightly.
“Whatever, fairy boy. I ain’t up here for a cosy little chin wag.” I sneer at him. “Nice to meet me? Don’t talk such bloody bollocks. Now do me a favour and bugger off.” I hook my thumb over my shoulder then turn my back again.
I’m not good with people. I’ve been on my own too long, and I like it that way. Usually, my noncommittal grunting is enough to scare away the mildly curious. He should be running away in disgust, but as I start to walk he is suddenly walking by my side. Bloody hell, what do I have to do?
“Monsieur Troll.” Fairy Boy, what’s ’is name? Lucien? Whatever, he sounds shocked, even a little hurt. “I do not think there is any need to be so prickly. After all, I was only being friendly.”
His accent is as delicate as the rest of him. I could flick him away like a speck of dust. I laugh, which makes him laugh. Why the hell is he laughing? Doesn’t he know I could squash him like a jelly? And why the hell is he trying to be friendly? With me? No one ever wants to be friends with a troll.
“I got business to take care of, Fairy Boy. I don’t need your ’elp, and I really don’t need your company. I’m sorry if you feel offended by that, but I just want to be left alone.”
I don’t want or need him hanging over me. I’ve got something to take care of. It’s going to take a lot of concentration, and I can’t do that with him trying his best to get under my skin.
Fairy Boy Lucien looks crestfallen, and now I feel bad. Bloody hell. He hangs his head and turns away from me, tapping at the cobbles with his toes as he takes a few steps away. “Oh, well, if that’s what you want. I shall go.”
Oh, God, he’s making me feel guilty now. Bloody fairies. They’re all the same. Bloody divas, the lot of them. He does look extremely unhappy, though. If I had a heart, his expression would pull at its strings.
Would it hurt to delay doing something about those locks for one more night? Urgh! I can’t believe I’m doing this.
“Oh, don’t get all huffy and pouty on me, bloody ’ell. Come back.”
Lucien turns, and his bright smile takes my breath away. I scowl. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was smiling at me, but he isn’t. He’s just smiling because he got his own way.
He skips back and jumps up to perch himself nimbly on the bridge post once more. That way, he is almost at my eye level, although he would still have to stretch to look me properly in the eye. Our height difference is pretty ludicrous.
“So, tell me, Monsieur Troll—” he rubs his hands together as if he is ready to help me in any way he can “—what is it that you are doing this beautiful evening?”
I narrow my eyes. Is he here to stop me? I can’t think for one minute that he’s here by coincidence or voluntarily. No one would willingly approach me and try to hold a conversation.
“What is it to you, Fairy Boy?” I grunt.
Lucien widens his eyes and looks away, seeming a little awkward. “I was not trying to pry. It is none of my business, really. I was just curious.”
“Damn right, it’s none of your business,” I blurt out. “And you know what they say about curiosity. In fact, I changed my mind. I do want you to bugger off, or you can sit there and watch, I don’t fucking care, but I’m going to get on with my business, and I’d like to see you try and stop me.”
Lucien’s eyes widen even more, but his reply this time is a poorly veiled threat. “If you are planning to do something that is dangerous, or illegal, Monsieur Troll, then I will have no choice but to stop you.”
“Oh, you and whose army, then?” I laugh out loud. “There’s nothing to ya but fluff, ya little pipsqueak. Just who do you think you are?”
“I represent l’Authoritié de Fée Folklorique.” He puffs out his chest and I continue to laugh at his little display. “If you are planning to do anything to endanger this bridge, then it is my duty to stop you, Monsieur Troll.” He stands, his fists out in front of him in an aggressive manner. Again, I just laugh, and he bites his lip and blushes whilst holding his position.
“Look at you, actin’ all tough.” I guffaw. “Stand down, Fairy Boy. I ain’t plannin’ on damagin’ one bolt of my bridge.”
Lucien heaves a sigh of relief and seems assured that he won’t have to follow through on his threats. He relaxes. Silly boy. He has no idea what I’m about to do. I’m sure the noise will be spectacular.
I lift my hands and begin to chant. I know one spell—the only spell I ever bothered to learn, and the only one I’ve ever needed. It’s served me well in the past, and it’s about to help me once again.
It takes a few seconds before Fairy Boy registers what I’m doing.
“Attends! Monsieur Troll. What are you doing? Spell casting is forbidden in view of humans.”
“Relax. They wouldn’t know a spell if it hit them in the face and turned them into a frog.” I resume my chant. “There ain’t any humans about, anyway.”
“Mais, Monsieur Troll, you must not cast a spell here. It could damage your bridge if it is not cast properly.”
“Are you doubting my spell casting skills, Fairy Boy?” I growl. “I was casting spells long before you fairy lot were even sparkling dust.”
“Non, mais non, juste…s’il vous plait, Monsieur Troll. Your skills are not in question here, but the efficacy of the spell. If it is not a legitimate spell, one wrong word could blow up half of Paris.”
Hmm, interesting thought.
“Don’t go giving me ideas.” I grin wickedly at him. He widens his eyes and gasps.
“Relax, I ain’t gonna blow up Paris. I just want some peace and quiet, that’s all. And this spell will help me get it.”
I raise my hands again and repeat the charm that was interrupted. Lucien regards me with a frown.
“How can an opening spell possibly give you peace and quiet, Monsieur Troll?”
I ignore him as I finish the last words and cast the spell. As I do, I think Lucien realises what is about to happen. He gives a shout, jumps in front of me and screeches a counter-charm, but it’s too little too late.
With a resounding, satisfying click, every single padlock on the bridge unlocks. Then, with a noise that sends a shock wave through the earth because of the weight, every lock falls to the ground at the same time. They must have heard that noise all over the city and beyond. That’ll teach ’em. Let them all try and sleep through that.
I place my hands over my ears, even though the noise has already happened, and it’s futile to try to protect my hearing now. Lucien is knocked off his feet by the shock wave and lands in a heap beside me.
For a moment, there is silence, then Lucien scrambles on his hands and knees to the first pile of locks with a strangled, gasping sob.
“Non, non, non, non.” He shakes his head rapidly, his hands go up to pull at his hair as he stands and stares at the rest of the locks strewn across the bridge. “Non, Mon Dieu! Monsieur Troll, what have you done?”
“I’ve done what your lot couldn’t be arsed to do when I asked, oh, about a million times, for something to be done about the bloody noise. All those locks clangin’ above my bloody ’ead. It was driving me batty.” I brush my hands together in satisfaction of a job well done as I survey my handiwork. “Well not anymore. I might get a good night’s sleep now.”
The spell worked far better than I’d thought. I haven’t cast that spell in a very long time. I’m a bit rusty. I thought there’d be a few locks still in place, but there isn’t one left hanging. They’re all open and lying strewn across the bridge. Finally some peace. It’s bliss.
Except it isn’t peaceful, since Lucien is still pulling at his hair and gibbering.
“Monsieur, you should not have done this. Zut alors! We are in so much trouble now.” He’s all wild eyed and freaking out.
“We?” I can’t help reacting to that. “And what do you mean trouble? This is my bridge. I claimed it centuries ago, before your lot put in an appearance. I can do what the ’ell I want on this bridge.”
“Mais non.” Lucien shakes his head. “You don’t understand, Monsieur Troll. You have done something terrible. The whole of Paris, the entire world could be thrown into chaos because of this.”
“Sounds bloody marvellous.” I grin at his sheer shock and panic. “Just as long as they don’t disturb me, then I don’t give a rat’s arse.”
Lucien gives me a look of utmost horror. “Monsieur, have you no heart?”
“No!” I shout at him. “I’m a troll.”
“Even trolls have hearts, Monsieur.”
“Not this one.” I turn in order to walk away but stop and can’t help shouting out in surprise as I am confronted by a dozen fairies, all looking as filled with panic as Lucien does. All except for one: a woman, who stands a little taller than the rest and in the centre of the pack. Her long auburn hair glitters like it’s made of sunsets. She’s wearing a sparkling silver business suit, and her arms are folded across her chest. Her eyes are narrowed, and she has an angry scowl on her beautiful face.
“What have you done?” she practically screams at me.
I am a grumpy, bad-tempered troll, and I am not accustomed to being screamed at angrily by pipsqueak fairies, no matter how important they look. I place my claws on my hips and loom over her.
“I’ve done something your bloody lot should’ve done years ago, lady.”
“Troll, I am no lady.” She hisses, her eyes narrowed to slits. “I am your queen.”
I raise my bushy eyebrows a little, because, if she is The Fairy Queen, then she is technically my queen too. I never really saw myself as Fairy Folk, because I’m not all that delicate and fairy-like, but trolls do fall under that category.
“Your Majesty.” Lucien bows gracefully as he moves to my side. He steps forward confidently, and there is a determined set to his shoulders as he straightens up. “I can explain what happened—”
“I’ll deal with you later, Lucien,” the queen hisses and Lucien gasps in horror, stepping back, his confidence shaken. He steps behind me, as if using me as a shield.
Before I can react to that, the queen has turned her attention back to me, and the look on her face makes me gulp ever so slightly. I think Lucien is right. I’m in big trouble. I don’t know why, though. It’s just a bunch of bloody padlocks.
“Do you have any idea of the mess you have just created,
I curl my lip. Is that all she’s worried about? The mess?
“The street cleaners’ll be about later. Let them clear it up.” I sneer.
“That is not what I meant!” she snaps, and I bite my lip and shuffle my feet awkwardly.
I look down at Lucien, and we exchange a worried glance. I get the feeling he is on my side, because he is now standing beside me. I don’t know why, though. Surely if he’s in trouble for not stopping me, he would want to put as much distance between us as possible.
“Lucien, why did you not stop him?” The queen turns her attention on him, and he quivers slightly, pulling himself up to his less-than-impressive full height.
“Madame Queen, I did not know this was what he was going to do.” They exchange angry glances that I don’t quite know how to interpret. It’s like there is an underlying private battle going on between them. The others step back, as if letting them get on with it.
Queenie looks really angry with him. She ain’t gonna turn him into a toad on my watch, though.
“That’s true.” I nod, quickly intervening. “’E never ’ad a clue. And ’e never ’ad a chance to try and stop me. I was too quick.”
I don’t know why I feel the need to defend him, except I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a coward. I would never allow someone else to take the blame for something I’ve done. I still don’t understand what it is that has their knickers in such a twist.
“Madame.” Lucien steps forwards again. “Before Monsieur Troll cast his spell, he told me…” The queen shoots him an angry glare, and he stumbles over his words. “Er, wh-what I mean is, if he had only been told what the locks meant, he might not have—”
“Silence!” the queen snaps, and Lucien steps back behind me with a gasp and an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry, Monsieur Troll. I tried. She is impossibly stubborn,” he whispers. What’s he apologising for? This isn’t his fault.
What the hell? Is he defending me now? From what?
“How did he even manage to cast such a powerful spell without any of us knowing?” The queen now looks around at her lackeys, and they all shrug and shake their heads. She points at them all furiously.
“Madame.” One of her lackeys steps forward, holding a clipboard. “There is not any indication in our files that he has any power at all.”
Madame Queen glares at him, and he steps back with a gulp and a squeaked apology.
“Mark my words, when I find out how this was allowed to happen, heads will roll.” Everyone, including Lucien, gives an involuntary squeak.
Madame Queen turns her attention back to me. She might be little taller than my knee when I’m crouching, but I am still intimidated. She’s a powerful being, despite her diminutive size.
“Troll, do you know what chaos you have created by unlocking all these padlocks?” “Er, no miss.”
“Madame!” she corrects me. I bite my lip.
“Sorry!” I mumble, looking down at my gnarly great troll feet and shuffling them.
“I knew this was a bad idea, allowing you to remain living under this bridge. I should have had you moved on long ago, when all this started.” She waves her hands over the fallen locks. “I was advised to give you a chance. You were in hibernation. You weren’t causing any problems, you were minding your own business.” She glares at Lucien as she says all of this. No idea why.
“Damn right, I was minding my own, until those bloody locks started appearing, then I tried to ask for—”
“Silence!” she shouts again, and I stop. “I will zip your mouth shut if you speak out of turn again.”
Bloody hell! I shut my mouth with a snap.
“These are not just padlocks, Troll,” The queen explains, slowly, as if she’s talking to a child. I’m fucking centuries older than she is, for fuck’s sake. I keep my trap shut, though, and let her continue. “They are love locks.”
“You what?” I frown. “What the ’ell are love locks?”
“I warned you!” The queen waves her hand. A bolt of light shoots from her finger.
“Madame!” Lucien cries out in shock as he jumps in front of me.
He is thrown back against my legs as the bolt of light hits his chest. I catch him and keep him on his feet. He looks up at me, and his wide blue eyes are filled with pain. I just gape. His lips have been replaced by zippers, and they are firmly zipped closed.
“Oh my gawd!” That can’t be pleasant at all. He stopped the spell from hitting me. “What the ’ell did you do that for?” Lucien gives a helpless shrug and tries to smile but holds the side of his mouth with a groan.
I glare at Madame Queen. Queen or no queen, she can just bloody well undo that spell.
“Turn ’im back, you bloody bully.”
The crowd of bureaucratic fairies gives a collective gasp, but another bolt of light, a much gentler one this time, touches Lucien’s mouth, and his lips part, the zippers gone.
He places his hand over his mouth as he takes some deep breaths. I steady him.
“Alrigh’?” I ask. He nods, his eyes full of steel and determination now. He glares at Madame Queen as he rubs his jaw. He still does not leave my side.
“Before I was so rudely interrupted—” Madame Queen glares back at Lucien. To my surprise, she looks away first, a flash of chagrin in her eyes. “I was explaining that these were love locks. People come from far and wide to seal their love bond within a lock and hang it on this bridge.”
“My bridge!” I scowl. “Why the ’ell would they choose my bridge?” Madame Queen narrows her eyes but does not comment on my interruption.
“This is LoveLock Bridge,” she explains. “You have undone all of those bonds. Couples everywhere will find themselves torn apart, because their love is no longer sealed within the magic of these locks. How you ever managed to unlock every single one of them, I will never know. Trolls possess magic deeper than any of us understand. No matter.”
She waves her hand, and I flinch ever so slightly. Lucien twitches, as if he’s about to pull the same trick as before. Madame Queen was not casting a spell, though, thankfully.
“You must undo your spell.” She regards me with raised eyebrows, tapping her foot impatiently, her arms folded once more over her chest.
“I don’t know ’ow,” I tell her. “I’ve never ’ad any proper trainin’. No one bovvered to try. I only know that one spell. I’ve only ever needed to open things. Closing things was never a consideration.”
“I did not mean by counter-spell, troll. It is not simply a case of replacing the locks. You must do it the hard way.”
The hard way? That sounds too much like hard work.
“And what if I don’t want to?” I ask, because what do I care about a few broken human relationships?
“I will make you want to, Monsieur Troll.” Madame Queen waves her hand again, and this time she is too quick for Lucien. The last thing I hear is his strangled cry of protest as her bolt of light hits me square in the chest, and everything goes black.COLLAPSE
Ofelia Gränd on Goodreads wrote:
Magical (pun intended)!
I'm not necessarily a fan of fantasy; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. For me, this does; big time!
It's probably one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read; so much so that I immediately reread it as soon as I finished the first time!
I'm glad there's no one around to see my face, as I've been shedding a most unmanly amount of tears! Maybe it's because I can see a resemblance with my own life just now (spoilers withheld)...
Anyway, go read, everyone!
This story is magical! I don’t think I’ve ever read a troll story before but even if I had I’m quite sure this would move to the top of the list. It’s beautiful. Sol casts a spell to get rid of the locks on his bridge, but little does he know about the consequences. We get to follow Sol and Lucien as they hurry though Paris to find the people who have lost their locks. It’s a race against time where they are forced to work together and face their fears. Brilliant!
Locked in the Moment is a stand alone story written as part of the Love Unlocked Anthology published by Beaten Track Publishing.
Other titles in the anthology include:
The Trap by Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Writer's Lock by Victoria Milne
Locked in the Moment by Dawn Sister
The Weekend by J P Walker
The Scarlet Lock by Caraway Carter
He Melted Us by Ofelia Gränd
Chain of Secrets by Debbie McGowan