“Terrible hungry,” the ogre muttered to himself. “Just terrible. Got to find a closer village. I…”
The ogre lumbered to a stop. He looked down, way down, on the ground. A very small something was standing in his way.
A wee man, no taller than a foot is long, stood with his tiny arms crossed over his chest. His bright red tri-corner hat partially obscured his face. His one visible eye glared ominously at the giant.
“Oi! But you look a bit cross…” The little man picked distractedly at his pale blue tunic, but otherwise remained transfixed. The ogre bent over, rubbing at his stubbly chin. “Hmm… Do you talk, then?”
The look on the wee man’s face faltered. “Waking up, are ye?” The little man’s arms started to drop. “That’s it. Out with your words!”
“Ha!” The little man squeaked. He firmly crossed his arms once more. He stared down the giant more ominously than before.
“You’re likely to pop an eye out, doing that. Look…” The ogre stood erect, scratching the back of his head. “You can either talk to me, or I can punt you across the wood. What have you, then?”
The ultimatum clearly caught the wee man’s imagination, if the look on his face was any indication. He let his arms fall to the side. “Have it your way, then!” He stomped his tiny foot, sending a minute cloud of dust wafting into the air.
The ogre laughed. “Who’s to say my way doesn’t see you flying through the air like a bird?” The little man trembled at the thought. “Easy, now. I’ve not come to that just yet.”
The little man sighed dramatically. “It’s just so embarrassing, you know.”
The ogre grinned. “So you do talk! Splendid!”
“Well of course I talk!” He lowered his head. “It’s just that I wasn’t supposed to, is all.”
“Not supposed to?” The ogre sniffed. “Bad manners, to stand and stare at someone you meet… Especially when they can eat you.” He grinned broadly.
This set the wee man to trembling once more. “Please don’t! I’ve not finished my quest, yet!”
“A quest, you say?” The ogre crossed his mighty arms. “It’s a bad start you’ve had, crossing an ogre such as I.”
“Begging your pardon sir, but that’s precisely what I was supposed to do… Well, I think.”
The ogre lowered his brow. “I’d think once more, if I were you.”
“I’ve thought many times.” The little man lowered his head and dragged his foot through the dirt. “Many times I thought I shouldn’t do this, but the village elder commanded it.”
“Ah! Answering the will of your elders, are you? Hmm… What exactly were you told, little one?”
“Well… He said I was to seek out the ogre. That’s you, I suppose. Then I was to stand and face you, which I did. I probably should have asked what came next, but it all seemed so simple.”
The ogre was smiling. He crouched down. “So you thought you were to literally stand before me.” The wee man nodded. “Then you were to face me.” Another nod. “Then gods know what happens next?”
“I suppose that’s a fair way to call it.”
“Suppose, then, that to face someone also means to oppose them in battle.”
A look of horror eased onto the little man’s face. “Surely not! I wouldn’t stand a chance against an ogre in battle. Just look at my sword!”
The little man produced a petite sliver of wood, sharpened to a point, with nary an edge to be found. The ogre guffawed. “That? A sword? More like a splinter, I’d wager!”
“A splinter!” The little man looked scandalized. “I spent a good hour honing this fine blade!” The ogre hooted. “You offend me, good sir!” The wee man jabbed at the ogre’s bulbous nose.
The weapon stuck fast. The ogre stood up, slapping at his nose. “Gah! You terrible little man!” He plucked the makeshift sword from his nose with thumb and forefinger.
He briefly examined it before snapping it in twain. The ogre dropped the pieces before the frightened little man and glowered. “Tell me, small man… Why shouldn’t I eat you and be done with it!”
The little man looked about him as if looking for the answer written in the sand. “Because, um… Because… Because you don’t know my name!” He sounded sure, but appeared uncertain.
“Don’t know your name? Are you mad! Shall I name my cooked goose Jennifer before I feast upon her breast? Perhaps the chicken would taste better should I salute it as Thomas before supping!”
The ogre’s face softened. He began to laugh. This confused the little man, who nonetheless nervously joined with the ogre.
“You’re a strange little man, but you amuse me. What’s your name, then?”
The wee man stuck his chest out with pride. “William, of ShortEnd.”
“William the Wee Wanderer!” The ogre guffawed. “I like it!”
William didn’t. “And you, sir?”
“And me… I suppose that’s fair, isn’t it? My name is Edgar.”
“Just so.” Edgar chuckled. “Us ogres like things simple, you see.”
“I do see. Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Edgar the ogre.” William offered a brief but courteous bow.
“I wouldn’t be so sure. I’m going to your village for a midday supper.”
William tilted his head. “Well, I suppose the elders would be happy to feed you, but I’m not sure we’ve enough at the ready to… What’s so funny?”
The ogre stopped himself laughing, then sighed. “I’m more apt to eat your elders, than anything they offer me in a bowl.”
William’s face went white. “No! I mean, you can’t! That’s… That’s…”
“And I am uncivil.” The ogre strode past the wee man. “More so when I am famished, which I am!”
William sprinted to keep up with the lumbering giant. “Please! Don’t hurt my friends, Edgar! PLEASE!” The little man leaped onto the ogre’s mighty boot and held fast.
“Enough!” The ogre came to a stop. He shook his leg with gusto. Little William held on with all his strength and determination.
Edgar growled a bit and snatched the wee man up with one meaty hand. He held William before his face and frowned. “Should I eat you instead? You’d barely be a snack, wouldn’t ye?”
William gazed at Edgar with such a look of sadness that the ogre was given pause. The little man’s voice was small, even for his size. “Please, sir.”
The ogre sighed, ruffling William’s hair with a wild, somewhat fragrant breeze. “I must eat. What have you that would satiate the likes of me, hmm?”
“I, uh…” William looked about, grasping for a thought. Lucky for him, he found one. “A um… a whatsit. A… a double-cow!”
“A what now? You’ve gone daft from fear, haven’t ye?”
“You know! A huge creature of four legs. And a set of horns. And they eat grass and the like!”
“Double-cow…” The ogre burst into laughter. “You mean a bison!”
“YES! My goodness, but I was scared.”
“So you were. And your people have a bison to offer me?”
“We have many! Well…” William bowed his head. “They wandered near the village. And they may wander away again, yet.”
He raised his head, hope in his eyes. “But we’d be happy to let you have one!”
“You’d let me.” Edgar smirked. “Indeed.” He planted the wee man on his shoulder and resumed walking.
“Wait. Where are we going? Are you still going to eat us?”
“Perhaps. That depends on what your elders have to say about the bison.” Edgar grinned. William nearly swooned.
It was a short time before they entered the village of ShortEnd, and what an entrance it was. The guardsmen at the village gate gave only brief resistance. Many ran for their lives at the sight of the giant ogre easily straddling their defenses.
Other little men strung their bows and fired their missiles at the giant. Edgar grimaced at the pricks and pokes. One good, earth-shaking growl was enough to set them to other tasks, however.
Soon, Edgar stood before the chief elder of ShortEnd. A trembling William still sat upon the ogre’s shoulder. The elder waved his staff angrily. “William! You dare to bring an ogre to finish us, do you?”
The little man despaired. “No, your honor! Surely not! I tried to stop him. I stared at him just as hard as I simply could!”
“Stared? I told you to face…” The elder turned his eyes to the heavens. “Oh ye gods. William, you have your father’s brains!”
The ogre cleared his throat, cutting both men short. “I’ve no interest in squabbles! I must eat! Now…” Edgar plucked William from his shoulder and placed him next to the elder. “I’ve come to learn you have bison?”
The elder looked from the ogre to William and back. “Aye… After a fashion. They’ve wandered a bit, but they’re there. We don’t have the strength to herd them, alas.”
“I suggested to the ogre… Edgar he is. I told Edgar perhaps he could take a bison instead of us for his supper!” William smiled.
The elder turned white. “For supper… Please, Mister Edgar! Take a bison, take them all! We do not wish to be eaten!”
Edgar laughed. “I suspect not! Hmm…” The great ogre thought for a time. He turned to the elder with a grin. “I’ve a better idea.”
The elder spread his hands before him. “I will hear it, Mister Edgar.”
“I will take one to make into a fine meal, but…” He knelt down on one knee. “I’ll help you to herd the others.”
“You will?” Both wee men stared at the ogre, dumbfounded.
“I will… so long as your villagers feed them and care for them as best you can. Farming is a fair bit easier than conquest, especially on an empty stomach.” He winked at William.
The elder scratched at his lengthy beard. At last he nodded. “It will be so!” He offered the ogre his tiny hand.
Edgar allowed the little elder to grip his finger. He gently moved it up and down. “Indeed it will. Now let’s be quick. I’m famished!”
And thus the deal was struck. That day, a wee man showed a village elder that not all fools are such. And a gentle ogre showed a whole village that a measured discussion is worth a thousand arrows.