The Prince and the Troll Page 1

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genres: Fantasy

Once upon a time, in a land, there lived a boy . . .

Well, he was a boy, but now he’s a man. Tall and strong and full of purpose. With middling blue eyes and middling brown hair, and a smile for almost everyone he meets.

He has work that makes him feel useful.

He has a house that makes him feel safe.

And he’s lucky to live right along the road—the long, wide road. He can see the smoothest part of it from his window.

He may as well be a prince.

One warm January day, the man was walking along the wide road from his safe house to his useful work when he dropped his phone over a bridge. “Damn it all to darkness!” He hadn’t even noticed the bridge.

The man leaned over the railing to see if he could spot his phone. He brought his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun.

He didn’t see the phone. But he saw two eyes looking up at him from the mud.

“Oh,” he said. “Hey.”

“Hi,” the two eyes said. Well. The mouth below the two eyes said it. Whatever it was down there pushed some muddy hair out of its face to see him better.

“I sort of dropped my phone,” he said.

“Oh.” It sounded like maybe a feminine-type thing. “That sucks.”

“Yeah . . .”

“Let me see if I can find it.” The muddy thing sloshed around a bit, turning up some pieces of concrete and an empty Dasani bottle. “Oh no . . .” It held something up. “Is this your phone?”

“I can’t tell,” the young man said. “What kind is it?”

The mudthing shook the phone in its handthing. “It’s the new kind with the three cameras.”

The man sighed. “Yeah. That’s mine.”


“No, that’s okay. It’s my fault. I was distracted.”

“You have to be careful on bridges . . .”

“Yeah, that’s what my mother always tells me.”

The mudthing rose up a bit out of the muck. “Do you want me to throw it up to you?”

“Yeah, that’d be cool. Maybe I could put it in some rice overnight . . .”

“I’ve heard they sell magic beans . . .”

“I’ve heard that, too.” He held both hands out.

The mudthing tossed his phone up—but not nearly far enough. It fell back into the gunk. “Sorry, let me try again. Webbed fingers, you know.”

The phone flew up into the air again. The man leaned farther out over the railing, his feet lifting off the smooth paving stones. The phone fell through his grasping fingers.

“Sorry!” she called up.

“No, that was me,” he said. “Try again?”

He caught it the third time, and they both laughed out loud. “Got it!” he said. “Thank you!”

“Yeah, sure, happy to help.”

He tried to wipe some of the mud from his phone. Better not turn it on just yet.

“You’re lucky the river dried up,” the mudthing said. “You would have lost it for sure in the current.”

“Yeah, no kidding . . .” He looked down at her again. She was still mostly covered in mud. Her face disappeared when she blinked. (Though he supposed her face disappeared when he blinked, too . . . This was more thinking than the man was used to doing on his way to work.) “I guess I’ll get going,” he said. “Thanks again.”

“Anytime,” she said.

“Well, I hope not.”

“Ha ha,” she said. “Seriously.”

He was walking again. He couldn’t see her anymore. “Have a great day!” he shouted over his shoulder.

“Watch where you’re walking!” she shouted back.

The walk to work felt longer without his phone to distract him. This is good for me, he thought. I always mean to stop and smell the flowers. Or at least to notice them.

All the best flowers grew by the road.

They grew all year long, now.

The next day, the young man woke in his soft bed, in his safe house. He hurried out onto the road. (He liked the road, everyone did. He was lucky to live so close.) This time when he got to the bridge, he tucked his phone—it still worked, thank goodness—into his back pocket. He still felt like it might fly out over the railing, isn’t that crazy? He kept touching his pocket to make sure it was there.

Thinking of it made him think of the mudthing. He wondered if she was down there today. It’s not like she just hangs out, waiting for people to drop their phones, he thought. But he stopped anyway in the middle of the bridge. He leaned out over the railing. “Hello?”

There was a slopping sound beneath him.

“Oh,” she said. “It’s you. Hello.” She lifted herself up out of the riverbed, pushing some of the mud away from her face. “Did you drop something?”

“No . . . ,” he said.

“Do you want to? Maybe a volleyball this time? We could play a little catch.”