Grant stepped out of the car and entered the public library. A man was sitting on a bench just inside the door. He stood when Grant came in. “Are you Mr. Parker?” Grant asked.
“Yes, that’s me. You must be Mr. Fall.”
“Call me Grant.” Grant held out his hand.
Mr. Parker shook his hand. “Call me Dale. I’m sorry you had to travel in such terrible weather.”
“The trolls must be having quite a festival today.” Grant laughed.
“Is that what they say when it’s foggy where you’re from?” Dale asked. He looked politely interested.
“Well, yes, of course. Because that’s what it is.” Grant felt a little confused.
“A troll festival?” Dale raised an eyebrow.
“Well, yes,” Grant said. “One of their festival dishes tends to blanket the area in fog as it cooks. I hear that it tastes terrible to everyone else, unfortunately.”
Dale chuckled. “But it’s foggy here all the time. Those trolls would have to be having quite the festival. One wonders when they have time to do much else.”
“Ah, you must have damp, chilly weather here,” Grant said. Dale nodded. Grant smiled. “That explains it. Trolls love that. It’s why they like to sleep under bridges and such. You live in a vacation destination for trolls.”
Both Dale’s eyebrows rose. “So trolls are coming here from all over in order to party?”
“Pretty much. Luckily, other than the fog, they don’t cause much trouble for the people that live nearby.” Grant shifted on his feet.
Dale frowned. “If that was true, why haven’t I ever heard of these trolls or even seen one? You’d think that if there were that many around here, everyone would know.”
Grant sighed. “They’re smaller that you’d think. A lot of times, people mistake them for homeless people or stray dogs, depending on the size of the troll. People tend to not look at either one too closely.”
“But surely someone would notice?”
“People see what they expect to see,” Grant said. “Listen, I’ll go over your proposal with you right now, and later we can go check out the festival.”
“And they won’t eat us?” Dale asked. He laughed.
“No, they don’t do that anymore,” Grant said. “Have you already found us a table?”
Dale smiled. “Yes, it’s this way. Follow me.”
Several hours later, Dale’s proposal was much improved. He’d have to do some more research, but it was almost ready to send in. Dale and Grant worked together to clean up the papers that were spread all over the table. Dale reorganized his notes and put them in his briefcase. He added pens, paperclips, and notepads and the table was clear.
“Thanks, Grant,” Dale said. “I feel a lot more confident now about that proposal. Now, about that festival…”
Grant frowned. “They don’t really like humans coming close to the festival because of the smell, but if we’re quiet and respectful, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll drive. Will you be okay leaving your car here?”
“Yeah, I’ll just need to put more money in the meter. Wait, are you saying they think humans smell bad?” Dave asked.
“Don’t worry, you’ll probably think they smell bad too. Let’s go.” Grant picked up his bag, Dale picked up his briefcase, and they left.
They didn’t have to travel far. There was a homeless camp down by the river. Dale looked a little reluctant to follow Grant down the narrow footpath. Grant raised an eyebrow and Dale followed.
Dale leaned in close to whisper, “It smells terrible.”
“I told you it might,” Grant whispered back.
They walked closer. People of various sizes were huddled around a huge pot sitting on a large fire. Steam was pouring out of it in great billows. As they walked closer, the pointy ears and large noses were more evident. They were hairy, and their eyes were sunken in. They looked happy, and were singing together. It sounded terrible.
Dale stopped. “The smell is worse up close,” he whispered. “I believe you, let’s go.”
“All right,” Grant whispered back. Once they were back in the car, Grant smiled. “See, trolls,” he said. He buckled in and started the car.
“Wow, I can’t believe it,” Dale said. He shook his head and fastened his seat belt. “No one will believe this.”
“Probably not,” Grant said. “I find that people rarely do.” It was getting dark. He turned the lights on and started to drive back to the library. The car was silent for several minutes.
“How did you find out about trolls?” Dale asked.
“Oh, all of us magical creatures know about each other. We have to look out for one another in the modern world,” Grant said.
Dale turned and stared. “You’re a magical creature? But you look normal. What are you?”
“I’m part dryad. I think you are too. You seem to have slipped through the cracks, though. Were you adopted?” Grant asked. He pulled into a parking space.
“Yes, how did you…? Are you sure? This is rather unexpected.” Dale closed his eyes and rubbed at them with his knuckles.
Grant patted him on the shoulder. “You couldn’t have truly seen the trolls without some magical blood. You have my number. Call me if you want to know more. I can help you find out more about your family and heritage. Think about it.”
Dale nodded and picked up his briefcase. “Thank you. I’ll keep in touch. I have a lot to think about.”
Grant watched Dale get in his car and go. The fog was thinning out. He smiled. The trolls must be heading off to bed. It was time for him to get home too.