A long long time ago, longer than you are thinking, there was a place on this beautiful Earth that had a small village among the trees. The beings that lived there were not human, for they were a magical folk that existed before humans came along and some say will be here long after we are gone. Their realm now is mostly in our imaginations, and that is how they have survived the unstoppable crawl of human progress across the Earth.
But that's not what this story is about, for we are going back to before they were bothered by humans or their technology. Back to a tiny village that existed in a magical place. In that village lived a group of creatures that had a name for themselves that we can never know, and maybe that's for the best. Some human later named them trolls, but it was a generic term for a great many of the magical creatures that humans glimpsed in the night or out of the corner of their eyes as they traveled. This group had their own names, and their own language, and were peaceful and isolated, even from other magical creatures.
They lived a long time, as magical creatures are wont to do, and in this case the children of the village were older than grand old Methuselah, but still considered young and apt to be wild. One of them was more wild than the others, for he wanted to leave the village and see what lay beyond the forests and beyond the mountains of ice. The elders of the village said that no good could come of it, but he was determined, and one fine spring morning he set out walking with a stout staff and a good pair of sturdy boots he had made himself. The others watched him go, and shook their heads at his antics, but none stopped him nor bothered him, and he slowly made his way out of the village and into the wide world.
It was, truth to be told, a bit of a disappointment at first. There was more forest, and mountains. And although he saw great birds and other creatures that he rarely saw in the village, none of it was truly new to him. His first few days of wandering were oppressed by the fear that he had made a mistake and should turn back, because nothing good would come of seeing more of the same old world.
And then he came to the water. It was deeper and bluer than the springs around his home, and in joy at the sight of something so new, he jumped into the cold lake, expecting something exciting to happen.
Well, he got wet. And it was cold. As a magical being, the cold didn't affect him much, but he felt it. He had hoped the deep held secrets that he could find, but even sinking to the bottom didn't yield any instant excitement. Again he doubted his journey, and he set off walking across the floor of the lake with mild trepidation. At least it was different, walking underwater.
Now, you may wonder that the troll was able to walk around on the bottom of the water and breathe, but remember that he is a magical creature, and being a magical creature some things cannot hurt him. It never occurred to him that he could possibly drown, and so he didn't.
He walked along the bottom of the lake, checking out the corners and the dark places. The fish examined him carefully, but didn't flee him immediately, and he soon began to enjoy himself. Then the fish all fled, rapidly vanishing almost before he could see where they had gone.
A shadow loomed above him, and a voice filled his mind, "Who are you? Why are you here?"
He looked up and saw a mighty serpent, curled in the water as if resting in a bowl. He looked at the creature in awe, and suddenly realized that he was facing another magical creature like himself, but one that did not look like his people.
His heart leaped within him in joy at finding a new person, and he answered boldly with his name, saying, "I have traveled away from my people to find out what the world is like, and I found this place and decided to explore it."
The deep green eyes of the serpent held him locked in a gaze, and the voice sprang up in his mind again, "This is my home, and you were not invited here. I would have you leave. NOW."
The troll felt confusion, and a little anger, but then stopped his rising ire and considered how he would have felt if the serpent had entered his home in the village without asking. And he then felt a little ashamed.
"I did not know," he said, "I will leave now as you ask, and I beg your forgiveness for my trespass."
Then he looked around, and realized he didn't have a clue how to leave, except to go back the way he had come... and he wasn't sure which way that was.
The serpent regarded him, then said, "I will take you to the surface, since you appear to be lost."
Then the serpent lunged at the troll, who stepped back in alarm before realizing that the serpent had stopped to allow him to ride on its broad back. He gingerly stepped up, and found that some power held him safely in place as they glided through the water. The troll watched as much as he could, but once they had risen a little above the floor of the lake, he couldn't see much around him except the water.
When at last they broke the surface, he gasped at the strange sensation of the air against his skin, and watched as the shore approached rapidly. The troll watched the shore approach, and before he could blink three times the serpent was next to a smooth flat rock by the water's edge.
The troll carefully stepped off, and faced his fellow magical being. The voice again filled his head.
"I see that you meant me no harm," it said, "and I thank you for leaving promptly. This rock is my front door. If you wish to talk to me again, please tap on it three times with your walking stick. I will come if I can."
The serpent regarded the troll a moment longer, then said, "I would hear of the world that you find. Please return and tell me about it."
The troll found it within him then to smile, and he bowed to the serpent saying, "I will return here, once I've seen more of the world. Thank you for your help."
Then he watched as the serpent vanished with barely a ripple into the lake, going so quickly that he wasn't sure if he imagined the dark shape speeding off.
He looked around, and realized he was now on the far shore from his home. He recognized the mountains around him, and after a moment's thought, he turned his back to the shore and walked away, both from the lake and from his home.