The troll stopped, very confused about what just happened. Did he really not have an answer to the question? Was the riddle really unsolvable? Did that make him a cheater?
Meanwhile, as the troll was wondering all of these things, Madeline crept close to Handsome. She moved slowly, hoping the confused and distracted troll wouldn't notice her.
"Handsome," she whispered, "drop the stick and listen. When I run, you need to chase after me."
"Why?" he asked.
"Don't worry, just do it. I have a plan," and she picked up the stick. She turned to Roderick and said, "When I say, I need you to distract him. Fly right into the troll's face. Punch him in the nose if you need to."
"Punch him in the… you know that a troll's skin is like rock, right?" Roderick said, "if I punch him in the face that will really hurt."
Madeline shot him an angry look, "I don't care what you do. When I say go, I need you to get his attention. OK?"
"OK, but for what?" Roderick said, but Madeline didn't listen.
Trolls, as I expect you've heard, are not terribly good at complicated problems. Most are very bad at math and are happy to know that they have two hands on two arms. Almost all of them have terrible grammar and worse spelling. Even this troll, who was a riddling champion, would get stumped by some problems that are regularly given to human first-graders.
This troll may have been the best troll in his state (however large that was), but all of this thinking was giving him a headache. He had trouble deciding whether to give another riddle, surrender, or just eat them all and think about this problem later.
He thought that might be his best idea. After all, all he needed to do was catch the girl and the dog. Trolls would never talk with fairies, and if they did, none of the other trolls would believe this one, even if he did say his friends were eaten in front of him.
His other problem was that while he was thinking about all of these things, he had just sort of froze in place. His arm was still reached above his head, ready to swoop down and claim his prize. His mouth was still in the same shape it had when he started laughing about winning. Part of him knew that if someone saw him right now, he'd look pretty goofy, so he had to choose something quickly.
He had just about decided to go ahead with eating them when he realized that Madeline had started moving further away from him. He was so stuck in his thoughts that he hadn't seen her move!
"Where are you going?" he asked, "I guess you don't want to admit that you lost! You're a sore loser!"
He started to walk towards Madeline, arms stretched out to both sides like he was trying to wrap everyone up in a giant hug of doom.
Madeline and Handsome crouched together, staring at the approaching troll. He was growling, and she felt all of her hair grow prickly. She scowled at him and showed her teeth. Roderick floated nearby, looking as furious as a fairy can manage, which, to be honest, was actually pretty scary.
Suddenly, Madeline shouted, "Roderick, now!"
He turned and looked at her like she had gone completely crazy. What on earth could she be thinking? This only made Madeline angry. "GO!" she shouted, "I need you to go now!" So he did.
He flew right into the face of the troll. He thought about punching it, but that didn't seem like a good idea. So instead he kicked it, right in the eye. He didn't realize that troll eyes are also made from rock and will hurt your foot if you hit them too hard. Luckily, he was still quick enough to get out of the way of the troll's hand.
The troll slapped at Roderick like you might try to hit a mosquito in front of your face. And when he missed he ended up hitting himself square in the nose.
Madeline meanwhile grabbed the branch and started running. There was no way she could get through his legs — there wasn't enough room — but she had an absolutely crazy idea. She jumped up onto one of the handrails and then sprinted towards the troll. Before the troll could even see what was going on, she was next to him, branch in hand, and she smacked him in the knee with it.
The troll stumbled. The branch wasn't enough to hurt it, but it was enough to make him to lose his balance a little. He took a couple steps, trying to stop himself from falling over the railing, when Handsome ran up and pushed. The troll took one step back swinging his arms like mad, then fell right over the ledge, splashing in the river below.
Roderick flew up to Madeline and said, "I told you we needed a big stick."