Once there were three wizards named Baffit, Waffit, and Knurl who wanted to cross a troll’s bridge so they could go visit this centaur they knew. Now trolls, as you know, always try to charge people tolls to cross their bridges. This is totally fair since they build the bridges and have to see to their upkeep, but everyone is really stingy about it and will do whatever they can to get out of paying. This includes, but is not limited to, tricking the troll, setting them on fire, or tossing them over the side of the bridge. It kind of makes you wonder why trolls even bother building bridges in the first place, and it turns out they just really, really enjoy it.
Anyway when the three wizards arrived at the bridge, the troll popped out and said, “Good morning. My name is Cragel! That will be $2.75 please.” Now all the wizards started laughing their butts off because, well, they were wizards and defeating a troll was pretty much the easiest thing they were going to do all day.
“Hey, instead how about we pay you a billion-million gold each?” asked Baffit.
“Oh no! I only have half a billion-million. What will I do?” said Waffit.
“I seem to have left my money pouch at home,” said Knurl. “Would it be okay if I paid you next week? Or maybe never?”
“Um…okay,” said Cragel. “I get what this is. Look you guys, I spent a lot of time on this bridge. See how I added extra suspension vines so people could cross it with carts? I even decorated it with gargoyles and stuff.”
“Hello,” said a gargoyle waving from the top of a pillar.
“I really don’t think $2.75 is that much to ask,” continued Cragel. “In fact, considering current traffic patterns, it will take me the better part of a year just to recoup my material cost. I’ll tell you what, I can sell you a magic stone that lets you pass over the bridge without even slowing down. It just automatically deducts the toll from your coin purse. It can be used on any troll bridge in the kingdom AND it will reduce the fare to $2.25 per crossing. Whaddya say fellas?”
“Hmmm… interesting,” said Baffit. “So you’re saying I could just take this rock, use it to wang you in the head, and cross the bridge for free?”
“Oh come on –” stared Cragel.
“Now, could I bring my own rock from home and use that to wang you instead?” asked Waffit.
“Are we still allowed to set you on fire, or does that cost extra?” asked Knurl.
“Okay you guys, I get it,” said Cragel. “You’re super powerful wizards and all that, but think about it this way – we need bridges so that people and goods can get across the kingdom. Without them, the dwarves wouldn’t be able to trade their gems for elvish bows, making it nearly impossible for them to fight off dragons, right? Farmers would have no way to get their turnips into the city, meaning the stews at taverns would have a far less complex flavor profile. These are just two of countless examples. What’s more worrisome is the economic ripple effect that would be caused by such a dramatic drop in trade. It would undoubtedly crash the kingdom into a recession, and I haven’t even mentioned the way bridges allow for the free exchange of art and ideas across borders. In fact, I foresee a time in the future where people will use the phrase ‘building bridges’ as a metaphor for cooperation and peaceful resolution of problems. You see gentleman, bridges are a shared resource, and as such, if we all put in a little bit of our resources, we will reap the benefits many times over.”
“Whatever commie!” yelled the wizards who were now floating over the gorge.
“Don’t worry!” shouted Knurl, looking back. “We’ll set you on fire or whatever on our way home.”
This was especially upsetting for Cragel, who had always considered himself to be more of a democratic socialist.
Later that night when the wizards came back, they were super drunk on centaur wine, and Cragel just let them pass without saying anything. He knew he was never going to get any toll money out of wizards and had actually calculated that into his projected revenue report when he first proposed the new bridge to the troll council.
“Hey Stephen, you wanna get some food or something?” he yelled up to the gargoyle.
“Sure,” said Stephen, flying down to the ground. “Let’s go to some place on this side of the gorge though. I forgot my stone at home, and I don’t want to pay full fare.”
“You’re a good guy, Steve,” said Cragel, smiling at his friend.
“You’re a better one,” answered Stephen.