She didn't notice the troll until he leapt out in front of her, blocking the tunnel's threshold.
"It looks like a regular tunnel but it isn't," he warned, wagging his crooked finger in her face. "All your hopes and dreams lie at the end of it, but you'll have to wade through a darkness you've never known to get there."
The little girl looked at the tunnel and then back at the troll.
"Are you sure?" she asked, searching his face for a lie, for she had wise parents who had taught her about trolls and trickery.
"Quite," he smiled, stroking his beard and curling the tip of it around his pinky finger.
"You can never come back this way again and the tunnel is very long or very short or something all twisted up on itself like you've hardly imagined at all. You'll just have to trust the path."
And then, like most children before her, but very few grown ups, she strode confidently into the darkness.
"Smart girl," chuckled the troll, tucking himself back into the shadows.