tag
TwitterFacebookGooglePinterestLinkedInEmailRSS

The Cabal of Eight Pt.20: Rats, Rowdies, and Imps

Gornix (played by Gil) the salt-lotus wizard was huddled over his makeshift lab and deep in study over a length of scroll Imp Doorcut for scratch as he continued his formulations. Jirek who had been acting as lab assistant through the night excused himself come dawn and left for his job at the Bardic College library.

With sunrise, the streets of Ezmer were beginning to awaken with street traffic, wagons, vendor carts, and all kinds of pedestrians. Among the teeming crowds and busy-bodies weaving through the tangle Excor (played by Cris) headed to the Red Helm tavern for breakfast. After a simple breakfast of eggs, salt fish, and honey-drizzled bittles he left to the Bazaar on a mission.

He was looking for small cages, grain/feed, and 2 gunny sacks. He bought 10 cages (3 sp ea.), two 5 lb. bags of feed (1cp/lb.), 10 clay finger bowls (2 cp ea.), and hired a porter at one silver piece for the day. Then the young mage and his hireling went to the lumber mill in the harbor and filled the two gunny sacks with saw dust for 1 copper piece per sack. After that, Excor and his porter dropped 5 of the cages, a water bottle, 1 sack of sawdust, and feed at Gornix’s apartment, the Salt-Lotus wizard barely paid heed to them as he worked at his makeshift spell-lab. After dropping the remaining 5 cages, 5 bowls, and 1 sack of sawdust at his own apartment he released the porter from his duty.

Meanwhile across town in the Harbor District, Szoo (played by Isis) left his attic room with his roommate Paej Hagída (“Paeng”) leaning on the naga using him as a veritable walking stick. Peaj was still “pacin’ the deck” from the previous night. Paej, a consummate saloon bum and an experienced Ferenoi sailor. She was a nearly seven-foot tall woman with a face as sunbaked and salt-cracked as any of the oldest of the salty dogs but also possessed of an exquisite Amazonian physique. These hardened and statuesque features cut an impressive visage and coupled with fists like barnacled mallets she was downright intimidating. One of her finer points was that she knew every watering hole in the city very well. Szoo had invited his under-the-weather roomy to Ahsh Khhas’ Coil for some hair-o-the-dog, his treat in the hopes the Ferenoi might have access to some info.

The pair limped their way across town hoofing it all the way to the hookah bar. Unsurprisingly, Paej was already well known there. The bartender without a word prepared and slid her ‘usual’ over to her as soon as she plopped down. It took several rounds for Szoo to start getting some valuable intel courtesy of Paej’s charisma massaged straight from the Scael bartender.

Isis: “Good! I’m almost out of money!”

The black-scale naga found out that Haxat the magnificent hung out at a place called The Rum Palace in the Eastern District. In addition, there’s a “black market” behind the place in a hidden courtyard which can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Also the Bronzeheads were currently protecting the wanted Naga assassin-sorcerer Ssthriss somewhere in the old broken wall.

The 23rd of Early Summer, Gornix being finally finished researching his spell (Force Ram) headed to the tavern to join Excor, Szoo, and Fauna (played by Jenn) for breakfast. During the meal, Excor noticed that Fauna had burns on her palms and a fresh rope burn ringing her throat. He decided to keep that information to himself as the others didn’t seem to notice. After the meal they, as a group, decided to head over to and check out the Rum Palace.

First however, they decided to stop at the Pester’s Guild and find Doubab at Excor’s urging. They were seeking the rat-catcher in order to purchase some rats offering 1 gp each up to a max of 6 rats. So Doubab said to meet him that evening back at the Helm and he’ll have their rats “alive and bitey”. From there they doubled back west to the Rum Palace, which was not far from the Pesters’ guild house.

The Rum Palace as it turns out is an open front building in the small dirt courtyard before the broken wall where they had attended the rat fights more than a week ago. The split logs scattered in front were a place for its patrons to sit and drink. The Rum Palace consisted of a rundown single-floor building where open shudders revealed a bar from which the bar-back served the drinks. There was a gaggle of ruffians sitting on the split logs drinking and laughing spasmodically over crude jokes.

The young mages felt out of place and more than a little uncomfortable save for Gornix. He walked right up to the drunken ruffians and asked if any of them had seen a mage named Haxat. He was very nearly assaulted and just to avoid a fight he endured numerous mean-spirited insults thrown his way.

Fauna: “Maybe we should just get out of here.”

Isis: “I’m with her, we don’t belong here!”

Gornix: “No way! Let’s get one round of drinks and then go.”

Surprisingly they all agreed and elected Gornix to approach the bar. The bar-back was an obese human of Westlander extraction with an eye-patch, long, stringy, grey hair, and a rotten-toothed sneer. It seemed every time the mage asked for something the bar-back laughed at him and hurled “we don’t got that either” with an attached insult or joke at the mage’s expense. Eventually, Gornix found out that the place only served grog. Therefore, he tried to buy a ‘jack of grog’ for ‘two bits’ but he also found that he didn’t have a jack so he had to rent ‘the loaner’ for a silver piece, an obviously deliberate overpricing, from behind the bar. It turned out that it had a leak. The uproarious laughter of the ruffians and the bar-back answered the frustrated look on Gornix’s face.

Gil: “Aw man! I’m just a joke to these guys!”

Cris: “Yeah because they can probably kick our @$$es!”

As a result Szoo dropped some coin on the bartender. In turn the codger said, “Okay you can sit here at the board”.

Isis: “Um I was trying to bribe him for some info!”

The young mages rightly decided to not stay much longer. Just before they rose to leave Gornix suggested that they should find Wensaer the alchemist and see about joining the Obsidian Guild but the others declined. Instead, they decided as a group to go find Jirek to see if he didn’t find any more out about the golden bee. So they footed it to the Bardic College library. At the front desk, the clerk passed them a sealed note, an unfamiliar sigil stamped into the red wax. Gornix cracked the seal and began to read the note aloud.

So, there are those who would seek to keep me from my rightful property and interrupt my important work. I know of your pitiful little cabal and know each member’s name. I will seek each one of you out and destroy you. The first to face my wrath would be the betrayer Jirek Scribe of Arebas. If you would seek to seize your fates in your own two hands and value your comrade’s life meet me at the warehouse, I’m sure you know what I mean. Signed, Haxat the Magnificent the Menace of Skullhead.

Of course they knew which warehouse Haxat had meant and thus with great haste made their way to Jirek’s warehouse. On the way, Excor heard wings flapping overhead tracking their progress. When they reached their destination, they could hear wings flap over and behind the warehouse.

Gornix immediately tried to cast his new spell in order to knock in the front door. It seemed barred from the inside. He failed to correctly work the magic and the spell failed. In the meantime, Excor prophylactically activated his magic amulet of Shield. Gornix tried to cast his new spell again this time the magic got away from him (Natural 1 casting check). The spell was somehow inversed. As a result he was thrown back 50 ft. and suffered some mild bludgeoning damage to the chest. They all could hear the snickering of invisible imps on the roof.

Fauna: “Well, we’re in the right place.”

Fauna in turn cast Gaseous Form and slipped under the door. In the dark, dusty, and mostly empty warehouse she spied a stair down before lifting the bar opening the door. Gornix, last in line, was still dusting his cloak and pride off as he walked in. They decided the best course of action was to sneak down the stairs while being careful for traps.

That plan went mostly belly-up as Szoosha proved to be somewhat incapable of being quiet at all when he moved. Though, Gornix still kept his eyes out for any traps while they descended the short winding wooden steps. They stopped at an iron-bound wood door at the bottom of the stair. On the door was the red twisted face of an imp its mocking features twisting into a perverted grimace.

Door Imp: “Ah! Guests! The master said that I should greet you!”

Szoo was barely able to divert the flames of the creature’s breath weapon harmlessly away.

To Be Continued…

The Cabal of Eight Pt.19: Mage Life

As he faced a High Born Sailor with paper and quill in hand Szoosha (played by Isis) was still in a groggy stupor and Cabal leader Belrae's Iconspeechless.

Naga Sailor (in Split-Tongue): “Ah! You’re awake. Your friend said that…”

Szoosha: “Where the HELL am I!? AM I AT SEA!?”

The young elementalist shot erect and took a look around. The calm morning sea surrounded him on three sides and the air was cool and briny. He was on deck of a three-masted High Born Thrahssk’ Tradesman that was readying to disembark. Needless to say, he was greatly relieved that the ship had yet to set sail.

Szoosha (to the Naga Sailor): “Yeah, um, hi, um, I … well, I dunno…”

Szoosha kept trying to explain himself, for some reason, and slowly backed away from the sailor towards the gangplank. This went on for a few minutes.

Jenn: “You know you can just go right? Why’re you trying to explain yourself?”

Isis: “I DON”T KNOW!”

Szoosha rushed off the ship hurried back to his quarters just before the gangplank was raised. He shared the attic room of a boarding house at the far west end of the Harbor District near the Rondel, a large round stone tower formerly a lighthouse currently the city’s largest brothel. He ducked in, locked the door behind him, and hid under his bed determined to stay there until the next scheduled Cabal meeting on the evening of the 21st of Early Summer, two days hence.

Disappointed that the firepower he had hoped to add to the crew had just run away the bewildered High Born sailor shrugged. At least he didn’t have to pay a finder’s fee for an unsigned contract.

Across town, Excor (played by Cris) finished his spell research (for the Mass tandem spell) at his apartment. Meanwhile Gornix (played by Gil) was also deep into arcane research at his place though he had two more days to go before he had a working spell. Fauna (played by Jenn) spent the day, the 19th of Early Summer, “bumming around the park”.

The evening of the cabal meeting came, the 21st of Early Summer, the previous day spent by all resting, researching, or hiding. They again found themselves around the table in the cramped and dingy club room above the Red Helm Tavern. The cabal leader and his left-hand man however were absent. Jirek, the acting secretary, told the group that Belrae and Riahm were away on an expedition accompanying a pair of Bardic College curators into the Red Waste. They’ll be back in two weeks.  Therefore Excor put forth a motion to put electing an Interim Cabal Leader on itinerary for the next meeting (on the 28th of Early Summer). It passed unanimously.

At first, the meeting began to fall apart as Gornix was eager to get back to his spell research, he had to take a break to make the meeting, and Bumble was curiously silent. Excor and Szoo started a collection among the present cabal members to fund their plan to train rats as to enter the rat fights under the old wall. Jirek was interested but was bust when it came to actual funds.  So he volunteered to help them any way he could for a small cut of the “projected” winnings. However, Fauna absolutely objected, “I think its SICK”. Though she pounded her fist on the table, Excor, Szoo, and Jirek were undaunted.

Finally, the group began to chat about the things they had yet to accomplish. Of course, each mage was interested in something different. Excor was still curious about Ssthris and the bounty on his head (see The Cabal of Eight Pts. 6, 7, 8).

Gornix: “I want that gold bee back, the amber…”

Excor: “NO! We don’t want that THING back! No way!”

So, conceding to Excor’s outrage Gornix brought up Haxat (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.17: Enter the Wasp). Gornix noticed out of the corner of his eye, that Jirek winced at that name.

Gornix (pointing at Jirek): “SO what do you KNOW!?” He jumped up and everything.

With Gornix leading the charge the entire group began grilling the slight scribe. It didn’t take long for the Scribe of Arebas (Jirek) to cave and reveal the location of Haxat’s hideout.  The place was an empty warehouse, near the lumberyard in the Harbor District. An inherited property of the scrawny scrivener. The demon summoner had promised to teach him some of the more potent spells in his repertoire.

Excor: “Damn! We could use that place to house our rats after we get rid of Haxat!”

The meeting adjourned.

Gornix began heading back to his apartment to continue formulating his spell (Force Ram). The salt lotus wizard brought Jirek along as assistant. The scribe was terrified that Haxat would know that he had been betrayed. Otherwise he would have slept in the cabal room.

About half way to Gornix’s apartment they realized that an imp was following them. They spent the better part of the night running circles throughout the city in an effort to at least confuse the small demon but to no avail. Eventually Gornix had an idea and the pair ducked into a small side street that ran behind his apartment building. Gornix cast Ghost Step on them both and they walked in through the back wall finally losing their tail.

Szoo on the other hand had gone to the taproom of the Red Helm to get a beer and try to relax. He took a seat at a table with Excor in the theater to listen to the troubadour who was on stage. He was singing the well-worn saga of the Slayers of the Golden Tower, terribly. As a result, Szoo left Excor’s table to talk to Draega Skullshine whom he spotted buzzing up to the bar. The young naga thought to ply the flighty publican for some information. However, Draega charmed info about Jirek and Haxat from Szoo. Because of this sudden and foreseeable turn-around, Szoosha suffered an attack of paranoia, panicked, and fled back to his room in the harbor district.

Meanwhile, Excor spotted a town guard leaning against the entryway to the theater eyeballing him, the guard immediately left when he realized that he’d been made. Excor kept drinking but kept an eye out over his ale for anything else out of place.

After the meeting, Fauna parted company quickly and without a word. She rushed towards the city center careful to stay hidden. The druidess was careful to make sure that friend or foe did not follow her. She stealthily slipped into the Grove, the city’s central park, and crept into the old amphitheater under cover of darkness. There she waited nervously until midnight always cautious to stay hidden. She was to meet up with the druidic cult, the Brotherhood of the Rope, for her initiation into their organization through the ordeal of the threefold-death.

Jenn: “Um, What!?”

To Be Continued…

 

Trolls

They have been and are, from their very inception, the consummate villain whether they be fierce beasts bent on random destruction and death, or mystical monsters that snatch away the hero’s loved ones for some nefarious purpose, or a supernatural arbiter of an unbelievably harsh but ironic justice.

The malformed embodiment of pure malevolence, the flesh-eating troll populates the many worlds of fantasy roleplaying serving almost solely as an adversary ready to slay and be slain. Trolls bring to mind the image of a ravaging giant obviously more beast than humanoid seemingly mindless in all its endeavors save the intent to inflict harm, at least in the minds of today’s fantasy roleplayers.

A troll is a predatory giant demi-humanoid with claws and fangs found in Nordic & Scandinavian myth and in the roots of Norwegian fairytales where they stand as vicious vestiges of an elder and chaotic world. In the Encyclopedia of Fantasy they are defined as: “MONSTERS of Scandinavian MYTH and NORDIC FANTASY; related Shetland myths call them trows. They have affinities with GIANTS (size, general malevolence, fondness for eating human flesh) and earth ELEMENTALS: they are associated with mountains and cold, and often turn to stone on exposure to daylight[.]” [Clute, John & Grant, John. 1997. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St Martin’s Press, New York. Trolls.]

They have taken many forms from their inception in Nordic lore through to their adaptation into their fairytale roles as monsters with a penchant for abduction and cannibalism; at one time they were even able to fly. “Besides these [Elves/Dwarves] are the Trolls, who fly hither and thither carrying bundles of sticks, and have power to change their shape.” [Mackenzie, Donald A. 1912. Teutonic Myth and Legend. Kessinger Publishing (Reprint). 13]

The evolution of the concept of trolls has parallels to that of Elves. Like elves they matriculated through lore into fairytales and then into fantasy and Sword & Sorcery fiction then ultimately from there into tabletop RPGs. Also like elves they seem to have had a less than active role in the myths that birthed them serving mainly as an “off-camera” enemy to a certain hammer-wielding god. “[…] Thor was away Fighting trolls and troll women and their wolfchildren in Iron Wood[.]”[Crossley-Holland, Kevin. 2015. The Norse Myths. The Folio Society Ltd., London. 121]

At their beginnings they were closely associated with the gods, as adversarial legions, and there was little distinction between them and dwarves aside from a not yet strictly defined size difference. “In Icelandic myth malignant one-eyed giants, and in Scandinavian folklore mischievous DWARFS, some cunning and treacherous, some fair and good to men […]. They lived in hills and were wonderfully skilled in working metals, and they had a propensity for stealing, even carrying off women and children. […] Their name is Old Norse for ‘demon’.” [Rockwood, Camilla, ed. 2009. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, 18th Edition. Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd. Trolls]

The mythic roots of the troll, both as a fantasy race and monster, penetrate deeply into the mythology of Northern Europe (Norse mythology, the folktales of Lapland and Norwegian fairytales). At their beginnings in Norse myth they were giants born of evil taking their place as the enemies of the gods, this probably the apex of their imaginary existence. “Now by divination did Odin come to know that in Ironwood the Hag, Angerboda (Gulveig-Hoder) was rearing the dread progeny of Loke with purpose to bring disaster to the gods. Three monster children there were – Fenrer, the wolf; Jormungand, the Midgard serpent; and Hel. From these the Trolls are sprung.” [Mackenzie. 90] It is interesting that in the Norse mythology the trolls were the malformed offspring of godling monsters born of the trickster god Loki thereby distancing the trolls from the gods a step further than even the beasts of Ragnarök those who are destined to slay the gods and the world.

The classical root of the troll twists from myth into folktales and eventually fairy tales particularly those of Scandinavia. They were adopted by folktales in Lapland in the far north of Finland as supernatural antagonists then collected into fairytales in Norway at various times especially in the 19th century with Asbjørnsen & Moe being the most notable today of those collector-editors of folk & fairytale aside from the German Brothers Grimm. In the Norwegian tales trolls were synonymous with mortal fear of the dark and wild places of the world. “Every Norse child had heard […] that giant trolls laired under country bridges, preying on livestock, shepherds, and farmers. […] The Lapps gave a wide berth to the northern mountains, assuming that trolls chose places large enough in scale to suit their size. The same wariness of mountains applied to other countries, and trackless forests were also regarded as unsafe.” [Constable, George ed. 1985. The Enchanted World: Giants and Ogres. Time-Life Books. Alexandria, Virginia. 86]

Trolls invaded vast tracts of wasteland and began to take up residence in the familiar haunts of fairy-folk, wild woods, dark forests, shadowy canyons, windswept mountains, and occupied ruined castles and old shanties in the middle of nowhere. “In the old days, the Lapps rarely ventured north towards the Arctic coast: They were hardy people, but all knew of the land in the north called Trollebotn, or Troll Bottom, a wind-swept waste haunted by huge, murderous beings. No Laplander cared to face those trolls, some of them three-headed, some with more hideous deformities, all malevolent and filled with hatred for humankind.” [Constable. 79]

In these tales the concept of trolls is similar to elves in that their, the trolls’, identity merged with that of fairies becoming a part of the realm of fairy for a time even exhibiting the level of mystical power associated with such beings. However, trolls were always nasty. They ran the gamut from being vicious supernatural predators with awesome magical powers to simply giant slavering beasts that happened to be very formidable against even the strongest warrior.

The fairy tales of note concerning trolls are, at least in my opinion – Three Billy Goats Gruff (the troll lives under a bridge and threatens the titular Billy goats), The Ash Lad who had an Eating Match with the Troll (where a farm boy tricks a troll into committing hari-kari), Soria Moria Castle (where trolls  with 3 and even 9 heads make an appearance), The Golden Bird (where trolls are caretakers of wondrous treasures & enchanters of a prince to whom they’ve cursed into the form of a fox), The Companion (troll-hags are slain and there’s a potential troll-wife in a princess who was described to “wear a troll-hide” but was restored by the hero who beat the hide off of her).

In these tales trolls also seem to exhibit a trait which definitely distinguishes them from their true-fairy brethren, they are viciously, even sadistically, vindictive.  For example in the tale titled Troll’s Stone – After her and her husband’s failure to lure any herdsmen or the village priest to their cave so that they could eat them, the she-troll sends her husband to the frozen lake to catch fish where he promptly lays on the ice, he’s lazy, and freezes to death while fishing and as he was late with dinner his wife decides to go out to find him. Finding instead his frozen corpse on the ice and unable to drag his body back home she promptly snatches up his catch and: “Before she went, she said, “A curse on thee, thou wicked lake! Never shall a living fish be caught in thee again.” Which words have indeed proved fatal to the fishery, for the lake since then has never yielded a single fish.” [Booss, Claire ed. 1984. Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales. Crown Publishers, Inc. 630]

Trolls always seemed to direct this particularly vicious side towards humans especially those who refused to hold fast to ancient traditions and arcane treaties with the elder world of the trolls even as the trolls themselves faded and sank into the shadowed places of the earth.

The Trolls in Resslared best exemplify the balance of the trollish sense of justice. In the tale the local trolls “were wont to borrow food and drink, which they always returned two-fold.” [Booss. 282] The people of the village had a certain understanding with them and lived with the trolls peaceably. Eventually of course, the old residents died off and new people began to replace them who were not as “charitable” as their predecessors while the trolls lived on. Eventually, as fairy tales go, “[o]ne day the “mother” of the Trolls went, as was her custom of old, to a cottage, and asked the housewife if she could lend her a measure of meal.” [Booss. 282] Needless to say the housewife refused this and every additional request of the old troll lying that all her cans were empty, her cows farrow, and the like. So as justice is served in such stories: “The housewife laughed in her sleeve, and thought that she had escaped the Trolls cheaply; but when she inspected her larder it was found that she had really told the truth to the Troll woman. […] Ever after that the plenty that had heretofore been was wanting, until finally the people were compelled to sell out and move away.” [Booss. 283]

A perfect example of pure viciousness on the part of a troll is in the tale The Trolls in Skurugata – Once a hunter named Pelle Kant trespassed on troll territory. “It is generally understood that Trolls, when their territory is encroached upon by mankind, withdraw to some more secluded place. So when Eksjö was built, those that dwelt in the vicinity moved to Skurugata, a defile between two high mountains whose perpendicular sides rise so near to each other as to leave the bottom in continual semi-darkness and gloom.” [Booss. 251]  It is in this place that the hunter, Pelle, decided to go shooting and then as the hunt was unsuccessful cursed and raved aloud that the trolls had cursed his gun. So a troll woman makes an appearance and offers a poodle for him to shoot instead. He ties the unfortunate animal to a tree and shoots it through the head only to discover afterward that it was actually his own child wrapped in a dog’s hide. The troll woman then rewards him with a dollar piece which always reappears in his pocket when spent which he proceeded to use to drink himself to death.

Starting at about 1841 Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe collected together folktales from around Norway many of which concerned trolls. In these tales Christianity has a significant part to play representing an opposing force to elder and very hostile pagan forces (embodied primarily in the trolls). It is the wave of the new world overwhelming the old fully represented in the struggle between the hero and the troll(s). Once again it seemed that the trolls were nearing new heights as potential opposition to the divine though now even the sound of church bells could hurt and even kill them. “Should they be within the hearing of church bells, or otherwise fall under religious influence, their power is destroyed.” [Booss. xiv] The new power of Christianity was overpowering the older world of faerie.

Of course in these tales trolls were also granted the ability to sniff out “Christian blood” as well as having certain thirst for it. In the story The Boys Who Met the Trolls in the Hedal Woods – “The boys were all ears, and listened well to hear whether it might be an animal or a Forest Troll which they heard. But then it started snorting even harder and said, “I smell the smell of Christian blood here!”” [Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen & Moe, Jørgen. 1960. Norwegian Folktales. Pantheon Books, NY. 10] Trolls were the enemy from the elder chaos opposing the emerging god of light and its new order. “All at once the Troll came, and he was so huge and burly that he had to go sideways to get in through the door. When he had got his first head in, he shouted, “Ugh! Ugh! I smell the smell of Christian blood!”” [Asbjørnsen & Moe. 70] – from the tale Soria Moria Castle.

It is at this point that J.R.R. Tolkien makes his appearance once again in the ephemeral world of faerie and that of the elves, dwarves, and trolls. He redefined their birth as a race of pure unadulterated evil. “It is thought that in the First Age of Starlight, in the deep Pits of Angband, Melkor the Enemy bred a race of giant cannibals who were fierce and strong but without intelligence. These black-blooded giants were called Trolls, and for five Ages of Starlight and four Ages of Sun they committed deeds as evil as their dull wits allowed.” [Day, David. 1979. A Tolkien Bestiary. Mitchell Beazley Publishers Limited. Trolls]

He refined the behavior of trolls including their level of stupidity, to be fair they were not very bright in the fairytales either (see The Ash Lad who had an Eating Match with the Troll for example), their strength, and their raw savagery. “They desired most a diet of raw flesh. They killed for pleasure, and without reason – save an undirected avarice – hoarded what treasures they took from their victims.” [Day. Trolls] The appearance he ascribed to his trolls though was not carried over into the popular figure of the troll but which did link the creatures more closely to the earth than they had been since their inception though he did leave their vulnerability to sunlight untouched. “Trolls were rock hard and powerful. Yet in the sorcery of their making there was a fatal flaw: they feared light. The spell of their creation had been cast in darkness and if light did fall on them it was as if that spell were broken and the armour of their skin grew inwards. Their evil soulless beings were crushed as they became lifeless stone.” [Day. Trolls] A curse which is prominent in gory detail in certain tales.

“Just then, the sun appeared at the rim of an eastern ridge. […] With a hoarse cry […] Her great bulk swelled, until her eyes were black and her skin taut and shiny. Then she burst in a blinding spray of blood. Slowly, the loose skin collapsed and crumpled toward the rock edge, shriveling into a boulder that still bore the troll wife’s face, its mouth wide in a silent scream. Trolls could not survive the sun. It turned them to stone.” [Constable, George. 1985. The Enchanted World: Night Creatures. Time-Life Books Inc., Chicago, Illinois. 28]

Tolkien did cement their size and strength in the popular imagination however which was then further refined in a later work of sword & sorcery and this is where current tabletop roleplayers will start to recognize the monster that stalks the underworlds of their imaginations. The tough specimen of troll found in the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) by Poul Anderson is the model used by Gary Gygax for his troll “which regenerates even as it is hacked apart and must be burnt piecemeal.” [Clute. Trolls] That very work is listed under “inspirational and educational reading” in Appendix N of the Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) evidence of its direct adaptation by Gygax.

“Trolls are horrid carnivores found in nearly every clime. They are feared by most creatures, as a troll knows no fear and attacks unceasingly. Their sense of smell is very acute, their infravision is superior, and their strength is very great.” [Gygax, Gary. 1978. Advanced D&D Monster Manual. TSR Games. 97] This is the very image of what is now considered a troll reimagined as a nightmare predator and fodder-monster of RPGs.

The scaly stone-hide ascribed by Tolkien now fully shed and their subhuman appearance now exaggerated to its fullest. “Troll hide is a nauseating moss green, mottled green and gray, or putrid gray. The writhing hair-like growth upon a troll’s head is greenish black or iron gray. The eyes of a troll are dull black.” [Gygax. 97] They are also mostly bestial and are more brutish and dangerous than ever. “A troll attacks with its clawed forelimbs and its great teeth. […][A]fter being damaged, a troll will begin to regenerate. […][T]his regeneration includes the rebonding of severed members. The loathsome members of a troll have the ability to fight on even if severed from the body; a hand can claw or strangle, the head bite, etc. Total dismemberment will not slay a troll, for its parts will slither and scuttle together, rejoin, and the troll will arise whole and ready to continue combat. To kill a troll, the monster must be burned or immersed in acid, any separate pieces being treated in the same fashion or they create a whole again […].” [Gygax. 97]

In the popular imagination Trolls lurk in ill-lit (often slime-plagued) subterranean lairs and are ugly, smelly, often giant, and always viciously evil. They are not as codified as the Elves though, aside from the ideas of the sun turning them into stone and their eating flesh. Most trolls found in roleplaying games have retained the ability to regenerate found in Gygax’s AD&D, however this ability is not always carried over. Strangely enough, the popular concept of trolls has splintered the magic-slinging elder-world denizen of fairytales from the monster-enemy concept of sword & sorcery and RPGs to the point that trolls have bifurcated into two separate species: the RPG Troll and the troll of fairy-stories.

Born in the cold forge of Nordic myth trolls trickled down through history in folktales and then fairytales where they served as the hideous man-eating monster lurking about the wastes at the edge of civilization just waiting to snatch away women and eat livestock and children. Sword & Sorcery fiction trans-mutated them into veritable juggernauts, more than a match for any warrior who would dare confront them face to ugly face. They are the embodiment of every repugnant aspect of mankind sitting in their lairs among the hoard of treasure looted from the corpses of their victims, striking out blindly at the sunlit world in which they have no place.

Trolls like elves were transformed and added to by storytellers and writers until they reached their core forms in fantasy games today but unlike elves they seemed to spring forth fully formed very close to what can still be recognized as (if not already named) a troll being thought up from the ether as antagonistic monsters from the very beginning.

A Giant in Xuun Pt.11: Demon Day of Summer

The hill-giant Freeman Nezor, now officially Guardsman Nezor, stood proudly in the parade ground in front of the Southgate city guard headquarters. It was the happiest morning of his life though it was very damp out and the oppressive heat of the previous day was already mixing with that of the new. A tear almost dropped his eye as he was presented an armband striped blue and yellow signifying his promotion to the rank of captain of the guard by Lt. Krolin himself. If the air hadn’t been so still the giant would swear that his own cloak was wafting heroically behind him. It was a reward for foiling a burglary at the apothecaries down the street from the Troll a day or so just before he reported for training.

With the brief ceremony over Lt. Krolin began shouting his orders and the entire troop of new guardsmen began their rigorous drills and week-long training regimen. Occasionally it included jaunts into the swamp and a fair amount of mass-organized weapon-katas using the standard pike and long-shield. For most of the recruits it was hell for Nezor on the other hand it was a breeze. He never seemed to stop smiling. At the end of the seven-day stint of forced marches and wading through waist-high (or in Nezor’s case knee-high) muck and a very well-deserved bath at the local brothel, for Nezor it was in the carriage park of said establishment, Lt. Krolin took him with the usual entourage in tow to the Whiskey Troll to celebrate the giant’s new rank and probably in part to cement him as a permanent fixture of the Southside city guard. It wasn’t long before a bar-fight between two opposing pirate crews broke out but the guards didn’t interfere as they were busy celebrating.

The day after that and more towards the evening as the orange-gold and rapidly reddening rays of the dusk weakly flooded the entryway of the Troll, Phenox walked in with a curious looking companion unknown to Nezor. He guided the new potential addition to the ‘goodfellows’ up to the giant who was in his usual place flanked by his “men” on either side. He was signing up “new recruits” for his command. The scroll rolled out over his table even had several sloppy black ‘X’s on it.

Phenox introduced the new addition as Xxoosha, he struggled to pronounce her name as he was not fluent in Scael Split-Tongue. Nezor was having none of it as he despised Nagas, they had taken out Cantra after all and this one had black scales. He had heard that Scaels with black scales were marked by “other forces”. Xxoosha the Black Scael smoothed over the giant’s concerns in the course of the night through sheer charm. The giant took to calling her Zacháah, it was the natural pronunciation of her name in his hill-lander drawl.

Zacha was a mage and a mighty fine flutist, her familiar on her shoulder which appeared much like a small sized monitor-lizard with draconic wings; it was never far from her when not on her shoulder. The newly hired mage wore a hooded purple cloak and seemed eager enough to join whatever mission Phenox had planned out but he was reluctant to reveal exactly what that may be as “there were too many ears abouts”. The giant shrugged his shoulders. He was confident that whatever it was he could simply stomp, smash, or crush his way through it.

Another uneventful day passed, the Lt. was running forced marches every other day and at the end of the day the giant and the other ‘goodfellow’, he still wasn’t quite sure about the mage because you simply couldn’t trust that type, were drinking in the Troll. Zacha was piping on her flute, a nice and cheerful medley; someone tossed her a few coppers. It appeared to be another typical evening in the Troll until a massive explosion somewhere outside shook the walls. The patrons rushed outside to see what had happened.

The street was littered with shattered stone and disintegrate adobe. A tower that had overlooked the street around an alley from the Troll was partially destroyed and flying on its wings of glittering mist was what appeared to be some sort of frost demon. Nezor pointed ‘dog-smasher’ at the howling creature and before he could shout, “stop in the name of the law” the creature had landed heavily in the cobbled street before him and the grim-warrior Phenox; Zacha who had been behind them slithered for cover behind a large crate.

The demon was nearly the size of Nezor, about 20 ft tall, and had wings that seemed to be mostly immaterial composed of poisonously glittering mists. It had a pair of curling horns as jagged as bent icicles on its malformed skull-like head and claws on its hands just as formidable. A hideous bluish light shone from its empty eye-sockets and from between the spaces in its glassy ribs. For the most part the creature was bluish-white in color. The frost-demon bore a battle-axe of ice in one of its hands and in the other it held the bleeding corpse of an apprentice mage. A handful of guards charged the beast and it spat a ball of blue energy at them which simultaneously froze them solid, reduced, and blew them away like a gust of snow. The gathered crowd immediately panicked fleeing in all directions.

It was Nezor’s “men” that acted first, Oxwulf dropped his pike and ran back into the Troll, Derig charged the demon. The monster responded with a swing of its axe horribly wounding the boy who dropped to the ground at its hoofed feet.

The giant roared and rushing in put all of his power behind his carven great club smashing out most of its ribs in the first hit then on the backswing the entire beast shattered like an ill-conceived ice-sculpture filled with blue-flame and exploded. Nezor was left standing there triumphant but a little frostbit, Derig was down and unconscious but otherwise untouched by the demon’s death throe. The giant acting quickly snatched up the boy’s body and rushed him to the local apothecary for immediate treatment. After Nezor was assured that the young guard would recover by the old apothecary, he left him there and returned to the scene to find the Lt. and his men already there.

The investigation lasted for only about 2 hours. A group of elder mages from the Obsidian Guild had appeared all of them old men in plain but clean brown robes with golden eye on a brown escutcheon embroidered on the breast. Their fingers and necks were bedecked in gold however and each also carried finely carved and lacquered staffs some bearing gems. They were a little indignant and rude towards the Lt. until the giant stepped in with a disapproving glare. They got cooperative real quick. It appeared that they had no information on the case as the apprentice was unknown to them and he assuredly wasn’t licensed to practice magic within city limits.

After the investigation was finished Lt. Krolin commended Nezor on his conduct and promised him a medal for his slaying of the rogue demon. The hill-giant was in the clouds as he strutted back to the tavern. The new trio reconvened at the Whiskey Troll.

Over some whiskey and while Zacha noodled with her flute, Phenox talked with Capt. Nezor about that new caper he had been planning for some time now. It concerned an evil mage, he emphasized the evil part, and the horrible things he was doing under the noses of the city guard such things as hiring foolish young mages under the impression that they would be his apprentices then having them do suicidal things like summoning demons too powerful for them to control. This mysterious and evil mage was known only as Shadow-Scale. Of course Phenox neglected to mention the contract out on the mages life that he was holding.

Nezor stood up suddenly, held his club above his head, and declared, “I dub thee Dog-Smasher-Bull-Crusher AND demon-SLAYER!” The entire place erupted in a riotous cheer. The giant turned to his stunned companions and said, “let’s do some JUSTICE”.

It wasn’t long after that the 3 were standing in the dark underneath the moon-shadow of Shadow-Scale’s tower. It was a relic from another time, a crude and strange structure fashioned from what seemed to be a single titanic stone and the few orifices in its face including its main door were fashioned in the Scael fashion of things, circular and deep. Just a few moments previously they had fought their way through four monsters with skull-like faces, shriveled skin, and hoofed feet. The giant assumed that they too were demons and seemed to be guarding the alleys that led to the tower. He was determined to take this guy down vigilante style.

Phenox (kneeling by the recessed entryway and inspecting the ground): “Yup. There’s a trap door here. Guess we better…”

Nezor with an earth-shaking roar ran past his companions and leapt at the bronze double door jumping over the supposed trap-door hurling himself straight into it. Either the doors or his shoulder would shatter. For just a second he feared as he felt the doors flex only slightly that he would be catapulted backwards onto his back and onto the trap-door. Fortunately, the timber bar that held the door gave with a sharp crack and the giant landed heavily just inside on the smooth stone threshold as the metal doors swung open wide with a crash.

To be Concluded…