Trolls (Part One of Two)


From the Desk of Prof. José San-Simeon
Guest Researcher at Exalted Doorway, Yet Unopened
On Behalf of the University of Santa Rocha


It was only very recently that humanity made first contact with Trolls. They live deep in the forest, and we do not. The forest where the redwoods grow is dark and deep, and the ground runs down down down into the wild darkness of the world. In the heart of the wood, at the feet of the most ancient and colossal trees, are lands that have never seen the light of day. Deep woods of parasite vines and pale fungi rise from the black earth, in the shadow of the forest above. This is where the Trolls live. So as you can imagine, it was not until our most earnest lumber concerns reached their greatest desperation that we began to notice had a chance to meet them.


Darkwood


As it happens, Trolls differ from humans visually only in a few small ways: Their faces are eyeless, chitinous spheres split all the way around by enormous mouths, packed with rows of jagged teeth. Their throats are lined with special carving teeth, all the way down. They are shaggy with long hair-like quills, particularly in a great mane down their back, which they can expand formidably when they feel threatened. Their nails are hard and sharp, two to a finger, and bend sharply rather than curve. Other than these minor discrepancies, they look just like you and I, and, if cloaked, may easily pass as an especially tall and blind human.

Trolls wear clothes much like ours, as well as some that are not so much like ours: dyed jumpsuits of soft skin, mantles of silk ribbon and delicate ivory, colorful cloaks bearing enormous symbols in a language that is as foreign to them as it is to us, but which bears some cultural significance they seem incapable, are regrettably unable to sufficiently express.


Viivius


Trolls have cities, and their cities are not like our cities at all. They are vast lightless tunnel networks that weave between the roots of trees, thick with carefully cultivated mycological "vegetation." Every inch of space is filled with thick webs of fungal growth, with coiling walls of scrimshander bone, with thick twisting pillars of living flesh, fat and slick-skinned, undulating with the fevered pulse of blood from some deep-buried heart. To the human sensibility, they are swelteringly hot, profoundly claustrophobic, and impenetrably labyrinthian. To the Troll, they are perfectly suitable. They are living cities, to which each citizen is viscerally connected, which can be moved around as easily as moved through, and which have their own necessary role in trade, in prayer, and in craftsmanship. It provides its flesh and bone and vital essences, and these things are returned unto it in refined form.

You see, the Trolls cultivate a kind of understanding of life. There is a connection, they say, between their flesh and yours, between your flesh and the rotten flesh of trees and deer and primordial things that makes up the black earth between your toes. A kind of physical unity among all things that live. It is not a vital spark or a soul, as many human philosophers have tried and failed to describe it. It is simply that all living things are formed from the same clay, and this clay is one clay, one living pulsing mass, no matter how it might be sculpted.


Harry Clarke


The trolls call this understanding Gnosis. I fear I cannot say much about it, as it is a complex, illusive concept which great philosophical revolutions have overturned, and on which competing temples preach differing doctrines, a variety of interpretations, but I will say what I can.

I will speak first of the more objective science, the craftsman's art of shaping new forms from primordial clay, as in this there is something approaching agreement. Through the cultivation of Gnosis, a Troll may learn to intensify the bond between their flesh and another's into a state of psychological tangibility, to reach out, to twist and sculpt, changing both and endeavoring to maintain the integrity of each as best as possible, the way a sculptor with soft clay hands might attempt to make a pot. And the fruits of this flesh-craft are tremendous: The living cities which nurture the citizen and devour the invader, war machines of meat and moss that dance gracefully across the forest floor, the dozens of soldiers and company men accused of espionage, grotesquely transfigured into beats of burden. The ornate silk costumery, which changes with the wearer's mood.

The philosophy of Gnosis is a spider's web of political implication is beyond the capacity of the uninitiated to understand. But it can be said that Gnosis compels consumption. The self is a lie is an illusion is a complex notion. One must attempt to be other than the self, to be both more than and beyond the self, to grow both in scale and in complexity. The devouring of life is the integration of life into the self, the transformation of the self, because what you devour becomes an extension of you, as you grow vaster within, rather than without.

Each living thing is therefore engaged in a struggle against each other living thing. The end of this struggle is not destructive, it is creative. By struggling against one another, each thing is ultimately devoured by its superior in strength, its appropriate rival, and integrated into it. It is by this process that, ultimately, all life will return to being, remains, is in the endless process of becoming a vast web of living flesh. Trolls are tremendously concerned with this struggle. It is the great question at the heart of many of their religious schisms and civil wars political disagreements. Many religious orders and political factions have stringent ideas about its right expression, the role of Gnosis, the appropriate and inappropriate uses of transformation to advance the struggle, and other, more esoteric concerns. The greatest of these is the role of Creator. Most Trolls say that Gnosis is a concession, extracted from the Creator by the violence and cunning of ancient trolls, that it is in itself proof of the necessity and fundamental truth of the struggle- that by devouring the flesh of the Creator, the trolls became creators themselves (which is to say transformers, since in the dynamic equilibrium of this worldview, nothing can be truly created or destroyed). The creator is depicted, variably, as a Lion-Headed Serpent, A Spider-Limbed Star, and A Mirror of Black Glass, with more obscure symbols.


Javiera Estrada


If you wish to visit the cities of the Trolls, you likely intend to do so for the purposes of business. It is well known that their dedication to the understanding of life makes Trolls unrivaled surgeons, physicians, and chefs. That they eagerly ply these trades on the roads leading from their cities is a great boon to all travelers, and that they charge nothing, working only to deepen their own understanding of the mysteries of life, is an extraordinary honor. Human customers should be wary only of the potential side-effects, both short and long term, and of the customary exchanges of limbs and organs necessary to lubricate the social interaction. Trolls do not permit outsiders into their own markets, which are in any case run by a system of silent auction via visceral communication, but do graciously participate in the market dealings of more cosmopolitan cities, where you may trade with them as if they were merchants, though you must remember they are not.

Troll shipwrights do not, under any circumstances, produce ships for non-Trolls. Not because they do not trust us. There is a deep and profound bond between all living things, which is assumed until it is violated. No, simply because we could not use them. Their ships, which sail so gracefully through the air, which rain down their living ordinance so effectively, rely on the skill and vitality of their expert helmsmen, Trolls of great standing who have been enslaved repurposed as living batteries the vital organs of the craft, just as they operate the Trolls' many varieties of crawling vehicle, shape their mobile surgeries, and, tethered together, power the great ivory accounting machines which direct the growth of cities and permit Trolls to readily communicate with one another across vast distances. The preposterous myth of rogue shipwrights is just that.


Andrew Hussie


Diplomatically, our relationship with the Trolls has greatly improved, stagnated, improved insufficiently, disgraced our city more than the war permitted a tremendous exchange of cultural ideas, and the advancement of both of our interests, in the maintenance of our orderly and civilized world. It is with a warm heart and open hands that I invite all humans who feel trepidation toward our friends allies to take this wonderful milestone as an opportunity to refresh their outlook consider the possibilities of a new and better Finish later. Add conclusion in second draft, improve tone.

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A Troll is something like a human and something like a tarantula and something like a god.
Trolls are hungry like the world is hungry, and wise like the world is wise.

You can use them instead of elves, like I do. They would also work as rivals to elves.


Darkwood


Trolls can heal any wound and perform any surgical procedure, no matter how unlikely. They can make anything edible, given enough time, and can make anything delicious, given a little more. This will cost limbs and organs and gobs of meat and fat. They do not have to be yours, but it is more polite to make a personal donation. They are great judges of quality, and often tremendous snobs.

Troll Cities are off limits unless you have a Troll friend who makes you a guest, but their roads have plenty of pilgrims and peddlers, and are, in the deep dark wood, sometimes the only safe roads you will be able to find. They do not cooperate with other cities except condescendingly, but they follow the treaties and accords, and they are hospitable.

They are obsessed with eating and consuming and growing, and will try to eat you at any appropriate opportunity, regardless of your relationship. The troll word for friend is the same as their word for enemy. (This would make romance complicated, if Trolls did not reproduce by consuming other Trolls and giving birth to them again, and if Troll romance were not already unbearably complicated.)

Troll cities employ inquisitors to hunt down and devour traitors and oathbreakers. They have pale glass masks and merciless spears of living bone, and are at once charming and merciless. Troll justice is a mechanism of consumption, nothing more. It is also generally disorganized, and so you will find traitors and oathbreakers in all sorts of unlikely places. If you can protect them, and you can bribe them, they will sell you secrets and build you horrible machines.

It is very hard to kill a troll. They believe that mind, body, and soul are all the same thing, and so they can plot against you in the form of a single fingertip. If they find a way to eat something else, they can make it part of them, and expand and grow back into something like a Troll. But you usually won't need to kill a Troll. Just trap them somewhere- another Troll will come and eat them soon.


Darkwood




Comments

  1. This is incredibly lovely! Can't wait for part two of two, and then part three of two, and so on. Perhaps four, if you are feeling generous :D

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  2. The phrase "troll romance" still gives me the willies. Interesting, spooky, grotesque, and exceedingly gameable. Amazing stuff!

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