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 Trollbabe's Tales

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Trollbabe

Trollbabe

Posts : 816
Join date : 2015-03-01
Location : In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine

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PostSubject: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptySat May 02, 2020 8:48 pm

Reserving a space here to see if I can find the rest of my old SoC material. I've found the "Cowl" stories so far. Also for new material.

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Trollbabe's Tales Ba_tro10
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Trollbabe

Trollbabe

Posts : 816
Join date : 2015-03-01
Location : In a cavern, in a canyon, excavating for a mine

Trollbabe's Tales Empty
PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptySat May 02, 2020 9:37 pm

"Cowl" by Trollbabe

(This rambling, endless story was dated June to August, 2011.  It includes the explanation, "Those who have read my work, over the years, know that I prefer to reveal my characters through exposition.  For Cowl's origins, read "The Green Man", under "Trollbabe's Tales" in the Fanfiction thread." However, I haven't had time to locate the rest of my fanfiction thread yet.  Briefly, Cowl was raised by her human mother.  Her Troll father didn't know she existed.  As with Tyleet and Two-Edge, a healer was involved in her conception in an underground room.)

I love the rhythm of the ocean. I run naked in the surf, under the moons and stars. My mother frets that the great birds will find me. But I fear nothing. Not even the sun.

Mother sews animal skins into a cowl and robe, She teaches me to wear them during the day, to keep the sun from scorching me. At night, I shed them to go hunting. By day, I comb the earth for pretty rocks. Something about rocks fascinates me.

I'm not the oldest child in my village, nor the biggest. But I am, by far, the strongest. Twice I have saved the lives of other children. It more than makes up for my odd appearance.

I stay up all night, and sleep during the brightest hours of the day. They say I make an excellent lookout. I love the sounds of the night, and the beauty of the stars. I love the silver creatures that skim the Vastdeep Water, under the moons, singing their faraway songs.

My elders say the waves conceal another world, bigger than we can imagine. Sometimes I wonder if the ground is like the ocean. Is there another world deep beneath my feet?

The women brought Kipp's father ashore this morning. They wailed all day, and into the night. I have other friends who have lost their fathers to the unforgiving seas, but this is the first time I've seen death.

"It's not fair," I tell mother as I weep in her arms. "I never got to mourn MY father!"

"Your father lives in you," she whispers as she gently wipes my tears. In later years, it will embarass me to think of my selfish outburst, though typical of my age.

"You have his strong shoulders, and his beautiful, dark eyes. Hush, now. Kipp will need to borrow your strength."

I lie awake much of the night, trying to imagine my father. In the morning, as mother mends nets, I try to draw a picture of him in the sand. My hands are tiny and clumsy, but someday they will be hard and strong.

The years roll by like whitecaps. Mother's body has long been returned to the ground, in which I was conceived. My surviving childhood friends are grandparents. I'm counted as a tribal elder. Yet beneath my cowl, I look twenty.

I grow restless with each passing winter. I've learned so much from the land, the sea, and the people who live in gratitude upon the bounty of each. Most of all, I've learned to love. But I would like to know something of my father's people.

The hearths grow cool in each tiny gray hut, and the stars glow icy white, as I shoulder my possessions and quietly leave the only home I've ever known.

I leave no loose ends to the knotwork that was my first forty-plus years. I have outlived two husbands, which is not unusual in our village. I have nephews and nieces and in-laws aplenty, but have never conceived a child. My second husband, Truekeel, was also widowed and had two grown children. So I believe the limitation was mine.

Mama kept her story to all but me. My fisher-folk don't believe in Bird Spirits, and have never heard of green men. They think that whatever condition caused my earthy skin tone, and my photophobia, must also have caused me to be barren as well. They attribute my freakishly youthful looks to not having been burnt by the sun all my life.

I know nothing of my father's people, nor where to find them. I don't know how they would recieve me if I did find them. But whether or not I glean any answers from my wanderings, I would at least like to see the world.

Mama taught me about the Bird Spirits, who live in a great stronghold northeast of here. I may be curious about them, but I will honor her memory by steering clear of Blue Mountain. Instead, I go southwest, following the coast.

When I was old enough to understand, Mama explained to me that my conception was not natural. The Bird Spirit lady was either playing a game or punishing her, by causing her single contact with my father to result in pregnancy. She says that good can come of evil intentions, because I was the best thing that ever happened to her. I gave her the will to escape, and to survive. In retrospect, that's a big thing to expect from a baby.

When we were little, a boy always teased me about my big feet. He would scoop a big impression in the wet sand, and yell to our friends, "Look! It's one of Cowl's footprints! We can all go swimming in it!" I would get so angry, I would knock him down and fight with him. He must not have minded so. He was my first husband.

I leave a long, deep line of footprints along the shore. The ocean calls to me from one side, with a steady, gentle rhythm I can see and hear. On the other side, the earth calls to me with a rhythm I can only sense. What treasures lie beneath the sea, or beneath the earth?

Following the coast southwest, I see mountains off to my left. They grow largeer, then diminish. Eventually I reach the mouth of a river. It bars my progress along the coast. I take shelter and sleep through the day.

Shorebirds call and chatter merrily, tracing delicate tracks in the wet sand. Between the soft rush of each wave upon the shore, I imagine I hear voices coming from the water, as if to answer in song.

In the evening, I decide to risk a small fire. If anyone has noticed me by now, following the shoreline in plain sight, they have neither approached me nor set up an ambush. I wonder if my father's people have enemies. I gather shellfish and roots, to roast over the coals.

What do my father's people eat? Mother knew so little about him. Sometimes I wonder why she would have so intimate an encounter with a man she hardly knew. I just can't imagine that. I've been in love twice, deeply in love, to the point that I felt my heart had been torn out and buried with each of my husbands. The second time was no easier than the first, although being widowed, we each knew what to expect.

The ocean breeze reminds me of my mother's gentle fingers running through my hair. I cry a little, remembering her. I think of Truekeel's grandchildren, growing up strong and beautiful. Perhaps they will have grandchildren of their own, when I see them again.

I spend two more nights at the mouth of the river, gathering food, and mending clothing and gear. I'm especially pleased with the straw hat I have woven for myself.

Mother built a raft to cross the river northeast of here, when she fled Blue Mountain. Hers was an easy choice: Get as far away from the Lady and the Bird Spirits as possible. Mine is more difficult.

I decide to follow the river inland. At least, if I decide to build a raft and turn back, the current will be in my favor.

As the nights go by, I notice that the mountain I passed earlier was part of a range of mountains. As I move southeast, the mountains stretch out to my left, the river to my right. As is my habit, I stay close to the water. But sometimes I feel an urge to go to the mountains, to seek the gaps and chambers that may lie beneath their awesome heights.

I close my eyes and try to imagine the ringing of my father's hammer, as he plies the lifeblood of the mountain into things of beauty. I picture jewels that gleam like pearls and sparkle like sunlight on waves.

(Comment from Jun 6, 2011  "My character Cowl is now south of the western tip of the World's Spine mountain range.")

I walk for two nights inland, along the northeast bank of a river that seems to veer away from the mountains. It occurs to me, if I could climb to the top of the mountains, I might see where I came from, and what lie ahead of me. But I would have to go north, reversing much of the progress I have already made.

Unable to sleep, I sit out much of the day under the shade of a broad, twisted oak. The trunk and older branches seem indecisive, as if not certain whether to reach for the sun or the soil. The younger branches and twigs grow upward and outward, as if the tree had survived its spasms and was returning to normal growth. I wonder what force of nature could have contorted a common tree to such extremes.

I remind myself, I have a lifetime to wander wherever I choose, and that there are no wrong paths. As I did when Truekeel died, I wonder how long I can expect to live, barring accident or illness. Were I fully human, I would be in my declining years by now. Soon I would be as hunched as the oddly misshapen bough that shades me from the sun this afternoon.

Two days of clear, breezy weather offer me the opportunity to wash my clothes and hang them up to dry on the gnarled tree limbs. One of our nursery rhymes was about a band of little people who lived in a hollow tree, which had been magically stretched and bent like clay. This tree was very much like the imaginary tree, except the trunk was quite solid.

Thinking myself foolish all the while, I climb it just to make sure it isn't inhabited. I return to the ground, where I sleep away the afternoon, dreaming of tiny men and women dressed in leaves.

The gnarled tree offers limited shelter. I find a comfortable cave to occupy, just before a downpour hits. It's roomy, well-drained and well-ventilated, but it needs cleaning. The last occupant died some time ago, leaving its dessicate trash and droppings along with its bones.

It takes me a couple of nights to clean the place out. I manage to burn or bury most of the rubbish. I save a few large bones that might be useful craft material. I leave them where the ants will clean them, and the sun will bleach them dry.

Our fishing village met and traded with other peaceable folk. Their elders agreed with my elders, that there were at least a few band of people in the world who didn't make an honest living. Their tactics ranged from deceiving charitalble folk out of their stores, to burglary and banditry, and on rare occasions, to launching attacks on whole villages. For this reason, we children were taught to handle weapons and to be cautious of strangers. Here, in my hermitage, I remember these lessons well.

I almost manage to conceal my occupation of this strange territory, keeping my fires modest and my campsite clean. However, my gift to the ants isn't subtle enough to escape notice. On a glaring bright morning, I have a guest.

Her arrival isn't much of a surprise. I've rigged the area with alarm, and I am attuned to the noises of the day. But I am surprised that a full-blooded human female would travel alone. I observe her secretly for hours, before I assure myself she isn't leading an ambush.

She appears intrigued by the bones I arranged on the anthill. She stoops and studies them, lifting them one by one, as if she expects them to speak to her.

Her appearance reflects her interest in bones. She is a tall, lean young woman whose patchwork garment of gray fur and leather matches her gray eyes. Her hair is ragged and blonde, bleached by the sun. She wears a necklace of bones, a twine bracelet strung with bones, and bones in her unequally pierced ears. Her walking stick and backpack are decorated with bone fragments.

I approach her with less apprehension than I should muster on such occasions. Her first remark to me? "Each tells a story." I assume she means the bones.

She speaks as casually as if we were tribemates mending nets.

"I'm Aldra," she says, "of the Bone Women."

So, are there others who share your obsession, I am tempted to ask. Instead, I nod.

"Cowl," I reply, pulling my namesake forward to shield me from the sun. "I'm not comfortable in this light. You're welcome to join me indoors, if you wish."

She thanks me, and I lead her to my cave. It doesn't appear to surprise her that I live alone, or in such crude estate.

We share a morning meal. I'm too intrigued to sleep.

"Are you on walkabout, too?" asks Aldra. My expression conveys my bewilderment.

Aldra offers me a few dried fish. She roasts a few plump roots from her backpack as she explains her customs to me.

"The Bone Women accept girls and women from different tribes. We may join for a short time, a long time, or a lifetime. But the initiates must go on a walkabout, alone in the wild, to learn their heart's path and prove their endurance."

With slender, wiry hands, she pinched the waist of her loose garments and said, "I used to be quite plump. Even my shoes are loose."

"You look fine," I assured her. Aldra stirred the embers as she continued.

"The Bone Women have a lodge, made of whalebones. Southwest of here."

I figured that if I had crossed the mouth of the river and continued down the shore, instead of moving inland, I would have seen this odd structure. The Bone Women were shamanesses who tried to divine wisdom from animal bones.

"It's what we're most commonly known for," chuckled Aldra, "but mostly we help people. Most of us go back to our own tribes eventually, even get married and have families. All of us serve people and try to offer guidance. We don't do miracles. We just try to find answers."

Noon approaches. Rather than share my own story, I excuse myself and go to bed. I fall asleep listening to Aldra play a compact instrument resembling both a tambourine and a harp.

I awake at evening to find Aldra has gathered food, as well as enough herbs to make herself a bed. The herbs have a crisp, pleasant smell, as they are chosen mainly for their tendency to repel insects. As is our habit, she sleeps at night and I sleep in te daytime. But we share our meals, and trade stories of home.

I share mostly about my people and traditions. She thinks I am barely her elder, and I see no reason to tell her otherwise. We trade precious, practical information about herbs, animals, crafts, weather and folklore. She shyly talks about boys. I listen attentively, not sharing that I've outlived two husbands in my many years of life.

Even though I am much stronger than Aldra, it helps to have a second pair of hands when I decide to build a trellis and a smokehouse.

Weeks pass. One day, Aldra bids farewell and continues on her walkabout. I shall miss her stories over the campfire.

An early frost finds me stocking up food and securing it against hungry animals. Bears are less of a nuisance as they retreat into hibernation. I wonder if my father's people live as I am living now.

Seasons pass, then years. I feel content in my solitary homestead, in the company of birds and beasts. If he made her way home, Aldra might be a grandmother now. I celebrate my ninetieth summer.

Hot, dry winds blow from the eastern plains that stand between my homestead and the nearest mountain range. Lightning strikes to the west. Soon can smell the smoke, and see the first of the panicked wildlife fleeing in my direction.

The village elders told us that fire is part of the cycleof nature. If the woods burn tey said we should cut the livestock free and take to the boats. I don't have that optionhere, so far from the shore.

The fire cuts me off from the river. Fortunately, the wind is urging the flames westward, toward the coast. I can take nothing for granted, though. I flee eastward, into the wind, across the dry plains. If threatened, I can always ignite a back-blaze. Eventually, the fire will burn out, and I can go back to my hermitage and rebuild.

I trudge on, and on, and on, through the parched grass. It's good I am well covered against daylight, because the brittle blades would slice at my skin. Sometimes I can barely see the peak of the mountains because the grass is so tall.

BREEE-HEEE-HEEE-HEEE-UH!!!

A dark, rank-smelling behemoth brushes by and knocks me flat. I haul myself up and secure my backpack. Muffled hoofbeats diminish toward the west.

I've nearly been trampled by a wild horse. It must have strayed from its herd in a panic. I take advantage of the path it clears before me. It occurs to me, perhaps I should have caught and tamed a horse long ago, just to keep me company at a time like this. But I am loathe to take possession of such magnifient beasts. For all I know, I chuckle to myself, I might smell twice as bad to them!

The slanting billows of smoke are far behind me, by the time I reach the foothills. From all I've gathered about the world around me, I'm certain these are not the mountains from which my mother fled, with me in her belly. They call to me in asixth sense I cannot describe. Such friendly mountains couldn't harbor any evil, could they?

Having walked all day instead of sleeping, I am barely able to climb to the top of the nearest foothill. The view westward confirms that I am out of danger, unless the wind shifts to the east. The setting sun glows like a cinder in the curtain of smoke.

Rest is my first concern. I promise myself, when I am rested and the fire has burnt out, I will climb up the mountain as far as I can. I long to get a view of the sea that bred me. Though my childhood friends are probably dead by now, the sea will always be there.

Rather than stumble down the gap between the foothill and the western slope of the mountain, I decide the spend the night in the open. It's warm, and rain isn't likely. I'll have the uphill advantage should any predators appear.

Animals fleeing the fire seem to have turned north or south upon reaching the foot of the hill on which I plan to spend the night. Some mill about below me, their panic subsiding. Hunting would be easy if I weren't exhausted.

The rocky ground, and the noise of the animals dispersing, prevent me from slepping more than a couple of hours at a time. As the dim light of a new day peeks over the mountain, I survey the mountain slope and see a few dark cracks that might be caves. I gather myself up and make my way down to the gap between hill and mountain. The low ground is probably swampy under average rainfall, but it's now dry enough for me to cross easily.

I've always been adept at climbing, though I've had few opportunities to practice. My mother couldn't tell me whether I got this skill from my father. As little as she knew about him, I suspect I was the product of some casual affair between two lonely people who were virtually prisoners. It would hardly be the basis for an intimate relationship, but I refrained from passing judgment.

The first crack in the mountain slope turns out to be a shallow depression. I rest there a moment, sipping from one of my cherished canteens. I make my way further up the slope.

Above me, the first rays of sunshine spill over the mountain range, illuminating a thin veil of smoke and fog that obscures the western horizon. My spectacular view will have to wait until some other day.

I climb for hours before the fourth crack in the slope finally rewards me with a deep purchase. I study it for a long time, hoping not to find any occupants. At this height, even the snakes seem to have ignored it.

The opening is low and roughly triangular. I'm short enough to walk in upright. I secure a rope outside this entrance, to keep my from falling, and to help me find my way out.

A cool draft blows steadily from the depths of the mountain. I hear water dripping. Groping carefully with one hand, while holding the rope firmly with the other, I find the source in the ceiling. A pool of water collects at my feet.

I secure the rope around my waist, and stoop down. What a sight I would be to my father, who was born to the heart of the northern mountains! I timidly taste the water. It's heavy with minerals, but I decide to trust it. I fill my two canteens and make my way back to the entrance. I stow away the rope, and wrap myself up against the draft.

With enough dried food to sustain me, I will spend the day inside the cave. I tell myself I will head home in a night or two. But deep inside, I am torn between returning to what was meant to be a temporary home, and continuing my journey of self-discovery.

The day passes. I awake, not feeling hungry. In fact, I feel a bit ill. Another day or two in the cave won't hurt me. I have shelter and a steady supply of clean water.

Halfway through my second day in the cave, I am certain something is horribly wrong. I feel too sick to eat. A dull ache in my belly has become a sharp pain. Was it something in the water? I make my way to the cave entrance and vomit outside, before stumbling back in. I can't recall if the dim light outside is morning or evening.

I become oblivious to the passing hours. The cool depths of the cave echo with my moans of agony. I wonder if I can will myself to die.

I can't tell if I am awake or asleep, when I hear voices. Perhaps I am delirious. As I lie, curled up on the cool, damp stone, something siezes me. I offer no resistance.

Closer now, I hear voices, but the words have no meaning. An odd, sweet smell invades my nostrils. I would vomit, if I hadn't already drained myself.

A rough, wet cloth is clamped across my nose and mouth. I know nothing more.

When I awake, I am lying flat on my back, relaxed instead of curled up. The sickness and agony have been replaced by a dull ache. My mouth is dry.

I try to move, and find that I am bound hand and foot. My clothing and gear are missing. I'm covered in something soft and light, perhaps a gown or a blanket.

I hold from crying out. I pretend to still be asleep, as I take in my surroundings.

The darkness and the cool air confirm that I am still inside the mountain. I don't hear water dripping anymore. There are at least two sources of torchlight in this chamber, or just beyond it. They reveal a rough-hewn rock ceiling. I see movement out of the corner of one eye.

My wrists, ankles and chest feel as though they are secured by padded straps. Whoever is holding me must not want me to chafe myself with struggling.

Horror grips me as I recall my mother's tales about the Lady of Blue Mountain. Mother said she never seemed to leave her mountain home, far to the north of this mountain range. if she did leave, and if she found me here, what would she want with me?

Things can't be as bad as they seem, I tell myself. An unknown time ago, I was suffering so badly I was ready to die. Somehow I was kept alive for a purpose. Perhaps I am the subject of a bizarre experiment. Then I remind myself, in jest, that I am already the result of a bizarre experiment.

A shadow passes between me and one of the lights. A figure approaches. I hold still and feign the deep breath of sleep.

A deep, gravelly voice mutters words I don't understand. I hold my eyes half-shut as rough pair of hands brush aside whatever garment covers my belly.

Another shadow approaches. This time I hear water dripping momentarily, and a higher voice whispering in the same unknown speech. Somebody pats my brow gently with a cool, damp cloth. The second voice, as ragged as the first, begins to hum softly.

"NNonnn-nun... hmm-hmmm.... ahdahdah hmmm.... "

I try not to wince as I feel pain where the first stranger touches my belly, then slowly pulls on my skin. A strange, sharp smell almost makes me sneeze. Light glints off some kind of flask.

I collect myself and momentarily put aside thoughts of escape. I think I understand what is happening. The first voice appears to be male, probably old. He is small and moves slowly. Neither he nor the other person want to disturb my feigned sleep.

The male unties and removes some kind of padding from my belly and side, then dabs me with the odd-smelling liquid. It stings a little, where the pain had once been excrutiating. He says a few words, then applies dry padding and binds me up again.

I understand now. He is applying a bandage, as if to a wound. But how was I wounded? I decide that it must have been a snakebite. I was bitten in the belly by a poisonous snake, and failed to notice the bite when the poison seized me.

I recall what Mother told me, about being a virtual prisoner of the Bird Spirit Lady in Blue Mountain. She acted subserviently and never rebelled. Nor did she plan an escape until the moment the opportunity presented itself. She listened attentively, and secretly learned the language of her captors. Above all, she kept her level of intelligence to herself.

If it worked for her, surely it will work for me. I relax and gather observations about the couple, as they linger over my bed.

I must have been out for a long time, as they seem to have fitted me with a diaper. The woman checks to see if it needs changing. Wouldn't it be amusing if I could flatulate really hard right now! My sharp night vision serves me well. I get my first look at her, through half-closed eyes.

She is larger than her male companion, broad-shouldered, and barely visible under a dark hood and robe. Her coarse sleeves are rolled up, exposing olive-green forearms. I don't get a clear look at either her hands or eyes, but she has a prominent nose and jaw. Satisfied that I'm dry for now, she drops her sleeves and whispers something to the man.

He is dressed in a similar manner, but his hood is pulled back to reveal a shrunken, craggy face and a shock of white hair. His complexion is more brown than green. His head makes me think of a ripe husknut.

He says something to the woman. Then I feel the tension of my ankle and wrist restraints lapse, as they unclasp me. They leave the chest strap on. Perhaps they fear I will fall off the stiff bed. I realize that I don't know how far it is to the floor. Without my shoes, will I step on sharp rocks?

They leave, conversing quietly. I hear no other sounds. When I am quite certain that no one will disturb me, I attempt to lift my knees.

The strain causes my belly to hurt again. Clearly the snake bite will take some time to heal. I grope the bandage and determine that I was bitten somewhere near my navel.

Eventually I will have to find a privy. I don't wish to use the diaper they provided. I feel along the chest restraint for some kind of release. It turns out to be an old belt or harness, padded with rags. I figure out how to untie it. Then I roll onto my side and gingerly scoot to the middle of my makeshift bed, a platform of hewn planks padded with straw and sackcloth. My pillow is a sack of thyme and straw. My hosts appear advanced enough to know how to weave cloth and plane boards.

Within hours, the woman returns to find me free of my bonds.

“Ah, ah,” she says, sounding pleased. She takes my arm and patiently coaxes me into a sitting position.

What is their word for toilet functions? I point to the diaper. She nods, and brings me some kind of shallow basin. Then she turns and leaves the chamber. There are no doors or curtains, but as she seems to respect my privacy, I work my way out of my diaper and use the basin. Then I sit on the bed and wait for her to return.

She brings me cool water in a metal bowl. The outside is covered with scrollwork, as if the maker had leisure time to decorate functional objects. I drink deeply, glad to rid my mouth of its rank, pasty dryness.

I suppose days have passed. The two strangers have helped me around, as I have regained the strength to stand and walk. After a few meals of broth and sweet tea, I am back on solid foods.

I am able to make my way to a small chamber off a corridor, where I have access to a toilet and washbasin. Although I am able to sponge-bathe myself, the little old man cautions me not to attempt to remove the bandages or examine the wound. He changes it himself a few more times.

I pick up a few words, but I still can't pronounce their names. Eventually, one day just after a bandage removal, the two persuade me to lie down and relax. The woman applies some kind of ointment. I look down to see what the old man is doing, and I see that he is removing stitches. They bring me a shiny piece of metal, so I can look at the reflection of what I thought was a snakebite. It turns out to be a neat incision that has healed well.

It takes a considerable amount of gestures, grunts and foreign words for the two to get me to understand that whatever was killing me, was doing it from the inside. A parasite, I wonder? Eventually I learn their word for "appendectomy."

My gear and clothing are returned to me by the kindly woman, whose name is Grud. "G" followed closely by "R" takes me some time to master. The old man's name is Groundling, another difficult string of consonants.

One day Grud leads me back to the entrance of her underground home. I squint and gaze out over the plain, and realize it is fall already.

Using what few words I understand, as well as gestures and a gentle embrace, Grud implores me to spend the winter in the mountain. Thinking back to my burnt-out home, I see no reason not to.

Since I no longer need care, we take the makeshift bed apart and assemble something lower to the floor. Grud produces a mattress filled with soft dry moss.

I spend much of the fall helping Grud collect food and supplies from outside, and learning her language. I see much less of Groundling, now that I'm well. She tends to him, and explains that his advanced age limits his mobility. Once I asked her to tell me how old he was. She held up a single straw, then pointed to a huge stack of straw that we had accumulated.

I'm not sure how long Grud and Groundling have lived this close to my homestead in the forest. I get the impression that the small suite of chambers, just inside this mountain, may be part of a much larger complex of chambers and tunnels. They both caution me not to wander any further into the mountain, without their guidance. I suppose I'll have all winter to do just that.

Before the first snow falls, I make a trip back to my cave and collect any useful things I left behind. I return with a few small metal objects from my village, and a string of dried fish that the animals haven't raided. On the way back, I take a long look at the horses that live in the plain. They are such beautiful animals.

Grud, Groundling and I apparently share the habit of sleeping during the day. I enjoy Grud's company, as we do chores together. "Are there more like you and Ga-roun-da-linga?" I ask her one day. "Yes," she responds. She says no more. I am patient and decide not to pry.

The first heavy snow settles on what I am told is the southwestern face of a mountain range that stretches far inland. The descent and climb to the first hill, overlooking the plain, is now a challenge. Grud shows me how to make and use snowshoes. We catch a few rabbits. At least she does. I land face down in a snowdrift. We both laugh and head home.

I catch myself calling the mountain “home.” I hope I will have many summers in which to explore these mountains, inside and out. Grud seems apprehensive, as if there are dangers I don't comprehend. I listen to her patiently, and try to master a new word every day.

Groundling appears two nights later. We share a mug of broth. He is pleased with my recovery, as well as my progress with his language. He tells me this is the mutual language of the “High Unes, El-ovs and Ta-rolls”, plus another entity I can't even try to pronounce. He and Grud are “Ta-rolls”, but I am not sure what they mean by “El-ovs.”

Groundling's description of the High Ones is rather fantastic, but it reminds me of my mother's stories about the Bird Spirits. I keep this to myself for now.

Groundling seems to be away often, on some kind of business. When he is present, he seems to study me with deep interest, as if he sees something I don't see in my own reflection. Grud tells me that he will probably show me the other tunnels, chambers and entrances eventually.

“All in due time,” I think she says. “First learn words much good.”

Grud seems to have an endless store of dried fruit, vegetables, herbs and grain. I fear I am imposing upon her, but she assures me this is not the case. I work eagerly at whatever chores become available. Soon we learn we share an enjoyment of handcrafts. We spend our indoor time weaving ourselves hats, sandals, baskets, ropes and other useful things out of straw.

The more I learn from Grud, the more I wonder what she hasn't told me. By midwinter I have decided that she and Groundling are worthy of trust. I refrain from asking too many questions, focusing more upon learning to speak the language of the non-humans fluently.

“If only could send,” she sighs. She struggles with trying to explain what she means by “send.” I suspect it has something to do with the Bird Spirits. Mother once told me they could exchange thoughts.

A stranger comparing the three of us might think we were of three different species. Grud is large and sage-colored. I am not quite as big, but large for a human. My complexion could best be called “gray.” Old Groundling is brown and wrinkled. I don't know if he was always small, or if he is shrunken with years beyond counting. Grud often calls him “Father”, but I wonder if this is simply a title of respect.

I also wonder how he cares for himself when he is gone for so long. He seems barely able to walk uphill. The interior of the mountain remains constant, and seeps fresh water in places. But I can't imagine how Groundling fares without Grud to prepare his meals and hot drinks.

As winter progresses, I spend less time outside, but try my best to contribute to the food supply. It seems odd that we never run low on dried foods, herbs, linens, medical supplies, candle oil and craft materials. I assume there is a large storeroom somewhere in the mountain. It would be indiscreet to ask. Grud brings fresh fish and mushrooms, probably from inside the mountain as well.

“Eat. Drink. Plenty more,” she chides me. I doubt I will ever reach her proportions, but perhaps that is her intent.

On a midwinter stay, Groundling marvels at my vocabulary. I credit Grud for her patience and perseverance. He compliments her, and she blushes. I note that she holds his opinion in high esteem, and resolve to give her credit whenever it is due.

As a physician who has operated on me, Groundling has to know that I am different from Grud. I am quite certain that Grud is one of my father's people. Maybe Groundling's had other patients who were half-human, or half-troll, and maybe half something else.

One night, when we are foraging in the fresh snow, Grud and I are talking about predators and the food chain. She says something peculiar, perhaps carelessly: “Everything pays its due, as Walkback would say.” I nod and play naive, pretending I didn't fully understand the words. But it's the first time I've heard her mention a name other than Groundling.

It is very doubtful that the supplies Grud produces were brought into the mountain by the small, high cleft we use. I've also seen no evidence of equipment used to produce the dried and smoked foods we share. When I “learn words much good,” I trust my unspoken questions will be answered. Perhaps they have to assure themselves that I have been a hermit for decades, and have no allies with bad intentions.

When I do have the occasion to sit with him over a hot mug of moss tea, Groundling is a fountain of information. For now, he doles out practical information, comparing our life experiences of the nature and substance of the world around us. He calls this “science”, and is able to elaborate deeply upon my simple understandings. One night he tells me there are many sciences, which he calls mathematics, chemistry, biology, astronomy... My poor head reels with the magnitude of this knowledge, yet at the same time, hungers for more.

I enjoy a variety of new foods that Grud prepares for me. Foods that full-blooded humans shun as toxic, are safe and even appetizing. I feel as though I am discovering the father I never met, whom my mother barely had a chance to know. He lives inside me, a legacy of body and spirit that begs to be nourished and cultivated.

“Please, teach me more of how be a Troll,” I ask. There are customs and manners I must learn, should I meet more of my father's folk. I've lived a human life, and a hermit life. I'm ready for what Groundling would call “the next chapter.”

Perhaps there is some sort of initiation I have missed, in my youth among the humans. Is there a ritual, a challenge I would have to undergo, in order to become a Troll? Some secret I must uncover on my own? I'm too modest to ask such an intrusive question, but the idea thrills me. Groundling seems to know my thoughts. He smiles and says, “You chafe at the eggshell, youngling.”

Groundling leaves for two eights of days. He returns with a handful of kitchen utentsils. The metal is fine, and the craftsmanship is superb. I fear to mar them with my fingerprints. Grud marvels at them, and puts them right to use on a basketful of root vegetables. I feel spoiled, eating my batwing broth with a spoon fit for a chieftess.

Later, as we gather around the embers of the kitchen hearth, Groundling stretches his diminutive frame and leans back, almost swallowed up in the depths of his overstuffed chair. He's in the mood to tell a story. I hope to hear all of it before he falls asleep, as elders often do after a good meal. Grud hovers over him, as though a burglar might overlook the new silverware and steal him instead.

“We came from the stars,” he begins abruptly and casually, as if announcing a knock at the door.

“Those whose children called them the High Ones. They were the masters of our race. We tended the vessel that bore us all through the cosmos. The Winged Ones did their bidding without question. The Groundlings, we knew too much. Desired too much. Enough was enough.”

He speaks these last words with such exuberance, I trembled.

“Here, it ended. Here, on this world of two moons.”

He sips his tea a moment, lost in thought. I carve his words into my memory. I was taught that elders expect to be heard the first time around.

“The Tall Ones,” Groundling mutters, looking at me. Is he referring to my mother's people? Were the High Ones the same as my mother's “bird spirits”? And who were the Winged Ones? Did they wear harnesses, and pull the High Ones' vessel through the skies?

“The Tall Ones didn't like having intruders in their realm, anymore than we liked having masters in our realm. We fled, taking refuge in the cool shelter of the deep, rich soil. The cries and the sound of slaughter faded behind us.”

“In time, we grew stronger. Our eyes became accustomed to the dark belly of our mother, the ground. We built chambers, tunnels, kingdoms... ”

Here his eyes close, and his head falls back. He sleeps with his mouth agape, as though mummified. Grud gently withdraws the mug from his failing grasp. He doesn't stir. Eventually we carry him off to bed. The next evening, he is gone, disappearing again into the depths of the mountain whose surface I have barely penetrated.

Grud says that mountains are like waves on the ocean. The ground moves like water. It rises in long, parallel ridges, just as the surf parallels the shoreline, so slowly we don't usually notice. Sometimes the earth shakes and crumbles, like a wave pounding upon the shore. But it may be many lifetimes before this happens.

Don't people get hurt, I ask, when this happens. She looks away a moment. “Yes, possible,” she says.

It's midwinter now. My incision has healed neatly and comfortably. I think of the burnt woods around my hermitage, waiting to bloom with new life. I should feel the urge to return there, to rescue my garden plot and refurnish my cave, if it hasn'talready been claimed by a refugee from the fire. But instead, I feel the longing to see what lies to the east, over the mountain's crest, or perhaps beneath it.

A blizzard fills the trough between the mountainside and the foothill, leaving a drift almost to the doorway. Grud notes that all necessary chores have been completed. We have enough stock to warm and sustain us until the spring thaw, and enough handcraft materials to occupy us through the long nights. She teaches me a variety of competitive games, involving carved and painted pieces of wood and bone.

One game involves manipulating wooden pieces on a board painted with a grid pattern. During one match, Grud explains to me that the game was inspired by the movement of opposing Troll armies, led by rival kings. For the first time, it occurs to me that the number of Trolls in this world, in the past or in the present, may at least rival the number of humans I have met in my entire life. It mystifies me that such a large population may weaken and waste itself on infighting.

In the coming spring, Grud hopes to teach me more of how to scale a rock face. My last ascent to the mountain's entrance took me much less time than my first, though the slope was icy wet. But I long to apply my climbing skills to new experiences. Grud says I should prove a champion climber, with my extra fingers and toes.

I speak little about myself and my past. Grud and Groundling could not have failed to notice my diverse heritage. I've told them about the fishing village, and that I have outlived my generation of villagers, and perhaps the next as well. They know my late mother was human, and that my father died before I was born. I say nothing about how I was conceived, or where. Nor do I mention my two marriages. Having performed what he calls “surgery” on me, could Groundling have guessed that I've borne no children?

Our indoor occupations keep us content through the dead of winter. We sew patches of fine fabrics to the surface of a course wool blanket, with pleasing effects. Then we embroider it with different colors of floss. The technology that must have produced these materials is beyond anything I've ever seen.

When I've learnt enough of their Troll culture and ettiquette to make personal inquiries, I ask if Groundling and Grud are related.

“Yes,” she responds, and turns her gaze to the hewn rock ceiling. Her lips move silently as she counts on her eight fingers, deep in thought.

“I believe he is my great-great-great-great-great-great uncle,” she says. “On my father's side.”

Great gooseberries! I blink, and try to hide my astonishment.

“His sister was my father's ancestor, yes,” she nods, and continues. “Of course, he has many descendants of his own... ”

And I thought I was ancient! It all sounds like a fairy tale, but I keep listening.

“...It's hard to keep everyone straight, without consulting the elders.” She is silent for a moment, as she knots off a row of herringbone stitches.

“His sister, your ancestor,” I ask, “is she an elder, too?”

“Ah, no,” she responds. “I never met her. She died giving birth to her tenth child, by her third husband. Mortality was higher back then, before we understood the medicinal use of this world's plants and minerals.”

“A shame,” I responded. “I would like very much to learn about these medicines.”

(Please tell me if you spot any typographical or story errors. Thank you!)

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptySun May 03, 2020 3:30 pm

I've reread ... and noticed I've missed a lot in the end. Was totally worth the time anyway! I love your tales and the way you tell them, Trollbabe. Very Happy I'll point out just a few reasons:

- You manage to tell this completely from Cowl's point of view; even without much dialog. Nevertheless we learn everything we need to know about your main characters.
- You do your best to find own words and descriptions and comarisons that fit with the mindset and culture of your protagonists and draw me in their world.
- You add small deteil that tell alot about characters or make it more real for the reader, like the childhood story about the big feet. The habit to save bones for crafts and how to clean them. Cowl and Grud bonding over mutual crafts.
- and, special to EQ, your view on Troll culture and how you add so much more than seemingly primitive miners or Greymung's greed and Guttlecraw's cruelty. Troll culture was always your pet issue and I've loved it.


I've tried to look for more of your stories, especially "The Green Man" which I've remembered well. Nothing Sad ... and no thread for "Trollbabe's Tales" in the frozen Scroll. I remember we had issues with hackers one or two times that has cost us content of almost a year's worth, including complete threads. I hope I'm wrong and you can find more.


Would you like to have a map of the WoTMs here in your thread? I Have two original ones I could easily post hiere in decent size.

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptySun May 03, 2020 10:14 pm

Yes, Embala, the maps would be helpful as a reference.

My writing teachers encouraged "exposition." The author paints a picture that includes important details. The reader puts the details together and makes conclusions. As a result, the reader doesn't feel as if he is reading a textbook.

They also taught me that stories are based upon character development, not plot.

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyMon May 04, 2020 8:45 am

I guess I will have to re-write some stories. I can't find anything more than a few discussions in the frozen Scroll.

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyMon May 04, 2020 2:43 pm

Trollbabe's Tales Mapofe10
the environment of the Original Quest

Trollbabe's Tales Worldm10
and the whole World of Two Moons

(click to enlarge)

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyMon May 04, 2020 2:49 pm

I'm sorry, Trollbabe, was afraid to mess up at first try. I'll do my best to fix it once editing is possible again.

At least the first one gives a good impression.


FIXED! Troll Tongue

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyMon May 04, 2020 11:03 pm

Thank you, Embala! This is very helpful. I find it amusing that they indicated "one day's ride." There is a difference, depending upon whether one is riding a wolf, a reindeer, a zwoot, a no-hump, or a bond-bird.

Cowl's general progress is southwest down the west coast, toward the lower left corner of the map.

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyWed May 06, 2020 1:03 pm

More stuff relevant to my fiction:

So far I have only read Elfquest as far as the first few issues of Final Quest.

I haven't seen "Line of Beauty", and I haven't read the series that started after Final Quest.

The last Dark Horse Final Quest issue I read was during the fighting between Ember's tribe and the humans.

I know there are more details about the Trolls in Final Quest, but I haven't read that far yet, so I apologize for any ignorance on my part.

One of my "Grab Bag" stories was the opening of an episode of "The Winnie and Smelt Show."

The show is about Winnowill and her Trollmate, Smelt, father of Two-Edge.

This is an imaginary American situation comedy with a 1970s-type theme song opening. The lyrics are as follows:

"Winnie and Smelt,
"Winnie and Smelt,
"They're a peach of a pair!
"He's green and warty, and she has long hair,
"Way down to the-e-e-e-e-e-re..."
"Winnie and Smelt,
"Winnie and Smelt,
"She's in love - with herself!
"He's on a mission to capture an Elf,
"And bring it back to his Ki-i-i-i-ing...
"She doesn't suspect a thi-i-i-i-i-ing."

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptyWed May 06, 2020 11:26 pm

This piece was written for the September 2011 Grab-Bag:

(Embala) "The elements are...
Trapped either the feeling of being so or literally
Mud
Bleeding - physically, emptionally or metaphorically
Chameleon - either literally, the color-changing animal, or figuratively, the act of changing appearance in order to blend in
school ... education, learning, lesson(s)"

My submission begins with the explanation that "This fanfiction is about my character Cowl, from "Dark Ocs", under "Groups."

Spring comes to the mountain slope, wet and slippery as a newborn. The treacherous mud challenges even my five-toed feet, as I scramble up the crest of the foothill standing between the west-facing entrance to my new mountain home, and the snowy plain where the wild horses graze clumps of exposed grass. Like a chameleon, the world turns from gray and white to a medley of colors. Fresh green grass bleeds dark red lobelias. Finches trade their dull green feathers for bright yellow. Snowdrops emerge from the shelter of crags and fissures.

“Gone with the snow, gone with the ice,

“Mushroom to gather, and herbs and spice!”

Grud warbles a merry song as she tidies up the cavern. We share a touch of cabin fever. I've spent the long winter nights learning every indoor skill Grud could teach me, as well as the language and culture of my Troll ancestors. We've hunted when weather permitted, but I've yet to learn the many uses she knows for many common herbs and minerals, concealed until now by snow and ice.

One evening we trap a stag, so heavy we have to partly butcher it in place. We gather a few cooking herbs, after Grud shows me how to sprinkle the kill site with cleanstone. Where did she get this strange fine powder? What will we do with all of this meat?

“Enough for everyone,” Grud announces, beaming. “Your work will be appreciated.”

That which she and Groundling have kept from me, all these moons, seems to be on the verge of disclosure. We sing a Troll song of plenty, as we carry our harvest up the mountain.

When we have finally settled down, exhausted, before the hearth, Groundling has arrived with characteristic stealth. He comes and goes as if wanting not to disturb a baby's sleep. I wonder that his ancient bones don't creak like well-worn furniture. Settling before the fire in the depths of a massive leather upholstered chair, he looks like a dried-apple doll. The effect is almost comical when he falls asleep with his jaw open. The noise doesn't stir him as we butcher and season the venison, and pack the hide for tanning.

As morning approaches, we drag ourselves to bed, and sleep as soundly as the mountain itself.

When I awake the next evening, Grud appears and urges me to bathe and groom myself thoroughly. As her pupil in all things Trollish, I don't hesitate to follow this directive. Afterwards, I detect no scent of breakfast cooking.

“Something for you to wear,” she says politely but urgently. I get the feeling I am in for a surprise, and perhaps Grud is almost as surprised as I am. Though hungry and a bit sore, I draw myself up and accept the garment she carries draped over her powerful forearm.

I dress hastily, before I have time to marvel over the fine stitchery of my new spring gown. It falls high enough above my ankles to allow for a sure footing, should I have to go anywhere. This turns out to be the case.

Grud looks me over briefly, as I meet her in the corridor. Her dress is equally impressive.

“He's ready to go,” she tells me in a low voice. “Sorry I gave you so little warning.”

I nod in understanding. My upbringing included respect for the will of one's elders, however inconvenient. We hasten toward the dimly lit common area, where Groundling tends a portable lamp.

Early in my stay, I had detected a draft in our common living area. I traced it to an exit tunnel concealed behind a hide curtain. Out of respect for the privacy of my hosts, I shared their pretense that it wasn't obvious. Now Groundling draws back the curtain and directs us both to follow him down the tunnel.

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PostSubject: Re: Trollbabe's Tales   Trollbabe's Tales EmptySat May 16, 2020 9:31 pm

In the "Skin Color" thread, I wrote about Elves having African and Australian coloring and features. I added:

"My Elves will have ancestors who decide to live in an area that resembles Africa. This is not specifically the Forevergreen, or any area that has a history of Elf habitation.

"The ancestors decide to live there because the land looks promising. They didn't leave home because it was on fire, because it was getting too cold, or because they were looking for something or someone.

"Their plans were not reactions to the behavior of humans, Trolls, monsters, other groups of Elves, or palaces or pieces of palaces."

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