Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rhymes and Regeneration - Trolls of the Dragon's Claw Mountains

Deep in the heart of the Dragon's Claw Mountains, under the Smoke Wyrm Spire is the Hall of Hoska the Troll King. Here are gathered the majority of the region's trolls, all living in a kingdom under the mountains. It is this kingdom, known and Trulsk that has been able to withstand the scourging armies of the dwarves.

The Trolls of the Dragon's Claws are not what are commonly thought of when one thinks of trolls. Rather than the near-bestial, thuggish creatures common to other parts of the world, they are crafty, wicked and guilesome. Similar in appearance, they are obviously related, though whether they are antecedents or descendants is not clear. What is clear is that though they are hairy, muscular, and brutish looking creatures this belies an incredible knack for wickedness and deceit.

The kingdom of Trulsk is home to thousands of trolls. At any given time, should the might of this kingdom be roused, an army comprising nearly 80% of the population could be mustered. If this were to happen, trolls armed with weapons and armor of trollish crafting would sally forth accompanied by mercenaries bought with the riches of their under-mountain kingdom. Orcs, goblins, even ogres and lesser trolls are more than happy to join or given little choice when a troll army musters against a foe. The trolls of Trulsk also make use of savage creature found deep in the earth to sew confusion and suffering among their opponents. Chief among these are the Nothgir, a subterranean predator of remarkable savagery and vile demeanor. When trolls take to the surface they do so accompanied by great war boars called Droth Boars, which are ridden as men would ride horses.

The Dragon's Claw trolls are physically strong and possessed of a great amount of hair both on their bodies and faces. Their teeth are irregular, sharp and cruel usually with tusks jutting from their bottom lips. Large noses, carrying a powerful sense of smell mark their visages and give them an almost comical appearance at times. Troll build is lanky but muscular making their might instantly apparent. The average troll stands a good double the height of the common man and weighs nearly thrice his weight.

Though they are armed with their own arsenal of natural weapons, iron-hard fists, claws like daggers and goring tusks, the trolls of Trulsk are keen metal-workers and forge not only swords of great quality but many are enchanted. Despite the quality of their weapons, the trollish weapons still convey the wicked and cruel natures of their makers. Spikes, barbs, wicked curves and horrible visages are common features of such weapons.

The trolls of Trulsk are a cruel but ordered in the sense that it is understood that the strongest, craftiest, most underhanded troll will dominate his fellows. To this end, trolls in powerful positions often maintain their power by maintaining the loyalty of their subordinates through gifts and bullying. A troll that cannot wield his power and presence cannot maintain his position. Because this can be difficult, the trolls of Trulsk have created a special magical bond similar in nature to a Geas spell called a Nok.

A Nok is established when two trolls enter into an agreement under the ritual auspices of a Nok Yen, or "Riddle of Bonding". Once a Nok has been set in motion, the troll is bound to it until one of the parties either releases him or breaks the terms of the Nok. This is not so easily done as most Noks provide for protections against treachery and the breaking of a Nok carries with it the price of a curse and the mark of a Nokbadin or "Nok-breaker" on the offender. This of course is a magically enforced morality that the trolls themselves only marginally adhere to by choice. Nokbadin are shunned by most trolls, though there is a shadowy unspoken rule that Nokbadin make great agents as they have little to lose and are quite eager to improve their standing by any means.

The Nok is just one example of the trolls' potent magic. Though they do have their spell casters known as Skulds, most trolls know some form of magic. Magic is key among troll society as a tool for getting the upper hand and for undoing the machination of those against you. All but the lowliest of troll thralls has at least a modicum of magical ability and at least a few spells or magical items at his disposal. Needless to say, the Skulds use this obsessive pursuit to their advantage, marketing their services and wears to those willing to offer up the greatest prizes.

Female trolls known as Huldra are possessed of a highly developed magical ability. It is fortunate that such females are rare. It is this rarity that makes them valuable assets and commodities among the trolls. Huldra also possess and innate magical shape-changing ability which makes them masters of deception and intrigue. Powerful trolls are usually made so by their wives and sometimes daughters or other female kin. Young Huldra are known for venturing into the world of men and snaring unsuspecting males with their charms and magic, damning them to a life of servitude and ultimately a grizzly death in the halls of the Trulsk. The Huldras' gift of change is the result of an ancient Nok entered into by the trolls at the dawn of time.

According to troll legends they were tricked into the Nok by a deity who grew tired of his people falling prey to the trickery of the trolls. This deity, a God of Men named Alsfar, tricked the great Troll King, Skrufti into entering into Nok with the god that would grant his daughter and all female trolls after her the ability to change her shape. Skrufti's motives were the deception and conquest of his human enemies. Alsfar however fooled the eager Troll King and worked in a clause in the Nok that provided that, "If Huldra's nature, her beloved sees, before the eve of wedding be, her heart's name should he speak, forever his true wife shall she be." From this day forth, all Huldra were cursed to remain in their true guise as a mortal woman if their suitors discovered their true nature and spoke their true name before the completion of their wedding night. Needless to say that the Huldra are very keen on avoiding this fate.

If not for their conflict with the dwarves under the mountains and the fact that there is little of interest to them in the valley, it is certain that the trolls would dominate all who call it home. Fortunately the dwarven holds vilgilance the vilgilance of elves and men prevails and keeps these beasts at bay, but no wanderer to the mountains or denizen of the settlements there can ever fully ignore the threat the pose.

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