The dangers of fire and thin ice
It’s close to the Winter festival here in Meyers. The traveling merchants and bards have descended upon our small township in order to extract as much coin whilst rehearsing their performances before reaching the Grand bazaar for the sixtnight of games and feasts preceding the coldest night before the sun grows steadily brighter in the sky. I took my son to listen to one of the orators, a man with the eyes and whiskers of cat, retell the Tragedy of Tundra Trolls. One of my favorite stories as a child.
Oh, it filled me with wonder knowing that somewhere half a world away walked giants and trolls. I’d listen to a telling every year. And with each year the Giants grew taller from ten meters to twenty. The frosted troll tribes grew in number from dozens to hundreds. Each year the tale was larger. From a simple tribal war over a valley of Mammoths and Caribou into a war of armies only the most powerful Duke’s, from my great grandfather’s kingdom, could muster. I must have been nearly my first passage of manhood when the tale grew too far beyond the borders of what any reasonable person thought was possible.
Expecting by now, that the tale would hold the balance of the whole world between giants the size of wizarding towers and trolls in numbers equal in count by the stars hung in the sky. Expecting this, My boy would either dismiss the story or be as enthralled with the dangers of far away lands as I was. I should have been disappointed when the tale we heard was much smaller. But I can’t say that is the truth. It has occurred to me that the skill on the orator was what feed the giants, and multiplied the trolls. This orator had such a great wealth in his telling that the giants need only stand three feet higher than a regular man, to be terrifying, and the trolls counted only in the dozens. But me and my boy where as fixed as dried maple to the edge of our seat.
These tales are best spoken by the masters, with there hand gestures and flare for dramatic pauses that the pen cannot yet capture. But in case the tale is forgotten and needs to be retold.
“Far from here. Further still beyond Passaid’s great oceans. North of the queen’s heated jungles where the lands drift apart in the warm months from the queen’s tears that fill the river banks. Where the winter winds freeze her salty tears to allow for the migration of the wild mammoth companies.
Long ago before your fathers and mothers started growing whiskers. Even before your grandparent’s great grandfathers set forth from the Kingdom into the Freelands to forge their own destinies. Before new lands began to spring from the ground increasing the distance between the god king and his goddess queen.
Far away and long ago, truths we hold common today were not known. And without diligence in keeping and sharing such truths we may just as easily forget.
As you warm yourself by the fire tonight, remember that fire is a dangerous friend. If your parents held your hand close enough to the fire as a small child that it grew uncomfortably hot but you did not burn yourself, they have done their diligence. And if by a mixture of curiosity and accident you held your own hand close to the flame and have learned the danger of fire without a receiving a permanent scar then consider yourself among the fortunate.
For the Trolls and Giants that inhabit the frozen ever shifting ice sheets, had no understanding of a flame’s desire to burn the whole world to ash.
That is of course until the tundra troll’s tribal chieftain sacrificed himself to keep the fire burning just one more night… but it still left his charges cold and unprotected by morning.
Frost Giant’s stand as close to a man as any of the giant races could. Only eight or nine feet tall. Without a strand of hair on their pale bodies. Their veins carry blood as clear and just as foul smelling as distilled grain, which you can see coursing through crystallic skin. Muscles as brighter than clean snowfall. Tread carefully in the frozen Norths, these giants stand tall but lie still for ages inside of snow packs just waiting…waiting… for a body of warm flesh to cross within their arms reach. Before you can feel the shift of the pack beneath your feet they’ll rip your legs from your torso!
With bursts of strength the frost giants wrestle mammoths to death. leaning close to the children of the front row you wouldn’t even fill half a giant’s belly.
A full meal for a tundra troll perhaps. The frost giants may let you go if you get the chance to remind them that your bones are full of marrow yet. But Troll’s arn’t so picky especially tundra trolls. They won’t just go back to sleep for years waiting for a meal.
Scholars debate still whether the tundra trolls follow the migrating mammoths or whether the mammoths migrate because the trolls are always at their heels.
Standing As high as seven feet as lean as a starving child and always just as hungry, the tundra Trolls. Their skin stretches tight against their iron roped frames. Traveling and hunting in tribal bands. They throw stones and spears to bring down the mammoths. Digging with their hooked fingers into the thick furring hides to consume the meat raw from the fallen often still breathing. A necromage told me once that the flesh tastes sweeter when an animal watches in horror as you consume from them.
Four tribes converged as the trains of mammoth they were hunting gathered for safety. Cooperation between the families was unlikely but necessary as the converged mammoths numbered in the hundreds and with the strength of numbers would fearlessly trample down smaller hunting parties. The Four Tribes pushed the train further north out of their flat permafrost-ed tundra.
Through a valley where the grass grows over a man’s head. Beyond a graveyard of frozen trees, They shed their leaves too many frozen summer’s ago. Into the land of the frost giants the mammoth herd had tred.
By the time the tundra trolls reached the edge of the valley the ground shook with a stampede. From the cover of the trees the troll watched as the frost giants snapped straight up from their snow covered slumber. Tossing full grown bulls to the ground. Crushing their ivory skulls between sole and solid snow pack.
Dark storm clouds rolled in from the same horizon that the trolls only source of food had disappeared into. Lighting soon filled the sky, giving a dark and terrible back drop for which the giants became like gods of death to the poor hungry trolls.
While the four chieftain’s were discussing how to get around their giant problem, four bolts of lightening struck erupted from around the gathered camp. Three trees exploded. Their fire had spread, but one tree was slowly smoldering without a visible flame.
Worried that the smoke would draw the attention of the Giants three of the four tribes panicked and scattered across the wood. The tribe that remained was lead by a rather curious chieftain. Having never seen fire before he didn’t know what to make of it.
It was as warm as the sun. It turned snow into fresh water and make it disappear in a white smoke. Black smoke from the branches it clung to.
The Frost Giants had seen the fire and made haste toward the woods to put of it’s corrupting flames.
The Chieftain stuck his javelin into the flame. His eyes grew wide as the flame grew to nibble on the fresh wood. Amazed still as he withdrew his javelin and the flame split in two. His fascination brought to an abrupt end as a shadow cast over him. He was alone crouched under the shade of a full grown Frost Giant.
He turned to stab at the heart of the Giant. The Giant was too fast and grabbed the javelin in one hand, inches away from his chest. A cocky sneer across his giant face as his next meal filled with fear. The Chieftain pressed hard on the base of his spear and though the giants grip was strong the melting frost had made the spear slick and it along with its still burning tip pierced the giant’s chest.
Underneath the frost giants clear skin the flame spread. The giant turned from blue to white, slowly consumed by the light of the flame before exploding into an orange mist. With a strength of wind so strong that the nearest trees snapped in half.
The trolls who had seen this fed there arrows into the scattered flames and soon the Giants turned back to bury themselves back with their killed mammoths under protective blankets of snow.
The smoldering tree grew finally grew a fire. The troll’s said that this was a blessing from the gods. As long as they kept the fire fed they would have safe trespass in this land. Every troll gathered as much woods as they could carry and they headed out after their converged herd. Careful to skirt around where the Giants slept.
They kept for fires light at all times. In case one should be blown out by the wind they could go on.
Four days until they reached the mammoth herd and finally had a meal to share amongst the tribe. The chieftain who had saved and ensured a lasting piece between these for tribes gave a toast.
Garukth Gagh Trefeladoor Definii
As long as these fires burn together our bands shall be at peace.
And burn they did… first through the stock of wood they had taken from the frozen graveyard. Then through their dried hides that sheltered them from the brutal winds. Then they began sacrificing their weapons to keep the fires consuming. The fat of the mammoth burned well but smelled terrible making those closest to it’s flame irritable and murderous. When the last scrap of wood was used and the fire could no longer feast upon the trolls offering, it departed back to the aether.
And just like that the trolls found themselves without weapons, without food, without good temperament. Inside the land of the Frost Giants, who lay in wait for one careless step across the surface of ice.
So be wary young ones and travel with friends across the frozen ponds. Keep the knowledge and tools that make fire close. So won’t have to trade your kingdom for a fire that will leave you cold.