Troll-ear necklace

The official GemStone IV encyclopedia.
Jump to: navigation, search

Located in the South Exhibit Room of the River's Rest Museum, the loresong of this necklace teaches that actions can have far reaching consequences and also serves as a reminder that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Description

Troll ears have been strung together on a wire to form a gruesome and grotesque necklace.  The ears are so old and desiccated they look more like strange, gristly mushrooms.  Only the ragged severed edges suggest the ears are flesh and not fungus.

Attached to the troll-ear necklace is a tag that reads, "After the collapse of the Kannalan Empire in 3961 M.E. trolls ruled much of the territory surrounding River's Rest.  One of the legendary rangers of that era was Nocis of the Lagoon.  Nocis was respected for his rangering skills, but not always trusted.  Since he managed to survive for years in trollish territory, he was thought to be overly friendly with the trolls.  This necklace was found among his possessions after his death, suggesting Nocis was more feared than accepted by the trolls."

Loresong

The strong, acrid sting of smoke makes your eyes water as you sing to the troll-ear necklace.  As your eyes clear, you find yourself in a makeshift hut of rolton hides stretched over a framework of willow withies.  An old man, bearded and wrinkled, sits by a small fire, turning a spit on which two rabbits are cooking.  The old man's clothing is stiff with the accumulated grime of months in the wilderness.  A younger man dressed in new-bought clothing, sits across from the old man.

The old man pulls the rabbits off the spit and tosses one to the young man.  The young man, despite the fact that the rabbit is greasy and only half cooked, tears into it ravenously.  "So you want to go a-rangering, boy?" the old man asks.  "You want to live like old Nocis?  By trapping and hunting?"  The young man nods and says, "Aye, sir, that I do.  All my life I've heard tales of rangering, and tales about you, sir.  It's all I've ever wanted to do."

The old man gnaws at his rabbit, studying the young man.  "Like as not, you'll die the first year," he says.  "Trolls'll get you.  If not trolls, then the wraiths or golems or any of a dozen other beasts.  And if you survive the beasts, like as not you'll eat the wrong mushroom or get blood poisoning or catch lung fever and die all the same.  And if you don't die, like as not you'll go mad.  Most do, you know, go mad.  It's a lonely life for them not born to it."

"I can take it," the young man says.  "And if I can't...well, then I'll be dead or insane and won't care."  Nocis cackles.  He wipes the rabbit grease from his hands on his trousers.  "Animal fat, boy...keeps you warm on the cold nights.  You have a name?"  The young man smiles, wipes his greasy hands on his new trousers and says, "Tivold."

A chill breeze seems to snake down your clothing as you continue your song.  You shiver slightly and suddenly find yourself in the wilds, on a narrow trail.  Nocis, the old man, moves silently toward a makeshift shelter.  Young Tivold is gathering firewood.  Tivold has lost a great deal of weight.  His skin is sallow, his hair is filthy, his clothes greasy.

Nocis coughs deliberately.  Tivold drops the firewood, spinning around and grabbing for his knife.  When he spots Nocis standing in the woods, he grins widely.  "If I'd been a troll, boy, you'd be dead now.  How you've managed to keep your head on your shoulders these eight months, the gods only know."

Tivold laughs.  "Trolls don't want my head," he says.  "I'm too pretty for that.  They'd prefer an ugly old head like yours."  He shows the old man his camp and listens earnestly while Nocis explains all the things he's done wrong.

Over a meal of beans and fatback Nocis says, "You've done well, Tivold.  You haven't died or got killed, and you've survived to the cold season.  I'll return in the spring to see how you're faring.  Or to bury your bones."

The cloying smell of honeysuckle surrounds you as you continue your song to the necklace.  The smell seems to stimulate the image of a patch of bright yellow honeysuckle growing up the side of Tivold's small shelter.  It's now a more solid structure, though still primitive.  The beginning of a small garden grows nearby.

Nocis slinks silently toward the shelter, keeping to the shadows under the trees, a wide grin on his face.  As he nears the structure he is pelted on the head with a pinecone.  Tivold steps forward, grinning, tossing another pinecone lazily to Nocis.  Nocis blinks, catches the pinecone, then erupts in laughter.

Tivold has put on muscle and flesh since the cold season.  His hair is clean and he has shaven recently.  He is wearing some obviously hand-sewn deerskin trousers and a light deerskin coat with a beaver fur collar.  "I see you ain't dead yet," old Nocis says.  "Ain't dead, and thriving by the looks of things.  It might just be that you have a knack for rangering."

Tivold laughs cheerfully.  "If an old man like you can make it," he says, "then a young buck like me shouldn't ought to have much trouble."

Nocis beans him with the pinecone and grins.  "We'll see how you fare come summer," he says, "when the streams dry up and the humidity makes a body crazy and the game is scarce.  Now, have you got anything for an old man to eat?"

You feel the need to continue your song to the necklace as quietly as possible.  As you sing in a whisper, you see the image of old Nocis sneaking slowly toward Tivold's shelter.  There is no smile on his face this time, but a grim look of determination.  As he glides forward an arrow thrills into the tree beside his hand.

Nocis freezes dead still, only turning his head to calmly examine the arrow.  He clears his throat and speaks as calmly as he can.  "Well, it's not a troll arrow...so you must still be alive, Tivold."  Tivold steps out of the shadows, another arrow nocked ready to loose.  "Is this how you greet an old friend?" Nocis asks him.

"Friend?" Tivold says.  "It's said you're friends with the trolls.  Are you here as my old friend or theirs?"  Nocis nods and says, "Being friendly ain't the same as being friends.  I'm friendly with some troll clans.  But not the clan that's after you.  You want to put down that arrow, boil some coffee, and tell me what possessed you to kill the leader of the Gh'klehn clan and dishonor his body?"

The smell of coffee is strangely reassuring as you resume your song.  You find Nocis and Tivold squatting beside a small fire, over which hangs an iron coffee pot. As the coffee boils, Tivold explains he hadn't meant to kill the troll leader.  "I was tracking a moor hound for its pelt, and I guess he was tracking it too.  Suddenly, there he was.  He was as surprised as me.  He attacked me by instinct, and I fought back the same way.  I killed him, sure enough, but were a fair fight.  I didn't dishonor his body, though."

Nocis nods and reaches for the coffee pot.  "You cut off one of his ears?" he asks.  "I did not!" Tivold exclaims.  "Then that's problem," Nocis says.  "You should have cut off one of his ears.  Just one.  Cutting off both ears of a Gh'klehn warrior is bragging, but not cutting off any ears is seen as an insult...as if the vanquished warrior was so inferior that you didn't even bother to take a trophy.  What you ought to have did, Tivold was...."

A jungle troll leaps out of the shadows, swinging a handaxe at Tivold's head!  Nocis rolls out of the way, grabbing for the knife at his belt.  Tivold catches the wrist of the troll, tumbles backwards pulling him along, and ends up sitting on top of the troll!  Tivold bangs the troll's head on the ground with one hand while he draws his knife with the other.  He quickly cuts the troll's throat!

For a long moment the jungle is completely still.  Tivold and, Nocis hold their breath waiting for another rush.  Then a bird begins to trill again, and the jungle noises return.  Tivold and Nocis relax.  "You're lucky they're Gh'klehn trolls," Nocis says, pouring himself another mug of coffee.  "Most troll clans would send ten, fifteen warriors at once.  Gh'klehns will come one at a time."

Tivold, still squatting on the dead troll, looks at Nocis.  "For how long?" he asks.  "How long will they keep coming?"  Nocis hesitates, then says "Until you're dead.  You might want to think about giving up rangering for a while, Tivold."

Tivold looks down at the dead troll, then deliberately removes one of its ears.

You heft the troll-ear necklace as you sing to it.  It's as if you can see ears being added to the wire one by one, slowly, deliberately.  The ears, you notice, are worn around Tivold's neck.  He is squatting on a fallen log, looking at an odd collection of animal bones and bright rocks and seashells arranged in an obviously meaningful pattern...although the meaning escapes you.

Tivold looks more like a hunted animal than a human.  His eyes are alert, but without any spark of humanity.  He is desperately thin...all gristle and bone, not an ounce of fat on him.  His clothes are rags.  As he studies the strange shrine, he suddenly sniffs and raises his head.

"Ate rabbit last night, old man?" Tivold asks.  "I can smell the grease."  Nocis steps out of the woods and squats on the log near...but not too near...the younger man.  "I'd have saved you some if I'd knowed you was alive," Nocis says.  He nods at the shrine.  "There's some say you're dead, on account of this," he says.  "There's others say you'll never die, on account of this.  I s'pect they're both right."

Tivold looks at Nocis like a dog trying to understand human language, as if he's lost the ability to comprehend that many words spoken at one time.  He glances around the woods.  "Nights are getting short again," he says.

Nocis nods.  "I s'pect they are, lad."

Honeysuckle grows wildly on the ruins of the small shelter.  The small garden is overgrown with weeds.  A broken handaxe lays in the center of a small area of tended grass.  An unstrung bow has been firmly thrust into the soil.  Hanging from the bow is a troll-ear necklace.

Nocis stands looking down at the bow.  He reaches down and takes the necklace.