Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Gluttony - The Hunger Trolls

In these days of want and woe, the faerie stories of my youth have an unsettling tendency to become real. As a child, my majka told me of the wildmen of the forests; mostly as a way to make me behave and to eat my vegetables. These creatures, these trolls, were terrible giants who wandered about after dark snatching bad children from their homes and destroying the farms of those who transgressed against the Old Ways. Cut too much wood from the old forest or kill more game than you could eat in a season? Neglect your chores or letters? The trolls would come and teach you a very hard lesson. Adults could laugh at these stories, although they would make the ancient signs to ward off evil as they did so. But to a young man with an active imagination and a guilty conscience, the threat of being carried off to be eaten by trolls was a very real threat. Now I am grown, and there is precious little laughter anywhere in Steppengrad. Baba Yaga is with us again. Blight and famine are everywhere, and trolls step out of the pages of books to devour our livestock and ruin our crops. These are dark times my friend, but some day, if we are lucky, we will see the end of them.

When the witch now known as Baba Yaga came to Steppengrad with her armies, most Gradniki took up arms to defend their precious motherland. There were some, however, who were not interested in resisting, but instead using the invasion as a way to gain power, wealth, and influence. Among these sniveling quislings were a group of powerful Gradniki noblemen. They came to Baba Yaga in the early days of her invasion to make a deal with her, bearing many gifts. They hoped a deal would make them wealthy and powerful beyond their wildest dreams. In exchange for power over all of Steppengrad (with the Witch as supreme leader, of course), they would hand her the country on a silver platter and swear eternal fealty to her. How they thought this would work is anyone's guess. As so often happens when greedy, weak-willed individuals attempt to make a deal with the devil, they were given their wish, but not in the way in which they hoped. Baba Yaga heard their offer, took their gifts, and had them clapped in irons. Using her terrible magics she twisted these traitorous nobles into horrific, dim-witted, slavering beasts who know only hunger. These Hunger Trolls, as the Witch so called them, were then set loose upon the land to devour and destroy.

Hunger Trolls are huge, incredibly strong, and nearly mindless eating machines half again as tall as a man and three times as broad across their stooped shoulders. Their humanoid bodies are covered in thick, shaggy hair and their twisted features are a mockery of the handsome, square-jawed Gradniki from whom they were made. Their arms are long and ape-like, with powerful, long-fingered, spade-shaped hands tipped with nails the color and strength of iron. Deceptively fast, they move in a shambling trot, dragging their hands in the dirt as they go. Perhaps their most noteworthy feature is the massive, tooth-filled mouth that takes up most of the lower half of their face. Their jawbones are extremely mobile and only tenuously held to their skulls, allowing them to open their mouths incredibly wide like a serpent.

As their name suggests, Hunger Trolls exist simply to eat. The magics used in their creation gave them minor regenerative abilities and fast metabolisms that allow them to endure damage and suffering that would kill lesser creatures. They can even regrow severed limbs given enough time and food. To maintain these powers, the creatures must eat constantly. Every waking minute is spent either eating or searching for their next meal. To this end, Hunger Trolls can and do eat nearly anything, from animals and plants to normally inedible substances such as wood, stone, dirt, and metal. The spread of Hunger Trolls throughout Steppengrad is every bit as responsible for the enduring famines and plagues as the magics of Baba Yaga.

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