Troll Historical Eras
(Return to the River Twine Holt website.)
(written by Chris T., posted 11/25/2014)
In RTH 585, a committee of noted historians and literary commentators among the House of Scholars was assembled to put an orderly face on troll history. Together, they organized it into five distinct eras. Each with its own ‘flavor,’ its own series of connected events, its own meaning for those who look back upon their past from the present.
The Era of Beginnings (Dates Unknowable)
"… Over the starving ground they roam/ Riding the wind into our home/ Tall as lighting, frostly pale, Speaking words that knead the shale… ” - Last Song Of The Mountains, Songs Of The First Era
The semi-mystical time of trollkind’s ancient existence upon their long-departed Homeworld. From the first trolls emerging from the Cave of Life, through idyllic lives lived in prosperous caverns, to the slow death of that world and the increasing struggle to survive, and finally trollkind’s fateful encounter with the Changing Ones who took trollkind to the stars under false pretenses.
Tales from this period are presented as verse or epic poems, told through song to help a once illiterate people to memorize them. Scholastic debates over whether these tales are genuine accounts of actual events, allegories meant to impart moral lessons, or a mix of the two, continue to this day. These stories are contained within the great book Songs of the First Era.
(In truth, the creatures which were removed from the Homeworld by the High Ones were little more than non-sapient burrowing apes of about one foot in height, whose descendants would go on to evolve into trolls over eons of travel. Their evolution accelerated by constant exposure to the Palace. The Songs of the First Era were in reality set down late in the next era, once they were developed enough to be oral history. A history transformed over time from the High Ones’ recollections to the troll ancestors. Modern trolls are unaware of this, and would likely dismiss any such claims as Conehead propaganda.)
The Era Of Oppression (Dates Unknowable- RTH 0)
”I am but the latest ‘liaison,’ a title that I now see has no bearing. For the Changing Ones hardly ever talk to me. They sit in their circles, listening to tinkly music made with crystalline instruments, playing with their forms, each other’s forms, staring at things I cannot see. Once in a great while, one will motion for some for some refreshment. The Insects are always fast to oblige, carrying to their masters -- our masters? -- the fruits of troll labor.” - Charb, The Account Of Charb, Tome Of The Ancestors
For untold millennia, the Palace traveled through the stars. The Changing Ones controlled the vessel by themselves, directing how it moved and where it landed and for how long. In the long black spaces in between, they communed with the stars, the Palace, and each other. Amusing themselves with trivial displays of power and hedonism. While in the background the trolls toiled, fulfilling the petty needs of these self-indulgent wanderers. Shut out from whatever it was that made sitting around all day meditating so enjoyable.
The Tome of the Ancestors is a collection of accounts of noteworthy trolls who lived during (the later stage of) this time. Events described within are historically organized by the lifetimes of whoever was the troll in charge of the developing society at the time.
As opposed to the Changing Ones -– who were content to while away eternity -– the trolls had a strong work ethic, and a natural drive to be productive. They grew the food, made the clothes, and kept the place tidy. A particular Changing One fancied herself a liaison to the trolls, offering her time and words to chosen representatives of the troll peoples, generations upon generations of them. All the while Suliep, like her false-formed kin, presented herself as a friend and savior. But over time this line of communication was realized to be one-way; trolls were suffered to speak but were not heard. For all their efforts trolls were rewarded no say in where the Palace would go, how long it would stay, nor how long they would be confined to the blindingly bright corridors of glowing crystal. Realization of their true situation -- slavery -- naturally led to resentment of it. Resentment led to a desire to change their lot, and plan making.
This rootless time came to a crashing halt in RTH 0. The Changing Ones, responding to a distress call no troll could hear, assumed a new form -- pale, frail bodies topped with pointed ears -- and made ready to land on a planet to investigate. What they sought, they would not discuss with the troll liaison. This was a final straw for slaves who had long had enough, and decided that this was the last world they should ever be dragged to by masters they would no longer serve. They sabotaged the vessel the only way they could -- by killing the cocooned masters who powered the ship with their dreams, and by physically disrupting the floating circle of navigators. The Palace careened into the side of a great mountain. Most of the Changing Ones panicked and scattered into the surrounding forest. Troll rebels were ready for the ones who remained, using the tools with which they did the work of the Palace as weapons to drive them off or cut them down. Not long after the Palace had been cleansed of its former masters.
The Era of Gold and Crystal (RTH 0 – RTH 150)
"Never before have indigenous marble and star-forged crystal been wedded so eloquently. And never again shall come the like of the artisan who has brought them together in such perfection." -- Author unknown. From a fragmented critique of “Nude Maiden In Starlight”, written after its unveiling by the master sculptor Deeg. The statue is lost and presumed destroyed. This scrap of parchment is the only evidence that it ever existed.)
Ten years of guerrilla war followed. The trolls had the ingenuity, a supply of metal and stone waiting to be carved into, superior numbers, and most importantly something to fight for. The Coneheads had magic, an unbreachable means of non-verbal communication, and stubborn refusal to accept that they would never again set foot in their former home. The stalemate was finally broken when the trolls discovered how to break up the Palace into smaller pieces, removing them underground to be garrisoned in individual fortresses. The strategy being to deny the enemy a chance at a singular victory, to forced them to fight for the Palace one section at a time. The magical powers of the Point-Ears waned practically overnight, though they did not entirely fall away. The balance tipped, the enemy fled. By the end of RTH 10, the last Point-Ear had abandoned the mountain range to take their chances beyond the southern grasslands.
During the rebellion, the six fortresses had operated with various degrees of autonomy. The strategy of splitting the Palace had worked all too well, as fortress found itself needing to compile its own personnel, support structures, and even economies. With the enemy gone, it was time to bring everyone together under one fold. The provisional government of the war solidified into the Assembly, centered deep below the Grandmother, in caverns the rebels had first claimed and were converting into a makeshift capitol. Its membership was made up from elected representatives of the fortresses. The Assembly was an authoritarian body, but mildly so. Often more of an advisory body than a true power, its enforcement power backed by a solidifying military. This was deliberate, for the trolls in general feared the possible outcomes of a strong centralized entity telling everyone what to do. No one wanted all the decisions to be made out of one small cave, lest the leadership become detached and dictatorial as the Changing Ones had been. Unfortunately, this insistence on limited government would prove the downfall of the Troll Nation.
While the military and government struggled to find their way, technology and artistry flourished. The name of this era partly evokes this ‘golden age’ of intellectual and creative achievement. Trolls wore their freedom well, and put it to use building a vast and beautiful civilization which they believed would rival the former Palace in longevity. Palace crystal was chipped further away, for use in jewelry and building projects. A great mining industry rose up, to fuel growth and provide more living space. However, the name of this era also evokes the short-sighted greed which led to disaster for all trollkind. More and more treasures were found as the trolls tunneled deeper and further. More and more trolls became obsessed with holding onto rare metals and gems than with what could be done with them.
The first crack occurred in RTH 147, when the ambitious General Slarrg and his supporters broke their fortress off from the rest of the Troll Nation over a petty dispute with the Assembly. This began a domino-effect of other strongholds breaking off, walling up, and posturing at the others. It ended in RTH 150, when the last remnant of the old order, crippled by isolation, collapsed. General Klant, commander of the forces situated near the Grandmother, reluctantly accepted the title of Warlord of Thunder Ridge. Klant intended his tenure to be a brief one, his title to be given up once his people were reunited. But ultimately, he would lose his life to the ensuing chaos.
The Era of Warlords (RTH 150 - RTH 510)
“The Assembly’s pretense of power is dead. The illusion of peace is dead. Those who wish to survive, follow me. The rest of you, start running.” -- Slarrg The Pitiless, during the First Battle of Shadow Peak
Known at the time as The Conquest. None of the original six Warlords lived to see the midpoint of the era which now bears their name; a six-way civil war that lasted three-and-a-half centuries. During which at least two of the six strongholds -- Bear Skull, Blood Moon, Deepwater, Ice Fang, Shadow Peak, and Thunder Ridge -– were in active conflict at any given time. Troll civilization declined into a dark age as the violence wore on. Infrastructure that could not be fortified or repurposed toward war fell into disrepair. Works of art were ground up to make mortar, or hoarded away in private vaults. The value placed on education of the masses plummeted. Females became nothing more than sex objects, breeders, and serving girls. Males were fodder for the blades of stronger males.
It took an outside force to catalyze a change in this barbaric time. Toward the end of RTH 500, it became evident that Point-Ears had returned to the surface. The Warlords panicked, knowing they could not defend themselves against their rivals and invasion from above. Tightening their leashes only allowed cracks to form in their power bases. Into those cracks filtered a small group of revolutionaries. Via a spies and message runners, and carefully chosen tactical strikes, the revolution claimed a foothold in Deepwater Stronghold, then secured it before moving on through the rest one by one until finally liberating Icefang Cave. The era ends with the death of the last Warlord in RTH 510.
The Era of Underhaven (RTH 510- Present)
”Let it be said forevermore that on this day that we are one people, once more and for all time. And that henceforth, trollkind shall remain ever watchful, never blinded by greed nor fear nor jealousy. So that no threat, external or internal, shall ever again rend our people apart from one another.” -– Cudgel, Declaration Of Underhaven
The revolutionaries had a plan for how they would rule the united realm they named Underhaven well before assuming the seat of power. Upon winning the war, the victors wasted no time in founding the Houses of Tactics and Arms, Provisions, and Tinkers. These “Three Pillars,” themed around the division of labor amongst the defunct revolutionary cells, recruited fresh members from among their freed kinsfolk and began the long task of rebuilding troll society and infrastructure. Within a year, the House of Scholars was founded, by trolls whose interest in rebuilding history took them outside the foci of the other three. Thus were cemented the professional factions of Underhaven as they exist to this day.
The House Leaderships, comprised of each House's earliest members, looked to the Troll Nation of old for inspiration in what to build and how to build it. But they looked with a critical eye, aiming to weed out mistakes. The folly of decentralized government would not be made again. The Conclave which ruled over all was designed to be regimented and strictly authoritarian, but tempered by inter-dependency between Houses and the reins of bureaucracy.
An example of the strength of this body to effect far-sweeping policies was soon seen in the matter of the Point-Ears. The First Conclave decided against taking direct action against the intruders, imposing a policy of isolation, quiet defensive buildup, and covert collection of surface goods. Its members dutifully carried those orders out through their respective House Leaderships. The Conclave, made up of males and females, also set about to working to undo the institutional sexism of the Warlords.
Some changes came about more organically. The victorious rebels made a habit of using their codenames as their public names. That became fashionable among citizens wishing to show their loyalty to the new order, initiating a cultural changeover from syllabic to descriptive names. Arranged marriage, originally a means of preventing inbreeding among the limited gene pool, became customary down the centuries. In lieu of the barbaric practice of passing properties and titles to ones heirs, a tiered system of social ranking became the primary way a grown troll identifies oneself other than House affiliation, as which family one was born to no longer mattered as much as it once had. (In theory at least. It proves somewhat more difficult in practice as those born to high ranking parents have early access to more means of securing oneself a high station in life.)
At the very core of this reborn civilization was the tenet of meritocracy; that one’s place in society would be determined by oneself, by what they could prove they knew how much they could accomplish on behalf of their fellow citizens, and that one would be rewarded by society in measure equal to the rank they have earned. All these various facets that make up life in Underhaven from its early centuries led to a focus on cooperation for the mutual good that which continues flourishing to this day. A point of particular pride for the children of Underhaven’s founders was completing their most outstanding collective works project, The Great Obelisk Clock -- conceived as a centerpiece for Underhaven's 500th anniversary celebrations — four whole years ahead of schedule. A testament to the wisdom of those who forged the Era which flourishes still to this very day.
Information on modern-day trolls can be found here: Trolls of River Twine Holt
(Return to the River Twine Holt website.)