(This story is related to the events of ”Leftovers” and ”Workaround”. For other "Stories about Trolls", see the listing.)
'Where did it all go wrong?' The question battered Redpike with each box he moved across his new threshold. The place was more than half the size of the old one, but with nooks and protruding walls that made it feel smaller.
Little more than a year ago, the burly troll had been rising through the ranks. He was one of the lucky few to have stumbled upon a point-ear that had died trying to infiltrate his tunnels. Between himself and his patrol partner, it was he who had kept a steady head on his shoulder and earned General Bludgeon's approval, so it was he who was given access to a larger world. To classified documents, to a secret autopsy, and to a closed-door meeting of the Joint Heads. It was his voice they'd heard detailing the point-ear, his face they saw wedded to the successful defense of the realm.
Where did it all go wrong?
When his name should have been sung out to the Honored Dead, it instead became an epithet. Old scores long settled suddenly came up to bite at his feet. Craftsmen in The House of Provisions turned a bit of boisterous haggling into accusations of shake-downs, which soon enough sullied his name among those of the Tinkerers and Scholars. Base slander which soon had some asking questions about alleged connections to certain unsolved crimes. Misdeeds of which he was completely innocent, a fact which he remanded vigorously to anyone who’d dared question his integrity to his face! Before long, his superiors could not ignore the scandal his presence within the tunnels was causing. Where he should have been promoted, instead he'd been sidelined. To less critical, less public, duties. And now to a matching apartment, one mirroring his abridged status.
The forlorn soldier hefted the package onto a slightly wobbly table and opened the box to take in the look of his leather armor. He had kept it oiled and well cared for, and no commander would deny him his right to go on wearing it. But before long, without access to the proper materials and specialists, it would take on the slapdash appearance of any other set of piecemeal lower-middle-tier gear.
Bladesong, center of his world, entered then carrying a stack of boxes. The sweet scent of her perfume both invigorated and shamed him. They had married young, and for love. He was of the higher-ranking family, but now they had slid back down to the rank of hers. She had not spoken since the billeting orders came down. 'I was supposed to elevate her from this whole area! Now she keeps me afloat.' He couldn't face her. Instead he kept his eyes to the armor.
He felt her hand squeeze his shoulder. "We will endure, dear heart." she said.
He grasped her hand in his own and wept.