2012 TREASURE HUNT CLUE #6: I am organized, to the point where others become annoyed with me. I am focused, and don't really get the point of jokes. I am an excellent inventor - and 1st on the Tinkers' Seat. (Answer: Stillpoint)
( For other "Stories about Trolls", see the listing.)
“Another one?” There wasn’t much that roused such enthusiasm from the Tinkerer’s first seat, but Stillpoint’s delight at his gift was as pure and unfeigned as a child’s. “You brought me another one!”
“Aye. The lads know to save ‘m for me, whenever anything odd turns up.” Marl put the basket down on the polished stone worktable, conscious of disturbing the symmetry of the well-organized display of tools, glass jars of alchemical components, beakers, alembics, retorts, and other things he did not recognize or comprehend their purpose. “Every bit of odd rock is saved for me, and I bring ‘m to you, knowing they please you.”
Stillpoint was pleased. She rushed to investigate the basket, her long hair half-falling loose from the hairsticks she wore. “Oh! This one is extraordinary! Is it a bird?” she asked -- rhetorically, he figured. Marl retreated several steps toward the laboratory door, conscious of the mine-dust on his clothing, and of the rough, undyed workcloth he wore. He had some small rank among the nubs and grubs of the mines, but that seniority was naught here, in the fine upper halls of the Underhaven.
“Aye, I think so,” he said, risking the answer, unwilling to slink away again without some payment in kind, now that his latest gift was given. Marl knew his chances at wooing the lovely tinkerer were just so much fool’s gold. She was too far above him in rank, her genius too quicksilver to be sparked by his leaden wit. He had nothing worth offering the likes of her, beyond these odd gifts from the mines. But a grub could still dream, and Stillpoint’s glowing smile when it turned toward him like it did now was tinder that would feed a thousand secret fires. He found himself twisting his cap in both hands, and tried to restrain himself from that anxious movement.
“It really is extraordinary!” Stillpoint said again, holding up the stone for him to see it. He looked again -- patient and able to see it with eyes freshened by her interest. It did look like the skeleton of a little long-necked songbird, squashed flat, and ancient shadow immortalized in a layer of stone. The fine bones were all there, the neck bent backwards, the the wings and tail both extended. There were even the whispery delicate impression of its feathers traced into the rock -- and what looked to Marl like the hind legs of a lizard, although he had never heard of lizards with feathers, or songbirds with lizard-legs. He had known the moment he had first seen this fossil that Stillpoint would treasure it. She would spend hours polishing it to a fine glow, as though it were as valuable as any gem. Marl knew that she had shelves of the things in her quarters -- or so he was told, not having had the privilege to visit there himself. Marl liked to daydream of her sometime inviting him there, to see his contributions to her collection.
“This is very, very fine.” Stillpoint hugged the fossil to her ample breast and beamed at him, showing no hint of the stern taskmistress he knew was so feared by the rest of the Tinkerers and her house. “Please -- tell me,” she said, cradling the stone bird like a child. “What do I owe you for this? You always bring me such fascinating finds, and you never ask for payment. You know I can reimburse you for your efforts.”
The cap in his hands had been wrung like a face-cloth, and he was helpless to stop it. “Nothin’. Maybe someday I’ll have a favor to ask, but for now -- it’s simply my pleasure to be of service, House-Mistress.”
There were footsteps behind him. Marl turned to see another of the tinkerers -- Quickturn, he thought the fellow was -- approaching up the corridor. The nub was giving the miner a suspicious eye, and Marl knew he had overstayed his welcome in this fine hall. He turned back and took a last look at Stillpoint’s radiance, then touched his forehead in a respectful parting and took himself away, leaving the Tinkerer’s First to enjoy his gift at her leisure.