(For other "Stories about Trolls", see the listing.)
Sixth Bell, First Quarter
While the House of Tactics and Arms boasted by far the highest number of well-trained warriors, it did not have all of them. Though trained by some of the military House’s best instructors in the arts of troll defense, Bookend was a true member of the House of Scholars. His armor bore the colors and insignia of such, and he wore them proudly; back straight, arms and legs locked in rigid readiness next to the door it was his honor and duty to monitor. The door to Special Projects and Studies.
The door Thumbprint, among others, passed on a daily basis. As per usual, she came by way of the Archives. And as per usual she was obliged to lay her lantern and small pack of personal effects out on the table opposite Bookend so another fellow, Candlelight, could check their contents. Thumbprint ‘cleared’ her hand — displaying both sides of them clearly to Candlelight — before taking back her possessions. She wore no jewelry. Candlelight signed her name in his ledger, and she was free to go.
Sixth Bell, Second Quarter
In the reception area, whose tunnels branched out to the main door one end and numerous suites on the other, Geode sat at her duty station. She needed only to see Thumbprint’s writ-of-authority before sending her along with a curt nod. Down one tunnel, still just within earshot, Thumbprint happened across Blotter, on break from his own — classified — activities. The two of them exchanged brief pleasantries, nothing substantial.
Half Past Sixth Bell
Special Projects and Studies' interior tunnels were dotted with a number of secondary checkpoints. Here, the guards were tasked with keeping track of which parts of which project or study were being moved to which, and making sure certain items — such as several in Thumbprint’s suite — never left their assigned areas at all without the proper paperwork.
As there were no security drills scheduled for the shift, old Parchment did not have to bother with asking detailed questions of the high-ranking lady or frisking her. But he had a quota to fill if he wanted to keep his job, so he did have Thumbprint repeat the earlier ritual of revealing the possessions she was bringing along. She complied with her usual courtesy.
Sixth Bell, Fourth Quarter
Within the confines of Trickleclaw’s sanctuary, the attention past and current generations had paid to keeping ‘the insect’ in its place was clear.
Filigreed metal plating covered the ventilation shafts near the low ceiling of the main room, hiding a honeycomb of pencil-thick holes separating the room from open air. The furnishings, from the work desks to the filing cabinets to the supply cabinets, were all carved from stone, and designed to provide wide open spaces or none at all. There wasn’t a single spot in the place, save the air shafts, that a grown troll couldn’t get a hand on or into. The thick, heavy wall bearing the main door had been laid down in one large slab long ago, after the furnishings were finished, entombing the largest items within the place for all time.
Compared to the elaborate measures used to keep the Preserver inside, the one used to keep it out of the cabinets and light fixtures was remarkably simple; thick, heavy rods of wrought iron bent at a right angle and slid in between several loops over a metal plate bolted to the doors. Trickleclaw had proven itself a match for any lock the Tinkerers cared to share, but its tiny limbs and wings couldn’t hope to raise the pins.
The room was rounded, and designed to draw one’s eye toward a wardrobe-sized depression sealed with metal cage doors styled as the air vents. When Thumbprint’s ancestor, Tinderbox, had acquired the duties then associated with the suite, Trickleclaw’s whole world was a pitifully small cage within that niche, atop a table, surrounded by unsorted boxes of artifacts and useless curios. Now it had the whole area, complete with ad-hoc furnishings and a patch of edible mushrooms, all bathed in cool light from blue-green bioluminescent moss it had become quite adept at tending.
As soon as Thumbprint entered the sanctuary, she closed the door and locked it behind her, breathing a sigh of relief. “Nicefriend Dig-dig! Hello-hello!” came the immediate greeting from Trickleclaw. “Trickleclaw happy!”
“I’m glad to see you too, dear one.” She set her things down on the writing desk, next to the bracer. She let that lay; there was no need for the pretense of ‘safety gear’ at the moment. She signed her time of entry in at the ledger. “Any ‘visitors’ while I was away?” She so disliked surprise inspections.
“Nope nope nope! Trickleclaw would say!” it chimed.
The aviary door was itself secured with a wrought iron bar, a particularly stout one. There was a lock to disengage on this one, however, looped into a hole in the bottom of the bar. Thumbprint herself had installed it… to keep other trolls from getting in. Thumbprint did not step across the threshold into the cage once she’d unlocked it. As much as it could be, that was Trickleclaw’s private space, and she preferred to let it invite her inside when it felt like doing so. What she did do was offer a bare finger for Trickleclaw to perch on, which it took to, and she raised it up to meet her face. The drudgery involved in just getting to her little friend always melted away into joy at the sight of it.
Its beaming red mouth peppered her with questions. “What we do? Make spitstuff? Draw prettypics? Play with Jumps-High Dig-Dig? Whatwhatwhat?”
“I don’t have anything planned for today. What would you like to do, hmm?”