(This story was an entry for Clue #6 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images! It's also a story featuring the trolls. For other "Stories about Trolls", see the listing.)
(Author’s note: With all respect for the original masterpiece, Grimtooth’s Traps, the bane of gamers since 1981)
Candlewick shoved her goggles up higher on her forehead and pushed a wayward lock of white-gold hair over one ear before reverently reaching after the mouse-hide gloves that rested beside the glass display case. She cast a glance back at the door to her mother’s office -- it was still closed, that was only guilt pounding like fast-approaching footsteps in her ears -- then eased on her mother’s too-large gloves. Then she lifted the display case and set it aside, and reached after the book.
The Book. Her heart was hammering like pistons in her chest as she handled the dusty old tome reverently. The cover was leather-bound wood, and the pages were seal parchment, brittle with age.
The young mump had lived her entire life listening to this book being spoken about in hushed, awed voices. Grimtooth had been a master tinkerer -- the Underhaven had never seen such tightly-focused brilliance before him, nor had another risen to his engineering acuity since. He had authored several manuscripts of blueprints for his inventions, but none of them rivaled the book she held now. Although he had spawned many children off of three successive wives, Grimtooth had considered this book his only true offspring.
The names the master trapmaster gave them were deceptively simple. “Folly Flight” was one, involving a stone stairway with a hidden center fulcrum. “Pilum Pacifier” was another, involving stairs, trigger steps with hidden pressure plates, and deploying spears. She gazed in amazement for a time at the subtle Poison Door, and the less-subtle but sharper Razored Door. The Delver Dicer and Malingerer Trap had already proved deadly for one invading point-ear, she knew. Then she turned the page, and found herself puzzling over one simply named “The One That Got Away.”
How would this work? the young mump scowled as she studied the blueprints. The floorplan detailed a particular stretch of underground tunnel, which was bisected by a wide stretch of the Deep-Below freshwater lake. The height of each stalactite hanging from the ceiling was measured, and a false fisherman’s dock was planted on the lakeshore. There was a chair there, with a fisherman’s pole. Beneath the dock, beneath the chair, there was a spring-loaded shaft. She had to turn the book and squint before she realized that the fishing line itself was the triggering mechanism. Once the line was pulled taut, the chair was hurled with deadly force, and and the apogee of the point-ears’ arch of propulsion was an impact with one of the stalactites. The estimated weight of the thrown target was charted on the side of the page and collisions correlated to which of the menacing stone teeth a body would strike. If the flung body somehow miraculously avoided such a slamming blow, they would be propelled into the waiting jaws of a hidden underground reef, studded with barbed hooks to ensure the body either bled to death, or drowned.
Candlewick continued to study “The One Who Got Away.” The brutal use of landscape depended entirely on the invading point-ears submitting to the urge of their curiosity -- the fisher had to be sitting in the seat to be flung and had to handle the fishing pole in order to trigger it. Were the point-ears that susceptible to their curiosity? Candlewick sat back thoughtfully, and tried to imagine what the average troll would do, finding a lonely chair on a lonely dock, with a lonely fishing pole trailing its lines off into the dark, deep water...
“Genius,” the girl murmured to herself, seeing the fickle but relentless logic to it. She could not help but grin, imagining what variations of it she might design around the household -- non-lethal tests, of course, but tests of the theory just the same. Then her own curiosity drove her on, to turn the wickedly catastrophic page and see what came next.