Interlude from the "Fire Tribe" campaign. My Vingan PC is recovering from an encounter with some hungry army ants, another PC has been explaining the Anaxial's Roster theory of ants in hell, and someone said they'd understand the genealogy we were constructing a lot better if it was in story format. So here it is: current family and old history.

Feren, Sarissa's youngest, has been listening with eyes wide in fascinated horror. "Were your ants great big ones, Auntie Garnatha?"

"No, it's all right. Just ordinary little ones, but a lot of them and with a nastier bite."

"Aww..." The child seems almost disappointed. "But they et your legs all up?"

"No, you know that. They're still right there, look. The ants just nibbled a few bits off, and then your mum fixed them."

"Cor." Feren is still impressed, in a ghoulish sort of way. "Bet that really hurt. Like when that bee stung me."

"A bit like that, yes, and you shouldn't have been trying to get the honey on your own."

"Does it hurt if I sit on it?"

She grabs him before he tries the experiment, pulls him to sit next to her. "Probably, but let's not find out, shall we?"

"Oh." He settles down, happy to have won prize position in the childrens' on-going competition for attention. "That was a good story about the big ants. Tell me another story?"

"Oh, all right. What about?"

"'Bout monsters!"

"Monsters with big teef!" adds his friend Iskalli, plopping down in Attention Spot 2 on her other side. "Look, I've got a toof. It wobbles." He demonstrates this.

"A story about big monsters with teeth that aren't wobbly at all. How about Scathach and the trolls?"

"Yeah! An' the teef."

"Sit down, then. Once upon a time there was a girl called Scathach Runs-Faster who had two older sisters, Halda Peaceweaver and Janara Hears-all."

"Like Garaystara? She's a pest."

"No, not like Garaystara. These were nice older sisters, and she loved them lots, and there'll be no story if you keep interrupting. Both her sisters were married, and had lots of beautiful children who didn't pull people's hair, and stop that!

"There was a war going on at the time, so all the men were away fighting the Lunars.

"One night trolls came to Halda's stead. A big troll with big sharp teeth, and lots of little trollkin with little sharp teeth."

"Little like me?"

"Yes, little like you, but their teeth didn't wobble, they were sharp and very pointed, and their eyes gleamed in the dark and their stomachs growled because they were always hungry. The big troll said that her cousin had killed his cousin, so they were going to kill her and eat her all up. All the children were very scared when they heard that, so Halda threw her best peace blanket over the troll to make it stop. But blankets don't work on trolls and he just ate it all up, mouthful by mouthful, and then he reached out and grabbed her. And the big troll ate Halda, and each of the little trollkin ate one of the children."

"Ooh!" Feren shivers in fascinated horror. "Then what?"

"The next night, the trolls came to Janara's stead. She heard them coming, and she told the children to run and hide. One of them hid on the roof, and one hid in the woodstack, and one hid in the outhouse."


"Yes, but he thought it was better than being eaten. Trouble is, it didn't work. Trolls have big noses for sniffing with, and big ears for hearing with, even better than Janara's. They heard footsteps on the roof, they smelt the child in the woodstack, and they heard splashing in the outhouse. And the big troll said to Janara, 'your cousin killed my cousin, so I'm going to kill you and all your children, and eat you all up.' And he ate Janara, and each of the little trollkin ate one of the children. But Janara had one more child than Halda, so there was one left over. One little boy with a wobbly tooth who ran all the way away before he hid, and found Scathach.

"When she heard what had happened to her sisters and their children, Scathach took down her grandfather's javelin from the roof-beams where he had left it, and dyed her hair red. She gave her apron and cooking pots to her mother Yenda to look after, and she went looking for the trolls.

First she found one of the little trollkin. And it looked at her, and it was hungry, so it said that because her cousin had eaten his cousin, it would eat her all up. But it was smaller than her, and she hit it with her grandfather's javelin, and killed it. And then she went back into the woods, and watched the dead trollkin to see what would happen next."

"But it was dead!"

"Yes, I know. But trolls aren't like us, and she knew that. The next trollkin came out of hiding, and it saw the body of its brother. And it was a very hungry trollkin, and it had very sharp teeth, and it didn't know the right way to treat a brother. So it ate him. It crunched his bones and sucked out his marrow. And while it was doing that, Scathach hit it with her grandfather's javelin, and that one died, too.

"The third trollkin saw this, and decided that it wasn't going to try to eat her or anything else, it would rather run away. And it had a giant bee to ride on, so it thought it could get away from Scathach if it flew high enough and fast enough. But Scathach could run faster. And she knew about giant bees from her great-grandmother, and she ran after the bee and waited for it to land in the Vale of Flowers and suck nectar. And when it did, she threw her grandfather's javelin at that trollkin too, and it died.

"Now, the big troll was a lot tougher than the little trollkin. And it had much bigger teeth, and it was a lot smarter. It was very annoyed that Scathach had killed its trollkin. So it crept up on her at night, because trolls can see at night as well as we can in daylight. Even so, it was being careful. It crept to the top of a cliff above Scathach, and it threw a huge rock at her. Scathach heard the rock coming, and dodged to one side just as it landed. Then she looked for the troll, but it was too dark to see it. But she knew it must be somewhere high. So she threw her grandfather's javelin high into the air, and it rode the lightning to the top of the cliff and beyond, lighting up the sky, just like Aren did when the bat-broo came. And the troll screamed, because the light hurt its eyes. Then Scathach could hear it, and she could see it. And she caught the javelin, and threw it again, and it whistled through the air, far above the cliff, and came down again with a great flash and a bang. And it pinned the troll to a tree, and blasted the tree with lightining so that it died. And that was the end of the troll.

Then Scathach went home, and put the javelin back in the roof beams, washed the red out of her hair, and claimed her apron and pots back from her mother. No trolls ever came near their stead again. When the men came back from the war, they had heard how she had dealt with the trolls, and were very impressed. And she could choose whichever husband she wanted. Later on they had a son who she called Garstall. And you know who he was, don't you?

"My granddad!"

"No, my grand-dad. Your great-grand-dad. And there's lots of stories about him, too."

"My daddy went to fight the Lunars, didn't he?"

"Yes, love, he did." So much was not being said there. I came back, and he didn't, and you never knew him, and how your mother forgave me for that I'll never know.

"If the trolls come and eat me and mummy, will you kill them all with your javelin?"

"Wouldn't you rather I stopped them eating you in the first place?"

He considers this. "Yeah. S'pose so. Would that be a story, too?"

"If someone told about it afterwards, then yes. But it's someone else's turn to tell a story now."