The Trolls of Webderland

by Peter Padraic O'Sullivan

Far across the silver-blue reaches of the Sibersilica Sea, on the continent of Innet, lay the tiny country of Webderland.  It was a peaceful country of scholars who spent their days in contemplation and debate over the teachings of the Wise Sage.  While their debates were often heated and passionate, they were almost always good natured.  The people of Webderland respected and valued the right of the individual to come to one's own conclusions about the Wise Sage's teachings.  In fact, the people encouraged the questioning of anything that was commonly held as truth, for they knew that truths were only defined by the people who needed them to be truths.  They lived this way for many years.
     However, that peace was soon shattered.  Hearing of the constant state of discourse that existed in Webderland, trolls began migrating to its tranquil shores.
     Trolls are vicious, spiteful creatures who wreak havoc where ever they go.  Mostly they lurk beneath bridges and leap upon unsuspecting travelers, but occasionally a troll who is braver and of slightly greater intelligence than his brethren, will venture into populated areas and flame the inhabitants.  In fact, these trolls look, talk, and even act like humans. They mingle with society, taking interest in the events, and even participating in them.  However, they eventually tire of civilized intercourse, reveal their true colors and cause much suffering.
     The first troll to come to Webderland was a female of the species who called herself Shasitzka.  She claimed to be seeking the wisdom of the Wise Sage.
     "Please tell me which of the sacred scrolls would be best to take back to my people."  She said, "I myself have read the scroll of Shifting Earth and feel that it would be inappropriate for my people to read.  They are simple and those teachings would only serve to confuse.  I know that there are simpler teachings which are easier for my people to understand and enjoy."
       The citizens of Webderland did their best to offer suggestions.  However, a few citizens were leery.  Padraig, the chronicler, spoke.  "I should not think that simpler scrolls would benefit your people's quest for enlightenment.  You do your people a disservice by judging their capacity for knowledge.  Let them read the scroll of Shifting Earth, and through discussion and contemplation let them create their own path to enlightenment.  The scrolls are but guides in a much greater journey.  To deny your people one of those guides is to lead them astray.  And perhaps, when the teachings have allowed them to grow, they will learn to find their own wisdom."
     "I don't wish for my people to suffer because they fail to understand the teachings.  Don't you see?  They will turn away from them if they find them too difficult."  Shasitzka proclaimed.
     "But there is nothing to understand.  The truth is what they make of it.  The truth is what you make of it.  To deny them the chance to discover their own truths is a crime against them and a crime against honor."  Padraig cried before stalking off.  At once, one of the most congenial citizens, he was also one of the brashest.  So he found that sometimes it was better to leave a debate before passion destroyed reason.
     "Speaking of Shifting Earth."  Ottovian said as Padraig disappeared from view.   "I was wondering about one of the tales held within."  He drew in a breath and spoke his question.
     The question lead to a debate between Shasitzka and several other citizens.  Padraig returned feeling calm after a quiet meditative session with one of the older scrolls.  But his peace was short lived as he found himself propelled into the quickly escalating debate.  The more reasonable the arguments offered by the citizens of Webderland, the more unreasonable Shasitzka became.   And just when it seemed the debate was going to reach a head, Shasitzka revealed her true nature.
     "You foolish sycophants who worship at the feet of your god.   You who squirm and toddle at his words.  You slaver for his blessing and preach his evil sermon.  He who can do no wrong."
     This stunned the citizens.  But only briefly.  "We never claimed that he was a god." said Padraig, his temper starting to get the better of him.  "We only claim that he is wise, and that he can teach us many things.  In fact, the most important lesson he has taught us is that we should never accept everything he or anyone else says.  We must strive to take the knowledge we are given and decide for ourselves how best to use it."
     The other citizens nodded and agreed.  Barnnenian, De Tseri Sman, Pejatora, and Nicolotta, each reiterated this point.  Then Doc, the wise man of the west, spoke up.  "In fact, the whole point of the passage which we have been discussing is that we must take responsibility for our own actions and not wait for some god, or the universe to do so for us.  The universe is neither good, nor evil.  It just is.  This is the truth which we take from this story, but even this truth is subject to questioning."
     "Lies!  Falsehoods.  You cower at his feet and take his word as scripture.  Or else my ideas would not seem so threatening to you."  She screamed.
     "Threatening?  We welcome them.  But we also welcome reasonable debate.  You offer us only attack and insult.  Please, share with us your ideas, but be ready to hear ours as well."
     "No!  You persecute and attack me because I do not bow down to your god.  I do not accept his word as scripture and that is why you hate me."
     "We do not hate you." Pejatora said.
     Unfortunately, the effect Shasitzka wanted was starting to take hold.  The citizens of Webderland were beginning to feel violated.  Their home had been attacked by a creature who wished for nothing but chaotic conflict.  Tempers were flying. She pulled out a sword from her belt and swung at Nicolotta.  Padraig pulled out his own and blocked her swing just inches from Nicolotta's brow.  Shasitzka jumped back, breathing heavily.
     "Stop this violence."  Padraig called, a light of anger flashing into his eyes.  The sun gleamed white off of the steel of his long-sword, Sethmander.  It was only the second time in his twenty-one years that Padraig had ever been forced to draw out Sethmander in combat.
     She leapt at him with a thrust.  He parried and riposted.  She dodged his attack and came in low with a slash to the legs.  He jumped, but not soon enough for she nicked his leg.  She slashed low again.  He parried.  She slashed wildly, trying to inflict whatever damage she could.  Her eyes glowed red with hatred and from her mouth spat fire and venom.  Padraig continued to parry and dodge.  Finally she put her whole weight into a thrust. Padraig parried, twisted around, and was able to knock her to the ground.
     It was then that Wyatar, the Webdermeister, Ruler of Webderland, came.  "Begone foul beast and plague us no more.  I have brought word from the Wise Sage himself."  He held out his hands and a brilliant streak of light shot out from them.  Towering above the people was a glowing, ethereal visage of the Sage.  "Leave this place young lady.  It is your destructive tendencies and arrogant ignorance which destroy everything we have worked hard to create.  My words are merely my words.  They do not reflect upon me or those who read them.  My character may guide those words, but they do not guide the truth.  And right now, the truth is that you are a pain in the backside.  So get the fuck out of here."
     So it was that Shasitzka retreated, chased by a flame of truth.

The citizens of Webderland were able to breathe a sigh of relief.  The danger was gone.  Months passed, and new people journeyed to Webderland, each  gaining citizenship in the country of truth seekers.  The debates continued, but in good spirits.  New ideas and philosophies were introduced.  Nicolotta, who had recently taken to wearing all black, began discussions of music. Others debated current and past philosophies.  More continued discussing the Sage's teachings, even going so far as to juxtapose his works with the philosophies of old.  All was as it should be.
     Then one day, while a few of the citizens were discussing a rather confused lad who wanted enlightenment spelled out for him in a set of easy to follow instructions, a new troll crashed its way into the city.  He shot an arrow into the air and it landed in the middle of a crowd of citizens.  "Ho gentle-folk. I'd like to offer the hypothesis that the Wise Sage is a supercilious fraud whose ideas are hackneyed recitations of greater and wiser men from eras gone by.  His methods of discourse are sloppy and juvenile, and his followers have the collective intelligence of a chopped onion.  Any takers?"  Although his demeanor was that of a troll, his spiked tongue rolled words softly and delicately.   His throat sparkled melodies while his words scratched glass.
     The Keeper looked at the new arrival from underneath his hooded robe.  He smiled to himself and approached the new troll who was demanding a response.  "Perhaps, but have you thought that maybe his imperfections are an indication of his humanity rather than his wisdom.  Ultimately it is up to the Sage to decide how much thought and revision goes into his works.  However, it is his humanity which attracts us to his wisdom.  If that should make us inferior to a chopped onion, then so be it.  We shall then endeavor to study the onion in hopes of learning its secret wisdom as well."
     Suluustra and The Wily One didn't react as well as The Keeper.
     "How dare you."  Suluustra called.  "I didn't come here to have a fetid piece of maggoty troll insult me.  The perfume of your tone doesn't disguise the shit used to fertilize your words."
     "What gives you the right to come crashing into our community, insulting us and those that we hold dear?"  The Wily One said.
     The troll began to laugh.  Quietly at first, his laughter grew louder and more pronounced, until finally it began to fill the city.  Citizens came from all over, leaving their discussions to find out what was happening.  The laughter reached the ears of Padraig, Barnennian, and Wyatar.  They too went to find the source.
     "Why thank you!"  The troll bowed toward The Keeper.  "You have wildly surpassed my expectations.  I believed that to come unto you bearing malicious discourse would illicit a violent response.  You, my friend, have proved otherwise. I bow to your civility."  He then turned to Suluustra.  "As for you.  I look forward to engaging in further battles."  His gaze also landed on The Wily One. "You too, of course. I cannot be harmed by the magic of words, warrior women.  So I enjoy a good battle."  He bowed once more.  "Allow me to introduce my self.  I am Syzygy, for I find myself in opposition."
     Introductions aside, he found himself in the midst of several discussions.  Each time he opened his mouth, his tongue would lash out and strike whomever was present.  His language was cultured, but his words were destructive.  The Wily One fled, unable to take the constant tongue lashings that were inflicted upon her.  The citizens understood and wished her well.  They asked that she return when it was safe to do so.  Suluustra wasn't as quick to flee.  She stood her ground.  Each time the tongue lashed out at her, she made a swipe at it.  Whenever someone called Syzygy on his lashing tongue, he would shrug and say that his tongue lashings weren't meant to harm.  It was simply the way he spoke.
     Wyatar watched the proceedings with interest, but did not involve himself.  Padraig jumped into the fray, but as his injuries from his last troll battle hadn't fully healed, he stayed back a ways.  Doc reverted to childishness to combat the tongue lashings that were being inflicted upon his friends.  De Tseri Sman watched helplessly.  Nicolotta had disappeared, as had Pejatora.
     "Leave troll.  Your lashing tongue has caused nothing but grief within our community.  We come here seeking wisdom, not injury."  Suluustra proclaimed after a particularly quick lash left a welt upon her forearm.  A small applause could be heard from within the citizenry.
     Syzygy took a step back for a second and surveyed the carnage around him.  Those who were still standing were seething with rage.  But within that rage, they had found patience and control.  He held his hand out in front of his face and spoke.  His tongue lashed out and struck his own hand, stinging the rough flesh.  "It appears that I have caused more damage than I thought.  I have perhaps overstayed my welcome.  I will leave, if that is what you wish.  But if you allow me, I would like to lurk beneath the bridge and continue listening to your discussions.  Despite my obviously destructive speeches, you have all proved yourself most admirably."
     The citizens of Webderland reluctantly allowed him to lurk.  If they were to deny him his request they would surely prove themselves hypocritical to their own ideals.
     Syzygy went under the bridge, occasionally speaking up from his place under the wooden planks when a topic caught his ear.  He spoke toward the water, so that only the fish would be lashed. 

Eventually the people of Webderland accepted Syzygy into their ranks.  He learned to curve his tongue so that no innocents got hurt in the ensuing melee.  The Wily One made her way back and was welcomed with open arms.  Nicolotta made occasional contact, but her studies took most of her attention.  Everything was at peace.
     As tempers calmed and the waves of anger settled, a black bird flew into the city.  "The Wise Sage is dead.  The Wise Sage is dead."  It screeched as it flew overhead.  Wyatar shook his head as the people turned toward him.
     "No, do not believe anything the raven says.  For the raven proclaims it as truth." Wyatar proclaimed.
     The people knew that the raven spoke false, but its gossip still sent chills through their hearts.  Wyatar gazed toward the setting sun and watched as the raven flew toward the forest.  It would hide among the trees until it had a new lie to tell, and when the time came, the people would be ready.  Turning away from the sun, Wyatar and the rest of the Webderland citizens continued their discussions.