Welcome to Fiction Friday, a new feature on our blog where we contribute a new piece of lore to the universe of one of our games. We hope you enjoy it!
Editor’s note: Portions of the following story have been translated from trollese into English for ease of the reader. There is some scholarly debate on the accuracy of the translation, but a growing Daelorian scholarship believes that what outside cultures interpret as a series of simplistic grunts actually belies a rich interior life on the part of many trolls.
Todd the troll, diminutive for his kind but still a fair shot taller than anyone else in the city, screwed up his face and took a deep breath. His journey, one that had taken him all around Daelore in the last couple of years, ended here. He felt light-headed and a little woozy, though given the nature of his quest, that was the rule rather than the exception. Before he steeled his nerves to enter the building in front of him, he thought back to the origin of the task on which he’d found himself.
— — —
Two years and four-and-a-half months ago, the Wiser Golden Troll Ultra, the ceremonial head of all troll brewmasters, shook his head in amusement after Todd blundered into his cave.
“I don’t just take on apprentices, Todd,” the Ultra grunted. “There are brewmasters who have been at this for 20 years who I haven’t had time to meet. We must always be in pursuit of the perfect brew, and the perfect brew leaves little time for mentorship.”
“But Ultra, you don’t understand!” Todd pleaded. “I have a passion for troll brewing that’s unparalleled from here to The Break! I made my first batch of trollager at the age of 5! My first DPA [Ed: Drellen Pale-ale] at age 7! I want to be the next Ultra one day!”
The Ultra raised an eyebrow. “The current Ultra is in perfectly good health, Todd, practically immune to alcohol poisoning at this point. I hope you’re not suggesting you take over my office anytime soon.”
Todd cowered in shame. “No, no, of course not, Ultra! I just… I just want to learn from the best.”
The Ultra turned from Todd and back to his cauldron, stirring silently for a while. For what felt like minutes, there was no sound in the cave but the gurgle of bubbles in the Ultra’s viscous solution. Todd thought he’d been rejected, and he was about to turn and leave when he heard the Ultra’s voice again.
“I’ll give you this, Todd. You did make your way to my cave, on the highest mountain in Shalefist, in the dead of winter. You knocked out my guards – I do hope they’re not dead?”
“No, sir,” Todd mumbled.
“Good, good,” the Ultra replied. “And you barged in on me in the middle of a fortnight brew without an appointment. It shows… maybe not commitment, but a sheer single-mindedness that I find appealing. To achieve the perfect brew, one must care only of the brew.”
Todd nodded eagerly.
The Ultra stumped over to a large boulder that was covered in a strip of leather. He ripped a piece off the strip, picked up a nearby griffin feather from a krelln inkwell, and began scribbling something on the leather. When he was done, he stumped back to Todd and handed him the strip, now emblazoned with a sloppily-scrawled list.
“I’ve just provided you with my list of Daelore’s 40 legendary brews, which can be found in various locations all around the countryside,” he explained. “I want you to travel the land, taste all of the brews, and garner proof of the same. Some of these brews will be hard to find. Some will be hard to stomach. Some barely exist outside of the deranged mind of an old brewmaster. But you must taste them all and come back to me. Then, and only then, will I consider accepting you as my apprentice.”
Todd stood up straight, barked “Yes, Ultra!” and left. His journey would begin that night.
— — —
The road had been hard, especially when Todd, nursing what seemed like a constant stream of hangovers, would get lost the morning after imbibing one of the legendary brews. He had a fuzzy memory of negotiating passage over a “secret bridge” with a shady character at Elder Point only to find himself who knows how long later splashing about in Deadlock Bay. Another time, he ventured too far into The Gauntlet and was bitten in the face by a golem-snake; he’d lumbered through the mountains for two days trying to pry the beast’s rocky fangs out of his forehead.
Almost as perilous were the composition of many of the brews. Some were merely incredibly potent, like Deb’s Usurpilsner or the secret barley wine served at Aleore’s. Others were legitimately dangerous, like the tequilava served out of newly-opened magma fissures in Warspire or the poisonous Champain of the Goblin Queen at Totemcall. But Todd tried them all, at times gritting his teeth, at times clutching his sides, and at times just pleasantly drunk.
His path had crissed-crossed through Daelore. A stolen sip of manticorum in the Poison Marshes. A toe sacrificed for a chance to sip transcendental gin at Ebonhart. The longest stretch of the journey was a months-long delay due to a stubborn kobold hopsmancer who refused to give Todd a tankard of scale ale unless he traveled to The Lost Armory to retrieve an ancient orb. But finally, after two long years, he’d tried them all. All except one.
— — —
It had been hard to sneak into Obendar. Gearlocs are a small race, but they’re alert and surprisingly good fighters who wouldn’t hesitate to strike a killing blow on a troll entering their capital city. Todd had waited until late at night and entered quietly, dressed in a baggy cloak and walking with a hunch in an attempt to (kind of) conceal his size. Now that he’d reached his destination, however, he hoped he’d be among his people: those who understood the sacred bond shared by those appreciating a good brew.
He pulled back his hood, stooped low to clear the doorframe, and walked in.
Upon his entry, the pleasant murmur of the pub patrons immediately ceased. As every eye met his, Todd knew he’d have to explain his presence quickly. His tongue tried to contort its way around some Gearloc language he’d learned specifically for this occasion.
“I com… in peese,” he grunted. “I’m heer fowr… the hwisky.”
The silence continued for a moment. Then, a particularly short Gearloc wearing a cockeyed helmet hopped off one of the barstools, dragging an axe behind him and toward Todd.
Todd’s eyes watered. “This… is the Tipsssy Troll Tahvern,” he slurred in protest. “I’m a tipssy troll! I belahng herr!”
The Gearloc continued his approach, grabbing a large, half-filled glass mug off a table as he passed. Todd could see rage in the little creature’s eyes. A fight was coming if he didn’t act fast.
“Pleese,” he said, clasping his meaty hands together. “Jussst wahn drink.”
What happened next happened so quickly that Todd was unable to process it until after the fact. The approaching Gearloc suddenly burst into a run, clearing the last several steps between him and Todd in a blur. He leapt into the air, and with one hand, he reared back and smashed the mug onto Todd’s forehead, splashing booze all over his face. Temporarily blinded and already groggy, Todd balled his hands into fists and began swinging, hoping to land a blow on his opponent, but he only connected with air. Suddenly, he felt a searing pain in his shoulder – probably a glancing blow from the Gearloc’s axe – and then a boot slammed into his chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him crashing back through the doorway. He landed flat on his back in the street in front of the bar; looking up, he could see a blurry outline of his tormentor shadowed in the glow of the tavern’s light.
“Get out of here before I call the city watch on ya!” the Gearloc shouted. “Or maybe I’ll come down there and finish the job myself!”
Todd pushed himself to his feet, hesitated a moment, and then took off running for the edge of the city. As he ran, his tears began to fall, intermingling with the liquor that still coated his face.
I’ve failed, he thought, barely taking notice of his surroundings as the buildings flew past him. I tasted all of the brews but one, and I failed.
Reaching the walls of Obendar, he quickly exited through a small, unguarded gate and beat a retreat to a small copse of trees. He sat at the base of the largest one and leaned against it, finally allowing his body to loose the wracking sobs he’d held inside since being unceremoniously bounced from the bar.
“My dream!” he wailed. “My dream…”
He cried with abandon, not caring who saw or heard. He lacked the energy to wipe away his tears, letting them streak down his face, into his mouth and down his neck.
And then, after a while, his cries slowed. He licked his lips. He wiped off his face with his hand and licked his hand. The liquid on his face had a fiery taste, with notes of zippy sweetness that suggested a hint of shockberry. Todd licked his lips again, paused for a long while, and then, hesitantly, cracked a smile.
The mug the Gearloc had smashed in his face had been golden hued, but cloudy. That, combined with the taste… it matched up! Todd had been beaned with a mug of worgen whisky, the Tipsy Troll Tavern’s signature drink and the last of the Ultra’s legendary brews.
It didn’t feel real. Slowly, shakily, Todd rose to his feet. He pulled a parchment and quill out of a small satchel at his waist and scrawled a few thoughts on the flavor of the drink so he’d have something to discuss with the Ultra. Then, he turned east and began walking back to Shalefist.
He really was done. It still didn’t feel real, but he hoped one day it would.
Stats: 1 Pt Baddie, 2 Ini, 1 Atk, 3 HP, Melee
Skills: Recover 1, Careless 1