Myth of the Month: History of the Race of Trolls (1998)

by Greg Stafford

originally published in Wyrms Footnotes #6. The section entitled “Famous Dark Trolls of the Hero Wars” was subsequently reprinted in Wyrms Footprints.

Table of Contents

The Age of Plenty

In the Godtime there were born many deities, and firstborn of all the races of gods were the deities of darkness, who rose to fight against the emptiness of Chaos, preparing the Void for the Creation.

Among those deities born was one called Kyger Litor, who is called the Mother of Trolls. But even before she created that mortal race she was famous for her deeds in fighting Chaos with her cousin, Zorak Zoran, and in creation, with her cousin Xiola Umbar.

Grandfather Mortal, the first of all humans (and humanoids) was the result of all the deities working together under the tutelage of the Celestial Court. Afterwards this original was copied by others, resulting in the many elementally-oriented beings commonly called the Old Races.

The Dark Trolls were just such an imitation, being the Men of Darkness. They were fashioned by the goddess called Kyger Litor. There are now many types of trolls who know her as Creatrix, but this diversity was not her creation but the result of many mythical and magical battles which have wracked and ruined this once-proud people.

The original trolls were as large as great trolls, as smart as a genius dark troll, and as numerous as trollkin. Their magical abilities were akin to the deities, and they used them wisely to build great cities in their home world. They were common then, but rarer later, and it was later that they were called the Mistress Race. Their name in their Underworld birthplace is a secret.

In their ancestral home the Mistress Race lived during the timeless Godtime, occasionally being called upon to aid in the defense of their world as the War of the Gods grew more and more severe. It was during this time that Grandfather Mortal came to them with great tales and prophecies of woe, and the chilling tale of Death.

The Lesser Darkness

Shortly afterwards the Sun was slain by his rival, and the spirit of that great god followed the path set by Grandfather Mortal, the first creature to ever die. Across the world to the Gates of the West, and then deep into the Underworld went the firegod. He was weak and bleeding, leaving an ember glow across the sky and land where he traveled, but was still a bright and horrible thing when he reached the Lands of the Dead, where Grandfather Mortal was king of the Mistress Race.

The glare of the Sungod and his accompanying host, which quickly grew in numbers and power, overwhelmed the sensitivities of the Mistress Race, which hithertofor had dwelt securely in unbroken blackness. Many were evaporated, most were severely burnt and mutated, but all turned and fled, using secret pathways to reach the surface world.

The death of the Sun and the appearance of the Trolls and other forces of Darkness is called the Lesser Dark of the Great Night. The race which crawled to this world from below suffered the agonies of the alien environment of the world and its gods at war, in addition to the torment caused by the Sun and the loss of their homes. Most of the creatures which survived this at all were changed horribly, and are the ancestors of those creatures which humans know as Cave Trolls.

In the Surface World Kyger Litor fashioned her race anew, to better fit the new place, and to provide armies for her fight against Chaos. This was the origin of the first of the numerous Dark Trolls, who quickly populated the world where they could.

The Greater Darkness

The Greater Darkness began when the Spike, center of the universe and stronghold of the Law of the Cosmos, exploded and sent its pieces rebounding about the worlds. At the center of the world there was, for a moment, nothing but the empty Void, from whence the legions of Chaos began pouring through.

The forms of the Chaos were many, and not important here except to note that evil demonic armies were called Krjalki. I have noted that in many ancient manuscripts this term is also used to (mistakenly) denote the various Forces of Darkness. This is one of those many cases where the mortal victims of the Greater Darkness confused the real enemy of Chaos with those People of Darkness, who were not only allies but bearing the real brunt of the fight against the invading Krjalki, often unsupported or opposed by humans.

The Forces of Darkness were best suited, by experience and natural inclination, to oppose the forces of Chaos. Kyger Litor was a leader in that fight, and her troll armies were the occupying forces for her victories. Wherever she won a great magic against the mutating forces of Chaos the trolls erected great castles built of lead, which emanated a radiating darkness and comfort for those who opposed Chaos.

Dark Trolls in History

There were many fortresses founded by Kyger Litor which survived into Time from the Great Darkness, but only one is of immediate interest. That one is near Dragon Pass, and the nation of trolls about the Castle of Lead is called Dagori Inkarth. It is in the land called Shadows Dance, which gets its name from the presence of the Castle of Lead. It is said that there are too many shadows in those mountains, and that sometimes they do not flee from the light before them. Again, there are strange lights occasionally freed from the Eternal Torch which flare across the sky, making even the most physical darkness flee before it, dancing in frightened rout across the rocky crags.

During the Great Darkness the region of Dragon Pass was blessed by many occurrences which allowed it to survive the horrible times relatively intact. Important among those occurrences is the presence of the Dragons and their kin, and the proximity of a Castle of Lead with a very powerful and aggressive troll population. Just as important was the spirit of co-operation which all of the other local denizens exhibited when the time came to pit their souls against the power of evil.

Thus, when the Dawn came and the Sungod was freed from the underworld (and shackled to Time) the people of Dragon Pass found themselves an island of civilization on a continent of broken peoples, shattered in intellect and consciousness, often bereft of their own active wills by the events of the Darkness and Compromise. They formed the Grand Council, and set out in missionary teams to educate the populations of savages in the lowlands.

A dark troll leader, High Priestess of Xiola Umbar, was a member of the Grand Council at this time, and the race was ruled by seven families of the Mistress Race from Dagori Inkarth. Xiola Umbar was Goddess of Solace Deep Within, who brought comfort and peace from fear, and protection from ignorance and inner darkness. The peace and wisdom of the Dragon Pass Grand Council spread quickly, cities were built, and worship of the regular pantheon was spread.

In Peloria, near Kostaddi, the Council met its first active opposition, and for the first time the hunters and herdsmen from the uplands met the nomads of the flats. Between them lay the farmers, proud with their fields but helpless before the rivalry between the Foster Brothers, Yelm and Orlanth. Yelm’s Friends were the horse nomads, while Orlanth was friend to the fertile and stormy air, and was one of the chief deities of Dragon Pass.

About the same time as the conflict with the nomads was beginning, the Council also moved its capital from Dragon Pass to the lands of Dorastor. A ruined civilization (including remnants of dwarf work left over from before the Darkness) had been found and resurrected, creating a brilliant leap in civilization through a few generations. A change in locale was accompanied by a change in worship, and in politics. The new leaders worshipped the new gods, and the name of the Grand Council was changed to be the Second Council.

Among the Darkness Deities the cult of Xiola Umbar lost its predominant position. Instead, people loved her brother, Zorak Zoran, called Lord Master of the Legions of Death. Inspired by such a deity the trolls and humans who worshipped the god went to war against the northern nomads, pitting their spells and infantry against the foe’s cavalry and shaman-summoned spirits. The forces of the Second Council won the day at great loss to themselves, but there was victory at Argentium Thri’ile which was so decisive that the Nomads began a withdrawal from the whole Pelorian lowlands. Their departure revealed a thinly populated revealed a region thinly populated by indigenous tribes previously enslaved by the nomads.

The Battle of Argentium Thri’ile was won by the Praxian allies of the Second Council, whose unusual mounts, large numbers, and particularly adept shaman spirit-hunters carried one wing during the first day of battle, and then pursued for a week, slaughtering as they went. This began the longstanding hatred between the horse-riding nomads and the beast-riding ones. It also instituted a period of Praxian overlordship, by certain nobles and families, over regions of Peloria. Even Dara Happa was, for a short time, ruled by outsiders from the Impala tribe, who also worshipped the Sun.

The advance of the Second Council continued, although its growth was sporadic at time, and often encountered active resistance. During this time the trolls were forefront in the fighting, glad to praise their bloodthirsty deity this way, whatever the cost to themselves. And it cost them dear, for their population shrank even at home, and weakened their voice on the Council. Thus they were so weak that they could not prevent the plans which led to the Broken Council.

The Broken Council got its name when the dark trolls and dragonewts both deserted the impending magical rituals of the Council. The dragonewts left because the focus of the ritual was a ‘pseudocosmic egg,’ which they believed to be a dragon egg, too sacred for others to use that way. The trolls left because Kyger Litor, their creatrix and implacable foe of chaos, correctly read a prophecy of the coming of a chaos god from the egg, and would have nothing to do to aid such a venture.

The humans of Dragon Pass presumably followed the decisions of the Elder Races, although this is only a presumption.

There followed a period of warfare between the Broken Council and Dragon Pass. Parts of Peloria fought against the council as well, but early in the long war most foes were conquered or driven far away, and even Dragon Pass fell sometime around the year 420. This was after the peoples were harmed by the great and terrible magic of Dorastor and their new god, called Gbaji.

Gbaji, while still a mewling babe, gave his powers to the Two Curses of the council. One was directed against the dragonewts, but failed when its energies were devoured by dragons. The other was directed against Kyger Litor and the dark trolls, and succeeded.

The Troll’s Curse is in their children, for the proud race began giving birth to runts and weaklings. Fewer and fewer whole and healthy trolls were born, replaced instead by the deformed creatures called trollkin. A great effort at countering the curse resulted in the appearance of trollkin litters rather than single births, but did not heal the horrible wound. Warriors slain could not be replaced, and the powerful army was over half trollkin when it was defeated in battle by the Broken Council around 420. Dagori Inkarth, deep in Shadows Dance, was invaded by the council, but the citadel of the Castle of Lead was never sacked.

Afterwards the trolls were a hidden and outlaw race. The humans and dragonewts of the pass accepted shameful compromise, and served under the lords who worshipped chaos.

The god Gbaji was more active in the West, where his cult spread quickly at first, until its evil was revealed. But even then it took generations to cleanse a region. Nations worshipped the god, and it was a major task to annihilate the cult. This was accomplished by Arkat Humaktsson.

Arkat was a superhero by the end of his mighty tasks. He led a crusade for 75 years by the strength of his might and magic. In this he was aided by his sons, Gerlant Flamesword and Talor the Laughing Warrior, both famous in their own right as well and founders of many noble houses.

Sometime around 440 Arkat Humaktson landed in Esrolia with his professional army of Gbaji-hunters. At the shore he gathered some available allies and, after a short fight, sent the army and allies of the Broken Council into rout.

But Arkat had been wounded previously, and the agony of this latest battle broke the superhero’s wounds again, and his life and Power flowed from him like blood.. Even so, Arkat led his army northward to answer a call from the dark trolls, to aid in their invasion of Dragon Pass. Arkat was near death when the armies met, but summoned a council with the leaders of the land. They came, they thought, to watch him die, and to steal a portion of his soul. The spies of Gbaji went with them, and even the Inhuman King was guarded by these evil assassins rather than his usual bodyguard.

Garazaf Hyloric was a Mistress Race heroine after her healing of Arkat that day, and the Goddess of Solace Deep Within stood guard over those who slew the foes of chaos. The Inhuman King, pragmatic as usual, joined the trolls first, but other leaders also changed sides after their enlightment and experience of the Gbaji cult’s evil.

Shortly afterwards the army of Arkat Humaktson and the Alliance of Dragon Pass marched into Dorastor and the legends of its glorious defense and terrifying fall. This marks the end of the Dawn Ages of the world.

To favor the trolls for their aid in the fight, Arkat Humaktsson gave them lordship over the lands of Esrolia, for the leaders of that land had all been killed in the war. The trolls that ruled there instituted, or continued, the worship of Argan Argar, whose cult both could find agreeable. The region was afterwards called Dark Esrolia, until the Pharaoh came.

The leaders of Dark Esrolia never became friends with the islanders off their shore. When foreigners, a distant race who also revered Arkat Humaktson, came from the sea seeking friends they were repulsed by the islanders, who were jealous of their own ocean ancestors, and did not wish to worship the other seas. Dark Esrolia was glad to befriend the foreigners, and helped conquer the islands. And so, for a time, the dark trolls ruled the isles and peeked into the depths of the sea.

They were allies of the Empire of the Middle Sea, and the trolls of Esrolia became rich and famous for it. They had time for luxury and great magics, and raised their miraculous City of Black Glass, whose appearance was as a shadow rising from the ground, even in harshest sunlight.

The cult of Argan Argar was thrown down by the coming of the Pharaoh, and the trolls retreated to the stygian Troll Woods of the Storm Hills. In Shadows Dance they continued in strength, but had little other than occasional trade to connect them with the Troll Woods nation. Thus they remained for much of the Second Age, except for periodic invasions due to population pressures of rapidly breeding trollkin. They occasionally were victims of some magical plot as well, but captured the souls of heroes who failed.

During the madness of the Third Council the trolls were at the front fighting against Chaos. They braved the worst of the dragon powers and skills wielded by the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. The survivors among the trolls gloried in the final plunder of the decadent Third Council as did other peoples.

When humans turned against their alien allies and began invading Dragon Pass the trolls remained aloof, save for their ever-present trollkin mercenaries, bought only by the dragonewts. Trolls from the Holy Country marched with the Pharaoh’s contingent which aided the dragonewts, and healers saved the wings of a large clutch of dream dragons who were wounded and hiding in Shadows Dance. Thus, when the region was cleansed of humans and cursed to their entry the dark trolls were excluded, and could enter the lands once held by men.

The Inhuman Occupation

Troll migration into Dragon Pass began in strength shortly after the Dragonkill War of 1100. There are no written records of the time, but legends from other races present in the pass give hints. These can be reconstructed to form this chronology.

There were two major bands of trolls, almost nations as we know them. Each included several tribes or troll clans, and worshipped several cults. There were also several minor bands of important warriors or magicians.

Kajak-ab the Braineater was the Mistress Race noblewoman who ruled the nation which migrated from Dagori Inkarth. She worshipped Kyger Litor, who was her grandmother. In legends they are commonly called the Mountain Trolls, because they came from there.

Vamargic Eye-necklace was the leader of the nation from the south. He was a throwback, born a great troll but intelligent, though his parents were both cave trolls. He worshipped Zorak Zoran. His nation were called the Wood Trolls, and among them were many Dark Elves.

Karastrand Halftroll was a leader from the Ivory Plinth. He claimed human ancestry and imperial inheritance over all of the Pass. He was a pawn for the others for a while, then killed. His people were mercenaries after that, but mostly fought against the Aldryami near them. This caused the region to be called the Stinking Forest.

Around 1180 outright war broke out between the troll nations, much to the misery of the other inhabitants of the pass. After the dragonewts assassinated Karastrand both troll nations temporarily allied. By 1220 the pass was divided into trolls versus the rest. They met in battle a few years later, and the numerous trolls took the day. There followed a legendary feast upon the corpses which was the source of many troll eating songs. It was also a tragedy, because a relief army came upon the drunken, reveling trolls the next day and slaughtered them. The victors raised a huge funeral pyre over the mass of corpses, laying them upon the altars of a nearby ruin. Even since then the ruins have smoked, and no one can use their altars unless they intend to call upon the dead from that battle.

Thwarted in one direction, but still pressed by overpopulation, the leaders of Dagori Inkarth sent part of the population southward downwards the extensive ruins of Pavis. In 1240 the trolls, led by Gerak Kag, defeated a Praxian army and entered the ancient city. With great magics the troll leader sealed off the cyclopean walls of Pavis, and kept all outsiders away for over a hundred years.

Sometime during the Inhuman Occupation of Dragon Pass the dark troll later called Cragspider completed her impossible Heroquest and received her apotheosis by and as Arachne Solara. Afterwards she was revered by trolls everywhere, and worshipped. Except when she was weak, at the early stages of the occupation, Cragspider did not take much part in the troll wars on either side, though she occasionally appeared to give minor help to both troll nations, and to non-trolls as well.

As human occupied the Pass the trolls retreated to the mountains, though their trollkin populations irregularly marched down to the valleys to plunder and eat. The Tarsh kings were the first to hire the trollkin, and they soon had regular regiments of trained spearmen permanently employed in the Tarsh army.

After the downfall of Old Tarsh the trollkin regiments, usually led by a core of dark trolls, could be hired by almost anyone. During the occupation of Dragon Pass by the Lunar Empire they most often worked for the Red Moon, who could tend the trolls well in her Dark Phase. Lunar worship was accepted by some trolls at that time.

As the magical energies of the Hero Wars grew tighter and greater the troll leaders in Dagori Inkarth grew more cautious with their resources. Trained mercenaries began teaching troll tribes in the hills, and masters of lore began checking prophecies and investigating long-hidden objects of power. It was clear that the world would be torn again, and the trolls watched for a moment to remake it in their favor.

Famous Dark Trolls of the Hero Wars

A part of the reason for the weakening of the land of Sartar before the Lunar Invasion is due to the troll expansion in the Holy Country under the protection of the Pharaoh. Their expansion was at the expense of the land of Sartar, for that land was founded by a Holy Country nobleman, whose connections in the Holy Country were important to setting up his trade routes. When the leader abandoned the cause of the Pharaoh and set his children to create a national cult, his lands were declared unprotected by the Pharaoh. The trolls cut off the trade route to the south, forcing merchants to use the river or, more simply, go over Grazeland country into the Lunar Empire. Sartar still controlled trade from Prax, but it was far less desirable or needed, and their cities withered.

Once again, the lands of Dragon Pass were invaded by sly bands of dark trolls. But first they set up trade between them, and the kingdom found its roads filled with shuffling convoys of trollkin-guarded and carried goods, officered by troll merchants capable of protecting the sanctity and safety of their goods and route. This trade increased after Boldhome fell in 1602, and the Empire aided it by closing all toll-stations run by Sartar tribes.

Obash Broos-Smasher was a Runelord dark troll from the south, whose spirit ally was an intelligent sylph. He was also of the cult of Argan Argar, and was a troll who did not degrade humans who also worshipped the god. He and his family held the roads to the south, and often raided north into the clans of Sartar, and against Lunar convoys as well.

Xarjarg Vash was from Shadows Dance, and was a Death Lord of Zorak Zoran. He made serious gestures of friendship to humans before Lunar perfidy turned him against all not of his kind. He always hated elves, who called him Tree Chopper. He was noted as a poet among his kind as well.

Jarkanita Ab was High Priestess of Kyger Litor, whom she claimed as a direct ancestor, being of the Mistress Race. She led secret researches to break the curse which made trollkin, and also led a colony into Dragon Pass. She rarely showed herself, preferring to leave most matters to her commanders.

Bina Binag was from the Blue Moon Plateau, and introduced many to that cult. But she herself left the main paths of the Lunar Way after her trip to the Castle of Lead, where she conjured and took for a lover the Dehori spirit Lord Lurker in Shadows. Before she died her lover took her to his home in the underworld.

Pikat Yaraboom was called Lord of the Hand of Death. He was a son of Bina Binag and the Lord Lurker in Shadows. He had a power (small at first, though he trained it quickly) to stun, maim, kill, or rob whoever he laid his left hand on. He was also a terribly powerful shaman, called Hell Lord by his enemies, for he could summon even his father’s servants upon command. He had animal familiars from beyond the world of known man. He hated all elves, dwarves, cults of light and their worshippers, priests, and canines, bestial or lycanthropic. He did have an odd affection for dragonewts and red-headed women.

Neep Troll-Killer was a trollkin of superior qualities, the only of his kind during this period. Such sports, with much higher health, intelligence, and power than usual, occasionally occurred but were generally slain while young, so to prevent trouble when they got older. Neep evidently went unnoticed, and escaped to Dragon Pass where he was befriended by the cult of Geo. He grew up to hate all trolls who misused their weaker kin, and trollkin everywhere often followed him rather than their own tribe. He was known for his skill at making trollbane weapons. He worshiped the god Humakt. He was fond of bright-colored clothes, and had a reputation among humans as being a seducer of dark troll women. He never drank liquor. He liked humans, but disliked elves, whom he thought were a bigoted lot.

Geras Shag was a near-hero at the start of the Hero Wars period, and originally came from Pavis. He was a leader of the Kyger Litor cult, and especially revered his ancestor, the hero who had first conquered the ancient city. He carried a leaden axe, and could summon his ancestor at will. His intentions were to rule all of the Big Rubble, then move onward if he could. He hated all humans, and had bound a spirit inside a giant scorpion. All feared him.

Javis Gan was a bandit chief of Pavis, and a major foe of Geras Shag’s. He was a Death Lord of the Zorak Zoran cult, and a wily enough politician to stay friends with many humans as well, especially if they were of the same cult.

Notes on Troll Breeding Patterns

The very few and rare members of the troll Mistress Race bred true with whatever type of troll they mated, sometimes including spirits. But these survivors from primeval times were rare, and rarely bred. It must be noted that the Mistress Race never bred with trollkin, whom they considered cursed and unclean.

Dark trolls most often bred with each other, but even in these cases the mother would have a litter of trollkin 60% of the time. A year after birthing trollkin the mothers had to remain chaste to purify themselves for another attempt. Slightly over half of dark trolls born were female.

Under magical conditions it was possible for dark trolls to wed the immortal dead who followed Zorak Zoran, and were known as the Warriors of Darkness. These marriages bore great trolls, but were difficult and dangerous to perform. Mistakes in the ritual meant death to the mothers.

Great trolls were all male. They were either sterile or, more likely, bred only trollkin for children.

Most interbreeding between troll types not already mentioned resulted in varying numbers of trollkin. Cave trolls and dark trolls, for instance, sired trollkin.

Trollkin and trollkin also bred trollkin, at a ratio of about half of each gender. Their yearly incubations rarely had more than one young.


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