It was night. This was no surprise since that was when all trolls were awake and Robras Dromed wasn’t stupid enough to try and change this. Robras was not in a good mood. Granted, there were few times when he was in a good mood, but right now he had a good reason not to be. He had failed the blue-blood that controlled his life again and, again, despite all traditions, he had let him live. Robras did not want to die, of course, but this sort of behaviour was expected of blue-bloods. It was clear to him by now that this was not a normal blue-blood. No, Vorron let you live. This would not be so bad if it didn’t also mean that Robras would never be able to get rid of him. Once the Owl had you in his claws, there was no escaping. You would forever be a part of his little army and the battles he picked.
Robras was dealing with this the same way he dealt with everything else: exercising. Or, more specifically, punching things. His punching bags were mostly the corpses of animals he had gotten his hands on that weren’t suited to being eaten. Living on the edge of the forest and the city definitely had some benefits.
As he swung another punch there was a knock on his door. That was odd. Nobody ever visited him and the one that might had just told him he wouldn’t. As such, Robras grabbed his trusty sword, Caledfwlch. He had found it, a long time ago in an event he would rather not think about anymore.
He didn’t have to reach for the door.
“So violent,” a voice said. From inside his hive.
Robras spun around, pointing his sword at the intruder. He immediately found out why the voice had hissed. Egnaro Zotlav. He was lounging on Robras’ couch, not at all bothered by the fact that he was somewhere he really shouldn’t be. He had done this just to look impressive, Robras was sure. That was just the kind of person the Snake was.
“I figured I’d let myself in, since you were taking so long.”
“What do you want?” Robras demanded.
“You can relax, I’m just here to talk.”
“What makes you think I want to talk to the likes of you?” The swordsman had a deep voice for a troll his age, which usually made him intimidating. The intruder just chuckled.
“You see,” he said as he got up. “There is something I’ve been wondering lately and I still don’t have the answer.” Of course this guy would ignore any comment he didn’t like.
The green-blood kept his sword on him, even as he started casually walking around the hive. The reason he didn’t attack was because the intruder was carrying his weapon as well and Robras had first-hand experience with the troll’s skill with a battle staff.
Egnaro didn’t seem bothered by any of this and continued. “Why do you stay with him?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play stupid with me, Robras, I know you’re not a moron. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you weren’t.”
Robras kept his mouth shut. He didn’t exactly have anything he wanted to say to this and he could recognise a provocation when he saw one. The other troll wasn’t bothered by this either.
“What do we have in common? Or, better said, who do we have in common?”
Again, Robras didn’t say anything. The intruder nodded, a grin still on his face.
“Now, what I’ve been wondering is why you stay with him, why you do everything he tells you to do.”
This time he didn’t even look at the one whose hive he was currently in and continued.
“It can’t be ambition, since you’re not stupid enough for it, as I already mentioned. One thing I’ve noticed about you is that you have a special kind of intelligence, namely a lack of stupidity. You know when to keep your head down and your mouth shut and what questions you really shouldn’t ask. It’s a quality many greens lack.”
While all of that was true, Egnaro was also counting on the fact that Robras would be flattered by it. That was a mistake.
“Get to the point.”
Egnaro stopped pacing and looked at the green-blood again, with that god awful grin still on his face.
“Right, so we can rule out ambition,” the Snake said. “Another option is, of course, potential red feelings.”
That was the last straw. This troll was really just annoying him now and it was time to get him of his hive. Robras got ready to yell something, but Egnaro was faster.
“Yeah, that didn’t sound likely to me either,” he mused. “That leaves us with few options. Do you have the answer?”
Robras had an answer. He knew it wasn’t the one the other troll was shooting for, but he wasn’t going to play this by his rules, damnit.
“Loyalty,” he said. Egnaro’s eyes widened with fake interest.
“Ah! Intersting answer, that. You see, loyalty is only mask for an actual motive. After all, you need a reason to be loyal, right? I guess it’s a moot point anyway, since I already know the answer.”
“Do you?” He made sure he sounded as annoyed as he felt.
“Yes!” Egnaro took a step forward, almost impaling himself on Caledfwlch. “Fear.”
Gardea Statum was a greenblood. She was very insistent on this fact, even though a critical examination might just lead someone to a more yellow conclusion. Being a green gave her privileges. She was very attached to these privileges. Being a green also gave her some responsibilities. She did not care much for those. Neither did she really care for the troll that gave her those responsibilities. A long time ago, she wouldn’t even have thought about slacking off, but she had gotten over that now. All of her friends agreed: Vorron was a moron. That joke had spread like a wildfire and she was pretty proud of it. Well, Robras didn’t agree, but Robras was an idiot.
At the moment she was having a conversation with a friend and very much enjoying it. That feeling would not last long.
“Did you know?” She froze, but the voice behind her continued. “You should be careful with what you say about certain individuals.”
Gardea turned, slowly, carefully and saw absolutely nothing. Why exactly did she like leaving her hive dark again?
“They might discover it.”
She bolted for the doorway, but before she reached it a piece of metal flashed before her eyes and embedded itself in the wall.
“Vorron!” she exclaimed in panic. “I’m sorry! I-“
“Quiet.” She snapped her mouth shut and in the following silence she could still hear the knife vibrating.
“Why do you not do what you are told?” He spoke slowly, softly. Calm.
“Please! I didn’t mean-“
“Answer me.” Vorron didn’t yell. Vorron never yelled, but his words carried weight. “Answer honestly. I do not have time for lies.”
She had to find a way out of here. “I-I don’t know-“
“I have given you one task,” the blue-blood continued, “to find the location of his hive. I can understand this task taking time, for he is skilled, but I do expect progress.”
“But, but...” But what? What could she say?
“I will ask you one last time. Why has there been no progress?”
Gardea had no answer. At least, not one she was willing to give at this point. Vorron stepped out of the darkness, another knife in his hand, reflecting the light from her computer. His face was stoic, as always.
“Very well,” he said. “You know I will not kill you, for that would be a waste of resources and you are still useful to me. I would keep it that way, if I were you.”
And that was the thing about Vorron. He didn’t see you as a living being. He saw you as a resource to be discarded once it no longer served a purpose.
“Yes!” Gardea said desperately. “Yes, I will!”
“Good.” He walked past her, snatched the knife out of the wall wand left.
Finally, after waiting for five minutes, she sighed in relief. She had to tell the others.
“How about I spill some of that blood of yours and we’ll see who’s scared here?” Robras yelled. “Find out what colour it is!”
Egnaro laughed. It was the laugh of a troll this close to going crazy. The laugh of a troll who willingly stood right in front of the sharp end of a sword.
“No doubt you’ve placed bets on the actual colour. What’s yours?” He still took a step back, though.
“Mine?” Robras grinned. “Maroon.”
“Wouldn’t that be amusing?” Egnaro mused.
“You didn’t deny it,” the green-blood noted.
“I’m not maroon-blooded,” the intruder said dryly.
“Of course you say that no-“ Robras’ mouth snapped shut as he realised the mistake he just made.
Egnaro’s grin widened. “Yes. I could’ve said it right at the start and it wouldn’t have made a difference.” He started pacing through the hive again. “But, since you corrected yourself we’ll let this one slide.”
Goddamnit. Now he had pretty much put himself in a losing position. He snarled something unintelligible in frustration which only made the other troll laugh again.
“Anyway, this has been an interesting conversation, Robras, let’s do it again someday.”
“And you want this to stay between us?” His tone of voice indicated that this wasn’t going to happen anyway.
“Hell no.” That was a surprise. “I haven’t said anything I don’t want him to find out, so by all means, go right ahead.”
Egnaro made his way to the exit theatrically, not turning his back to the green-blood, even for a second. “Also, if you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did, you should unblock me on Trollian. Just think about it.”
And then he was gone.
Robras threw Caledfwlch into one of the humps of flesh and screamed louded than he ever had. That insufferable prick! Did he black-flirt with everyone? Had that even been black-flirting? Whatever it was, the smug bastard hadn’t been right. Sometimes loyalty was the motivation.
There were also a couple of things the Snake had missed. He probably hadn’t realised what Caledfwlch was and he definitely hadn’t noticed the fact that there was no lusus nearby. Sometimes loyalty was all you needed.
Robras punched another dead animal. It came loose from the ceiling, crashed into a wall and finally fell on the floor with a dull thud. Sometimes, he was just pissed.