Jim tried to ignore Angor Rot. As long as he wasn’t causing trouble or attacking anyone, he and Blinky decided the assassin could stay with the group headed to New Jersey. That wasn’t to say they trusted him. They didn’t. But having Angor Rot with them was better than the alternative of leaving him back in Arcadia.
Jim was not leaving Toby alone with him.
But that didn’t mean he knew how to interact with Angor either. Up to that final battle with Morgana, they were enemies. And it hadn’t been until the very last moment that Angor had decided to change sides. Between that and the fact Angor had been partially responsible for almost killing his mom that one time, small talk topics didn’t exactly come easily to Jim.
Still, there were occasional situations like this one, where Jim found himself approaching the assassin. Mostly because Blinky had asked, they needed the information, and no one else would make the attempt to get it.
“If you have come to speak, speak.” Angor Rot didn’t look up from what he was doing when Jim stepped out from behind the last tree. With a shower of sparks, his knife chipped away at the stone of his abdomen.
Jim sighed. Ran a hand over one of his horns, which oddly felt soothing. “Look Angor, I know I said you can stay with us, but when you make golems, it makes everyone nervous. They think you’re going to attack.” He paused. “So…can you not?”
Angor Rot’s response was quick. “Their comfort is not my concern, hunter.” More sparks flew. He stomped them out before they set the grass ablaze.
“Trolls are made of living stone. Stone that can be shaped. Molded to one’s will. So long as the troll has a soul. Without a soul, the troll can carve, but nothing will reform. They will continue to hollow out until nothing remains.” Angor’s one golden eye rolled up to gaze at Jim. “I have waited centuries for this opportunity. I will wait no longer.” His eye rolled back down and his knife continued its work.
Jim sat down on a log opposite Angor. “Just so we’re clear, you’re not making golems?”
Angor tossed a sack at Jim. “If it is an army you desire, these will suffice. Think of them as a peace offering if you must. Use them sparingly. I ran out of remains from Gunmar’s fallen army.” He flicked a stray pebble aside. “I no longer use my own living stone for such purposes.”
“I don’t think we’re going to need these.” Jim opened the sack and examined its contents. “But thanks.” he quickly added. Better to be grateful than potentially insult. Then, “If you’re not making golems, what are you doing?”
“As I told you, living stone can be molded to one’s will.”
“Yeah, and you also said that would hollow you out, so why do you it?”
Angor let out a dissatisfied breath which could have been a sigh or a snarl. “You were not listening. A soulless troll will hollow. I have mine back.” He glared at Jim. “If you will not listen, you waste my time.”
“Sorry. My bad.” Jim put up his hands defensively. “But if you’re in control of your soul, why do all this?”
“Do you ask all your allies such questions?”
“No, just you.” Jim tried for a joking tone, but it didn’t go over well considering Angor’s expression. He considered his next words more carefully. “Look, there’s…becoming a troll was my choice, but if there’s a way to change oneself to be a certain way, I’d like to know what that is.”
Angor snorted. “So the hunter wants to mold his living stone?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.” Jim’s claws scraped against his armor as his fingers’ grip around his knees tightened. “I have my reasons.”
“You and I are more alike than you believe then, hunter.” Angor inspected his knife. Ran a finger along its edge to test its sharpness. “I will teach you want you want to know, but, be warned, without a Heartstone to restore your strength, it will be hard.”
Jim leaned forward. “It’s not easy. Got it. So, how do we begin?”
“So eager.” Angor mused. “But understandable.” He leaned back. “One does not merely change themselves in one move. One does not cut to mold, but guides. Living stone is not to be trifled with.” He pointed to a small plant growing next to the log. “That plant. Left unwatched, it will grow how it desires, but tended over time and with caution, it will grow in the way you see fit. The same is true for living stone. Transition is possible, but it will take time.”
Jim’s eyes widened. “You know exactly what I want to do?”
“Before Gunmar’s war, the original one that ravaged the world, trollkind had a method for transitioning gender. I would have undergone it myself had it not been for the war and the witch’s magic, but I remember it. I have waited for the opportunity for centuries. I will not withhold the same opportunity from you, hunter.”