Of the Bloodthirsty and the Tearful
Walking, or more accurately, limping, through Alternia’s various streets and landscapes has given you a cascade of trauma, both physical and emotional, but it has also given you quite a varied group of companions. Ranging from the harmless and benevolent, to the dangerous and malicious. You’ve healed your wounds, taken in the culture, and made what one may call a name for yourself. You’ve rescued, consoled, and aided quite a lot of people, who you now call your friends. Some know each other, some love each other, some hate each other, both in that romantic way and not. You want to become their uniting force.
To accomplish your goal, in between your hunts for companionship, you try your best to hold get togethers at your dilapidated tower. Allow everyone to mingle, and create a large interconnected web of friendship. That would be, if you were to ever get them all together. You’re lucky to get three people who already know each other to come, let alone large groups of trolls who are mostly complete strangers to each other. As your friend group grows, this becomes more and more of a Herculean challenge.
Recently, something has been concerning you about the attendance record of your little parties. Specifically, that one person has never been to even one of your get togethers. You send the invite, they accept, and they never arrive. No matter who attends, they never show up. Yet, when you’re alone, they visit so frequently you felt the need to have an extra makeshift bed just for them. The reason why they act this way alludes you.
You stand in front of your friend’s Hive, new keys to your stolen scuttlebuggy in one hand, with the other anxiously reaching out to the door. “Ugh...Come on, knock already. This wouldn’t be so damn weird if you just came over to her place at least one. More. Time...” you murmer to yourself. “Knock already…” After a moment of hesitation, you give three weak knocks. Your hand goes limp as you await a response. You hear a clunk and something hit the ground, and a moment later, the door slowly cracks open. Through the barely opened door, you see a tired looking eye glaring at you, and below it, another eye, doing the same.
The door swings open as the troll girl pulls you close.You notice the out of place baggy sweater over her usual outfit. “iii-iii wasn’t expectiiing you...you never told me you were comiiing! why didn’t you call? you do stiiill have your palmhusk, don’t you?” She sounds annoyed, but also worried. You pull out your phone and shake it slightly. “Ardata, I did call. You never picked up.” She groans and plunges a hand into her pocket. A look of surprise takes over her face as she rushes back inside.
You walk into Ardata’s hive and close the door behind you. You need a moment to take in the mess. There’s stains lining the wall, plates and glasses create towers on the table and sink, and dirty laundry is pushed into a pile in the corner of the kitchen.“You lost the palmhusk?” You ask softly. “of course iii diiidn’t lose iiit! what do you take me for? a dumbass?” Ardata accuses, digging through the pile of clothes. Her snapping at you like that wasn’t uncommon, but it still stung nonetheless.
Seeing your dejected face, the annoyance in her expression subsides. “sorry for yelliiing liiike that. iii’m kiiind of wound up today.” Ardata admits, continuing to sift through her pile. Before you can respond however, she shouts “ah, here iiit iiis!” She holds up the phone triumphantly, as she checks the notifications. From over her shoulder, you see the missed calls, right there. It still confuses you as to how you learned the troll's written language in the span of just over a month. “so...iii diiid miiiss your calls. when you’re as busy wiiith your populariiity as me, keepiiing track of all your thiiings gets diiifiiicult.” She laughs, in that dramatic, rehearsed way which creates a knot in your stomach. A worried look from you stops her forced chortle.
“sorry. iiit’s a mess here, so iiit’s easy to lose thiiings...” she says, with a tone of embarrassment and dejection.”...so, why are you here? usually iii visit you.” Rubbing your arm, you explain “Well, I came cause I noticed that you n-“ in the middle of your sentence, a couple of beeps go off from Ardata’s phone. She checks it, and her face scrunches up in frustration. “iiit’s that tiiime agaiiin…” she says, taking off her sweater as her lusus scuttles into the room from the basement.
Ardata walks over to a drawer, and pulls out what looks like a camera attached to some straps. The vile tick hisses as she attaches the camera to its bulbous behind. “shiiit, iii forgot. hiiide, iii can’t riiisk you gettiiing caught by the camera!” Ardata explains. Not really thinking, you quickly dive into the pile of clothes, covering yourself. As your nose gets assaulted by the stench of all the unwashed clothes, you remember Ardata explaining this to you. She decided to stop capturing and torturing trolls, and instead opted to stick a camera on her lusus and send it out to hunt on it’s own. Though it was less tortuous, and not as many trolls died, she advertised it as the “thriiill of the hunt” and her audience bought it. Her popularity actually rose a bit because of it.
“iiit’s that tiiime agaiiin, my viiiewers! For two hours, my bloodthiiirsty lusus wiiill hunt for trolls!” Ardata exclaims into the camera, letting out a pompous laugh. “let’s see how many tasty snacks she briiings back thiiis tiiiime!” She opens the door, and before she can even say “go”, the tick scuttles out as fast as it can. Right before she closes the door, the lusus looks back into the hive, directly at you, and lets out a series of aggressive hisses and clicks. As soon as the door shuts, Ardata lets out a long, frustrated groan. With her back against the door, she slumps to the ground. “iii hate thiiis!” You climb out of the pile of dirty laundry, and sit down next to her.
“thiiis iiisn’t even any better. iii’m stiiill responsiiible for the deaths of some poor random lowbloods. but now iiinstead of beiiing locked away iiin my hiiive to be tortured, they’re just miiinding theiiir own buiiisiiiness, and turniiing the corner to a bloodsuckiiing asshole pouncing on them.” As Ardata rants, wiping the makeup off her face, you try to think of what to say. While it’s true that Ardata is enabling deaths, she’s no longer directly harming them. Plus, she’s doing it out of self preservation, and actually wants to stop. Finally, you settle on what to say. “It’s just the start. Who knows? If you’ll allow me to be hopeful, maybe at some point, you can be helping, and healing trolls instead of hurting them.” You pat her on the back, as blue tears swell up from her eyes. “that’s some powerful wiiishful thiiinkiiing. but...iii liiike the thought of that.” She responds. Ardata smiles, ever so slightly. You stare as a tear rolls past her cheek, and drips off of her chin. Neither of you move. You both just sit there, leaning against both the door, and each other.
You follow another tear down, and see it hit Ardata’s hand, which is still scarred from the injury she made with the fork. Though that was the only time you’ve seen her harm herself, you know she’s done it before, and since. You’ve noticed the scars on her arms and neck that she tries to hide under her clothes. Anytime you attempt to bring it up, she says she isn’t ready to talk about that, or she tries to change the subject. You worry about her, but you also need to respect her, and wait until she’s ready to talk to you.
Your focus on Ardata’s scars is interrupted by her leaning onto you completely, with her head lazily resting on your right shoulder. Her left horn behind your head, and the right horn in front. She cries more onto your shoulder, taking tiny, erratic breaths. You pet her head, and attempt to soothe her. Her breathing steadies slightly, but the tears continue streaming down her face. “tha-thank you…” Ardata says suddenly, still a bit short on breath. “y-you’re so good to me. iii can see why you have a lot of friiiends...but...iii feel...iii feel...confliiicted…” before she can elaborate, Ardata trails into complete silence, the only sounds coming from her being her breathing and occasional sniffling. “...You're tired too, huh?” You whisper out, letting a soft smile form as you stare at the sleeping girl. The last thing you feel is your chin brushing against Ardata’s hair before you pass out.