Copyright © 2002-2017 by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: Decemberrd, 2017]
¶I. Along the path to the Oracle all was peaceful, the sort of peaceful left in the afternoon wake of a midday storm. A calm filled the air, haunting whatsoever it stilled. And the manner of its stilling was such to shake asunder the heart of whosoever should be so foolhardy to brave it. This was the sort of calm that could befit only the withered limbs that under moonlight shaded abandoned barrows -- if only so clearly seen. For the mountain Ævalwark was no barrow, and the sky above them sported no darkness or moon, and the trees that around them grew were not withered; yet the Reaper’s breath was just as much upon them.
¶II. After a time and the Sun yet unrisen from below the trees, the Nymphs had come unto a small mountain gorge; a deep ravine by tree-shades darkled and spanned by an old rope bridge. This the Nymphs approached and readied to pass.
¶III. Then from the ravine there leapt a creature, a blur that as an arrow from a bow shot from the darkness neath the trees, through the air above the Nymphs and landed on its all fours abaft them. And the Nymphs spun to begaze the creature as it reared upon its hindlegs.
¶IV. This beast: she mainly resembled something the cross of a Nymph and a beautiful Human woman, but there were clear differences. Her eyes were as rubies; her hair was the color of chestnut; her upper back, forearms, shins, calves, and the back of her neck were all covered in thick, light brown fur; her ears were long and pointed; and her fingers and toes ended in the wickedest of black claws. This thing that stood before them, clad in its leather thongs, was a Drollwife.
¶V. And the creature, though in most ways exceedingly beautiful, turned her face skyward and let out the most hideous of howls, and bore her sharp fangs as she did.
¶VI. Asudden the Nymphs heard a soft thud from behind them, and they turned again to see another creature standing now between them and the rope bridge. And this second creature was in many features like the Drollwife, excepting that she lacked all hair, had skin that was such a dark yellow-grey that it was almost black, possessed eyes that were the brightest of yellow, had a small flat nose, and was no less than four cubits in height. This creature was a Trullmaid.
¶VII. “Come to steal our gold, have ye?” said the Drollwife.
¶VIII. “Gold?” asked Amber.
¶IX. “All Orcs hoard gold,” said the Trullmaid.
¶X. “Well, that isn’t exactly true,” spake the Drollwife. “Our men will hoard almost anything shiny, but we Sheorcs have far more sophisticated tastes.”
¶XI. “I’m sure,” said Amber. “We care not of your gold or any other possession. We only wish to cross the ravine. We are on our way to see the Oracle.”
¶XII. “Well, that’s very different then, isn’t it?” said the Trullmaid.
¶XIII. “How’s about we play a game?” said the Drollwife.
¶XIV. “Yes, a game!” cheered the Trullmaid.
¶XV. “We han’t time for games,” pleaded Serenity.
¶XVI. “Ye have no choice if ye wish to cross the bridge,” said the Drollwife.
¶XVII. “What sort of ‘game’ would we nineteen Nymphs play with you Sheorcs?” asked Liberty.
¶XVIII. “A very fun game,” said the Trullmaid.
¶XIX. “A riddle game,” added the Drollwife.
¶XX. “We each will ask you three questions...”
¶XXI. “...And if ye answer rightly, ye shall be allowed to cross the bridge.”
¶XXII. “And if we answer wrongly?” asked Ruby.
¶XXIII. “In that case,” said the Trullmaid, bearing her fangs as she smiled hungrily at the Nymphs, “we shall feast upon your entrails.”
¶XXIV. “A fair proposition indeed,” said Amber. “What is your first question?”
¶XXV. And the Drollwife said unto the Nymphs:
“A month unto mortals is but a day unto me.
“In the night do I cast light so that creatures may see.
“One week I am virgin, next mother, then crone.
“And one sennight I’m gone and leave ye alone.
“Who am I?”
¶XXVI. “Thou art the Moon,” replied Faith.
¶XXVII. “What is the next question?” asked Amber.
¶XXVIII. And then the Trullmaid said unto the Nymphs:
“It is I that teacheth wisdom unto the elder beings,
“and I also that am bane unto lesser mortal things.
“ ’Tis by my power all things should unfold;
“ ’tis my scythe that reapeth those things when old.
“Who am I?”
¶XXIX. “Thou art time,” said Ruby.
¶XXX. And so the Drollwife said unto them:
“Such a being am I that spanneth all time,
“that even in summer am I chilled by rime.
“My roots grow deeper than yet the tallest tree,
“and my face sitteth so high the whole world can see.
“Who am I?”
¶XXXI. “Thou art a mountain,” said Crystal.
¶XXXII. And the Trullmaid said:
“My legions are many, infesting the earth.
“I destroy all I see, and I do it in mirth.
“I cut down the tree, and flatten the hill,
“and boast all about the Orcs that I kill.
“Who am I?”
¶XXXIII. “Thou art a Human,” said Catseye. “That one was far too easy.”
¶XXXIV. The Drollwife then said unto them:
“Westward-forth and eastward-fro,
“I dry the rain and melt the snow.
“I cross the heavens on gilded wing,
“and unto the mountains I every day sing.
“Who am I?”
¶XXXV. “Thou art the Sun,” replied Onyx, in boredom sighing.
¶XXXVI. “If ye are going to riddle us our right to cross,” said Silver, “ye should at the very least make your riddles a bit of a challenge.”
¶XXXVII. And the Trullmaid smiled wickedly, and she said unto the Nymphs:
“Spy me near the trickling sound,
“for in that place shall I be found.
“I am babbling sounds and waters fresh --
“ ’twas these two Sheorcs, who tore my flesh.
“Who am I?”
¶XXXVIII. As the Trullmaid’s words fell upon the Nymphs’ ears, all were shaken. In both fear and anger were they taken. And by those words their hearts were slain.
¶XXXIX. In her rage Fervidness blew upon her torch, and a great blaze rushed at the Trullmaid. The Trullmaid was cast back upon the roped bridge, and the bridge was consumed by the Lampad’s fire as the Sheorc screamed from within the flames.
¶XL. The Drollwife then leapt at the Nymphs, and with her arms outstretched before her she bore her claws at them, and burst into them with all the fury an Orc could summon.