|I've always been fascinated by the flavor text here. I mean, sure, it's a troll, but it's one that's willing to share his food with a stranger. Too bad that food is what it is...|
I had trekked far into the moors and wetlands when I smelled the cooking on the breeze. Despite myself, my mouth watered at the savory aroma mingled with the smoke from the cooking fire. I had been traveling for days, and my own rations had run low. Had I not known better, I would happily share the food regardless of the monstrosity of the one who prepared it.
I followed the scent through the damp late-autumn hills. As I passed by a still-unfrozen pond, I gazed in to catch my reflection and nodded with satisfaction. I looked suitably ragged: muddy, starveling thin, and clothed in rags too thin and worn for the lateness of the year. Truly, I was none of these things—the cold is nothing to a planeswalker, and despite my dwindling supplies I was still well-enough fed. But the seeming was important, and I wanted to make the right impression.
The fire flickered in to sight through the scrub and Sedge as I came upon a faint path that ran along a steep hillside. As I drew nearer, I saw that it burned in front of a great hole delved into the earth. A cookpot, old and battered, hung above the fire—the source of the smell. And nearby crouched its owner, my potential host—the largest Troll I’d ever seen.
She was clad much the same as I was: trolls, apparently, don’t feel the cold either. But where my seeming was thin and sickly, there was no doubt about her health. She may have been gangly, but her wiry muscles looked strong and rock-hard and ready to spring at the slightest provocation. Lank black hair hung in front of her face, parting like a waterfall as it fell past her long crooked nose. And though I could not tell their color in the shadows of her hair, her eyes shone with a suspicious light as she watched me approach.
“Please, please…” I coughed, “I am cold and I am lost. Please, let me sit by your fire.” Only a fool or a truly desperate traveler would come to a troll’s fire, or so I had thought until recently. But I had since learned that despite their brutal nature, they have a code of hospitality to neither attack nor turn away those truly in need. Her suspicious look faded into speculation and she relaxed. After a long moment of consideration, she grunted an affirmation and moved aside to let me get close to the fire. She must have thought me to be truly in need and worthy of her protection. Maybe she thought, too, that I looked too scrawny to make a good meal.
I took my place by the warmth of the cookfire and made a show of warming my hands for as long as I thought reasonable. “Thank you,” I said. “I was afraid that I was lost for good, that I’d freeze to death out here or starve before I found my way home.”
“This is not a good place for your kind,” she replied over her shoulder, her words grudging and bitten off. She’d gone to the mouth of her den to dig for something. Eventually, she returned to the fire with two crude bowls of poorly-fired clay. She dipped one into the stew bubbling in her cookpot and offered it to me. The smell was intoxicatingly delicious, smelling of wild onions and hearty roots and something like seasoned pork, all cooked together until the scents blended into a greater sum than the parts. “Why do you come here?”
I shook my head and waved away the delicious-smelling soup. “I must have lost the path,” I lied. “I am but a traveler bound to Hammerheim, in the mountains beyond these moors. It’s been days since I left the road. I didn’t realize it until too late, but the road is faint here and in the fog and the rain I lost my way.” I pulled some dried meat from my satchel as I talked, and offered it to her. “For your pot. The warmth of the fire is welcome enough, and if I cannot repay you for your trouble I can at least try.”
She took the meat and dropped it into the stew, apparently having forgiven my refusal of her soup and my weak excuse for my presence. I tried not to notice the shape of the bones that were already in the cauldron. She took the bowl for herself, and as she ate we talked. Though she was not educated—whoever has heard of a troll that is?—her keen questions kept me on my toes. I suspect that she was looking for a sign that I did not need her hospitality after all. If not for her people’s custom, she would likely have put me in the cookpot alongside the unfortunate person she was trying to serve to me. And if I gave her any reason to break that custom, I’m sure she would try to put me there anyway.
We talked long into the night, her trying to catch me in a lie that would send me to the cauldron and me asking her about her people—later on, I would craft what I learned into a summoning. Finally as the dawn approached, her weariness overcame her hunger. With a great fang-bearing yawn she retreated to her den. She offered me a place to sleep in it next to her, but I declined. I felt safe that her hospitality would see me through my sleep, but I did not want to risk her when we woke—presumably, she’d consider me warm and rested enough to no longer need her protection and thus fair game for her cookpot. I rested an hour or so, until the sun had risen above the trees, before I left her behind. And though I never saw her again, I have never forgotten her odd and dangerous sort of kindness towards me.
|While I'm not a fan of Modern Magic, I do appreciate that the Time Spiral block had so many callbacks to Old School cards. Hedge Troll is my favorite one of these.|
The Sedge Trolls are far from the only culture who practice a form of sacred hospitality, though most others don’t eat those who don’t qualify for their protection. To some extent, hospitality between guests and hosts is required by all cultures. The more extreme concept of offering shelter and food to those in need, regardless of who they are, is particularly common to those cultures who live in difficult environments—deserts and arctic areas, for instance. As one never knows when he or she may need the hospitality of even a bitter foe in the face of nature’s wrath, so too does one offer the same to friend and foe alike.
These expectations of hospitality are enforced not only by the potential of needing hospitality in turn, but by punishments to those who break them. Denying hospitality was, at the very least, a good way to have hospitality denied in return. Many cultures levy greater penalties to those who break hospitality, up to and including death.
The Way of the Troll and the Disk
Sedge Trolls are particularly effective allies for a mage to have in a sorcerous duel. Their regenerative abilities makes them difficult to kill, which is always useful against the likes of red mages or others that rely on spells to directly damage their foes. It is also particularly useful to mages who can kill all allies in battle, their own as well as those of their foes. Unlike most such allies—those likely to be in the employ of a rival mage—the Trolls can survive overkills wrought by the likes of the Nevinyrral’s Disk.
|The combo at the heart of many a deck.|
|My own take on Troll Disco. I found this version to be too slow to be effective. Sure, the Rukh Eggs and Guardian Beasts are cool in theory, but are too costly to reliably bring into play.|
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