Agent Hilch works for the Magical Species Bureau (MSB). His work ranges from protecting such species to extermination jobs of the same. This case is about to take on a new course, though. What should have been a simple interrogation and extermination job turns into a complex plot that goes all the way up the food chain.
This was reading weather. No doubt about it. A nice glass of scotch, and a good book. All while relaxing by the fireplace. That’s how I’d prefer to be spending this evening. But no. Some dumb lout had to go and get himself eaten by trolls, on federal land no less. A shame really. The trolls would have to be put down now, and it was hardly their fault. All because a careless human had wandered onto their reserve, despite the numerous signs and the armed guard. Hell, just knowing that it was troll territory would have been enough to keep me away.
The low whistle of a freshly arrived comm sounded in my ear. I tapped the glasses, connecting to the incoming message, which overlaid the left lens with a video feed of my boss. Chief Jowls, as I liked to think of him. A small banner of letters rolled across the top of the screen, “Pre-recorded.” That was something at least. I didn’t like news from the chief at the best of times, and talking to him from deep within troll country, while on the way to perform extermination duties, was not the best of times. Whatever he had to say could wait until this grisly job was done. I’ve always hated exterminations – worst part of the job, if you ask me.
Another tap of the glasses faded old Jowls’ image down to a small, unobtrusive bubble in the top right corner of the lens, leaving the rest transparent again. Time to get to work. I hopped out of the hover-car, landing with a slight thud upon the soft, moss covered ground. A nice, deep breath through the nostrils. The smell of earth, and damp plant life. That wasn’t what I was looking for. Another breath. The same smells as before, of course, but now I could ignore them, and was able to barely make out what I’d been looking for. Rotten meat. Lots of it.
Follow the smell, and find their impression of a diplomat. His main job was guarding the garbage heap. The importance of this position originated in a long ago war between the troll clans. At the time it was common practice to launch their waste into the enemies’ camp whilst they slept. The whole thing was forgotten, except for the cultural memory of garbage as important – it wasn’t really their fault that somewhere down the years they got the significance of it backwards.
The sky was fairly well blocked out by towering trees, but the bit of sunlight that did filter in highlighted a semi-circular mound of rocks that only looked natural if you were expecting it to. Fifty credits says that old Crusher is behind those rocks, passed out drunk on that terrible home-brewed liquor, and well sunken into the rotting mound of garbage that was the last few months’ worth of refuse from the local troll clan. I’ve seen it before, and no, it isn’t pleasant. Thanks for reminding me.
As I got closer I could see detritus spilling over the top of the trash enclosure. This was ridiculous, the rangers should have burned this before it got half this bad. I’ll just have to have a word with them, now won’t I?
“Crusher! Get your drunk ass up outta that trash! I’ve got words to have with you.”
A deep, ground shaking moan could be heard coming from around the boulders. That’d be old Crusher. Five hundred pounds of troll stumbled forward from the refuse.
“Human, what you want?” The troll was trying to stand, but he didn’t make it much past a sort of fetal kneeling position. Which was just fine as it actually kept him down at about eye level.
“I need info, Crusher. One of yours killed a man. I need to know which clan member did this.”
“We kill men for Arena.”
“Your clan isn’t part of the Arena, Crusher. The human was killed here.”
Nothing but silence came from the hungover troll for a long time. I wasn’t in a hurry. The longer this took, the longer I got to put off my boss, and it would all be labeled legitimate in the line of duty.
“Crusher not know about that. Lawman never wrong, but tribe share everything, not keep something like this from Crusher.”
He didn’t look like he was lying, but I had a hard time telling with trolls. My niece says that makes me a bigot. She’d want you to know that.
“Get up Crusher. You’re going to take me to see your chief. My own chief has words for him over this matter.”
“Crusher hurt, need sleep. Need stay, guard sacred offering.”
“Your elders speak my language perfectly. I can’t figure out if you’re just messing with me, or if you always sound like a stereotype.”
“Crusher speak just like elders.”
I grunted contemptuously. Posturing was important with trolls. Not that he didn’t want to kill me, given half a chance to get away with it.
“Crusher, you know MSB agents aren’t allowed to participate in the arenas. But if you’re feeling a need to be shown your place then we can settle it right now. Then you’ll take me to your elder.”
He’d never take me up on it; I’d taken too strong of a stance for an untried youth like him to challenge. Now I just had to put up with his sulking for thirty minutes or so. Another half hour spent in the sweet pursuit of not listening to my boss.
I was off by four minutes. Not bad. My fragrant companion had quit his sniveling, and was finally rising to his feet with unsteady effort.
“Lead on, Crusher.”
I had to walk just a little too fast for my taste in order to keep up with the troll’s longer strides. It was about a quarter hour hike through the trees, and into a ravine.
The smell of rot faded away to be replaced by an even worse one. Concentrated odor of unwashed troll rolled out from the tent filled basin before us, making a good vomit disturbingly tempting. The smell was there, but the trolls weren’t.
I didn’t like it. Where the hell where the trolls? This was going to be a problem, and I had a nasty feeling that I knew whose problem it was going to be.