—A companion story to “Baby Sister”.—
The sun lay high overhead as a trio of high elves crossed the grassy hills of Quel’Thalas. All three looked quite young, perhaps barely on the edge of adulthood.
“You should heed your surname, Vane,” the dark-haired female said with obvious distaste. “We are Featherfalls. Our footsteps should fall like feathers. You make as much noise as a rockslide.”
The male halted, squaring his shoulders. Like the girl, he had long dark hair, and his face bore more than a little resemblance to the female. “My feet are larger than yours, Plumas, and I weigh more than you. How can I be expected to be perfectly silent?”
Plumas halted beside him. “The Windrunners can move through dry leaves without a whisper of sound. Like their name, they run as silent as the wind. You should study them.”
Vane pursed his lips. “You always have to bring them up, don’t you?”
“They are excellent models to follow. All three girls are exquisite, and their brothers are, too. It would not hurt you to study them.”
“Piffle,” he dourly dismissed her suggestion. “I am tired of hearing how wonderful the Windrunners are.”
The third elf, shorter and blonde, paused a couple feet ahead of the pair. Staring ahead, she stretched one lithe arm back toward them. “What is that?”
“What?” Plumas asked.
The blonde’s gaze was focused steadily on the side of a small hill, where several thickly-branched trees grew. She pointed with one finger. “There, under those trees. I see something blue.”
“Plumas with her love of Windrunners, and you always seeing things.” Vane exhaled loudly. “I cannot believe I am related to you two.”
Plumas squinted. “No, Vane, Aigrette is right. There is something…”
Vane followed their line of sight and cocked his head questioningly. Hidden well within the deep shadows of the trees was an incongruent figure, showing bright blue in the tiny patches of sunlight that found passage through the leaves.
“It seems to be alive,” Aigrette said.
“It is moving.” Vane sounded surprised.
“It looks like…” Plumas glided forward a few steps. She stopped abruptly, pulling her head back then pushing it forward again to get a closer look. “It looks like a small troll.”
“But trolls are not blue,” Aigrette protested. “They are green.”
“Do you not ever listen in school? Forest trolls, like the Amani, are green. Jungle trolls are blue.” Bringing her staff in front of her, Plumas scanned the landscape on all sides of them.
Aigrette gave a small gasp. “A jungle troll? Here? Don’t they live – ?”
“Far, far to the south,” Vane finished. He drew his bow and nocked an arrow. He, too, began looking around them.
Aigrette moved toward the bushes. She gasped again. “Why, it’s a baby! A baby troll!”
“Careful,” Plumas ordered. “If it is a baby, its parents must be nearby.”
Aigrette edged forward another step. Her face melted into an expression of longing. “A baby! I’ve never seen a baby troll before. Isn’t it cute? The dear little thing! Why would its parents leave it alone?”
“Could be a trap,” Vane said. “Watch out.”
Plumas looked at her brother. “You don’t suppose – ?”
Vane returned her look of concern. “Blessed Light, I hope not.”
“Suppose what?” Aigrette asked. She bent down and reached her arms out toward the child.
Plumas prodded Aigrette’s shoulder with her staff. “How can you be so ignorant?”
“The Amani trolls have allied with those demonic orcs,” Vane said tersely.
Plumas met his eyes, her face going pale. “Light bless us all, I hope it hasn’t come to that.”
Aigrette stood up. “To what?!”
“Keep your eyes open, Vane. Let’s check this out.” Plumas started forward, moving slowly, her eyes constantly surveying the land around them. “Aigrette, you simple-minded fool, a jungle troll would not be here for no reason. If there is a child, there must be parents. And if jungle trolls have come this far north, it stands to reason…”
Vane completed the thought. “The jungle trolls may have allied with the orcs, too.”
“What does that matter to us?” Aigrette asked.
Plumas rolled her eyes and refused to answer.
Vane shook his head. “Are you sure she is our sister?” he asked.
Plumas and Vane moved slowly, investigating the ground with great care. Aigrette tugged them forward, her eyes returning to the small blue figure sheltered in the bushes. She smiled softly as they neared the child.
“I see footprints of a larger troll,” Plumas announced, “but I don’t think it is an adult.”
Vane shook his head again. “No, its feet aren’t that big. And there are some smaller tracks.”
“From the baby, no doubt.”
“I see no adult-sized footprints.”
“Still it could be a trap,” Plumas warned. “Young jungle trolls would not be this far north by themselves.”
Aigrette suddenly rushed forward, careless of all else save the small child, ignoring her siblings’ warnings of caution. A few yards from the bushes, she knelt down, stretching both hands toward the child. It stood solemnly within the shadows, watching them without a trace of fear. A dirty leather dress hung just below its chubby knees. Its wide eyes shone as orange as the first rays of dawn. Gauzy blue curls covered its round head, grazing the tops of its pointed ears. One blue hand was balled into a fist with the thumb stuck in its mouth.
“Why, it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Aigrette cooed. “Hello, baby.”
“Aigrette. Be careful,” Plumas warned her again.
“But it’s just a baby, left here all by itself,” the blonde protested. She wiggled her fingers toward the child. “We won’t hurt you, sweetheart. Come here, let me see you.”
The child removed the thumb from its mouth and made a noise that might have been a word. Then it toddled unsteadily out from the shadows.
Aigrette’s smile lit her whole face. “Why, it looks like a little girl. And she must not be very old, she doesn’t seem to walk very well yet.”
“Don’t touch it, Aigrette,” Vane said.
“Why not? She’s just a baby.” Aigrette opened her arms wide toward the child, who toddled up to her and touched her chubby blue fingers to Aigrette’s face. Again the child made the same noise. Then the young troll returned Aigrette’s smile. The blonde elf laughed.
“She’s not dangerous. Look at her.”
“It could have a disease or something,” Vane said stoutly.
Aigrette slipped one arm tenderly around the baby’s waist. “The poor little thing is filthy. And she has scratches all over.”
Plumas, still keeping watch over the landscape, scoffed. “It’s a troll, what do you expect? I don’t think they take baths.”
The baby troll wrapped her arms around Aigrette’s neck, rubbing her face against the elf’s cheek. With a smile, she lay her head down on Aigrette’s shoulder. Aigrette stood up, settling the baby on her hip. Taking a waterskin from her belt, Aigrette offered it to the little girl, who drank willingly.
“Whatever will we do with it?” Vane asked.
“Kill it,” Plumas said.
“No!” Aigrette held the child tightly. “She’s just a baby.”
“It’s a troll, what do you want to do with it? Make a pet out of it?” Vane asked.
“You know,” Plumas said, “if its parents are here, we might use it as bait.”
Aigrette turned so the child was away from her siblings. “You will not!”
Just then a shout came from behind them. The elves turned to see another troll, a larger male but still nowhere near full grown, wielding a bow and arrow. His hair was blue, like the baby’s, and he also had clear orange eyes.
The baby turned around and smiled at him, waving her chubby hand and speaking some strange words.
“What in the name of the ancients is that?” Plumas asked.
“Her brother, perhaps?” Aigrette said. “They certainly look alike.”
“How can you tell?” Vane asked. “All trolls look alike to me.”
Again the boy shouted at them, his voice squeaking with anger.
Plumas moved forward a step, her staff at the ready. “What are you doing here?”
The baby made another sound, much like before, and the boy seemed to answer her. Then she patted Aigrette’s hair.
“I’m thinking it is her brother,” Vane said. “But where are their parents?”
“I wish I knew.” Plumas turned again to look around them, but the landscape was still.
Aigrette hugged the girl close. “What if their parents were killed? They might be orphans. I can’t see that it would hurt to feed them and clean them up. This one looks hungry.”
“Hungry for us, you mean,” Plumas said sourly. “They are cannibals, you know.”
“Either way,” Vane said, “we shouldn’t keep standing out here. Their parents may be watching us right now, and I’d rather have better shelter if there’s going to be a fight.”
“Yes!” Aigrette chimed in. “Let’s take them home with us. Ann’da and Minn’da will know what to do.”
Vane nodded at the boy. “What about him?”
Looking around one more time, Plumas nodded. “We’ll take the girl, and maybe he will follow.”
“Or maybe he’ll run back to his parents,” Vane said.
Plumas nodded again. “Either way, home is not far, and we’ll be safer there. Aigrette, go on. But move slowly.”
As the blonde started moving, the male troll yelled, raising his bow. Effortlessly Plumas brought her hands together to summon a spell, tossing a (ball of blue energy) towards him. The boy morphed into a sheep.
“Go on,” Plumas said. “He will follow if he wants. If not, then so be it.”
In a matter of moments, the spell wore off and the boy was his normal troll self. He charged toward Aigrette, grabbing her arm and spewing a mouthful of strange words at her. With a tiny smile, Plumas raised one hand toward him. He released Aigrette. Plumas gave a quick nod.
“He knows now,” she said. “He won’t be any trouble. Go on, Aigrette.”
As the trolls started toward their home, the male troll raged some more in his native language. The baby, remaining calm, spoke to him, and reluctantly, he followed her.
Plumas sighed deeply. “Just keep your eyes open. Their parents may be anywhere.”