Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Odr's Letter to Ysrod, 'Of Giants and Trolls'

This account comes from a letter written by one of the earliest recorded Men to walk Esdaria. Odr, revered by the early Men to such a great extent that he was venerated as a god upon his death, wrote this letter as part of a series to his friend Ysrod, where he documents his travels through the Syladras, Great, and Aordun Mountains. It is unclear how these letters were ever delivered, as it seems somewhat unlikely that couriers were on-hand in the hostile and barely-accessible mountain ranges that separate the southern provinces from the Cold North. It seems likely that these letters were, in fact, written in diary-form and then presented to Ysrod on Odr's return. It is also unclear who Ysrod was. The colloquialisms and informal language Odr writes with have led scholars at the Imperial University to conclude he is a friend or Odr's, though it is just as likely he could be a clan-leader or king, as little is known of the social infrastructures of the early Men.

Odr's account even explains where the name of the Great Mountains comes from, as he terms them the ‘hurdun druria’, or ‘greater mountains’, stating how they were larger than the Syladras Mountains. It can be guessed that Odr and Ysrod came from a settlement somewhere at the north-westernmost foot of the Syladras mountains given how he speaks of them and the Silver Sea in another letter. In this extract, he details how he had a battle of wits with a giant chieftain and his troll bodyguard.


…And you would not believe it, Ysrod! For the Ysridian [Is-rid-ee-an; or Syladras] Mountains come to an end! What looks as if it is one long, unbroken range of high, rocky peaks is in fact two! A narrow gullet opens between them to the east, tall and stony, down which only the terrible, howling wind and the screeches of Gduyri [Guh-die-ree; Troll, plural] dare venture. I passed beyond it and headed into the eastern range, even hurdun [greater] than the Ysridian range.

I passed in amongst the rocks of the hurdun druria [note: literally ‘greater mountains’ – the modern name used by Men for these mountains; the ‘Great Mountains’ comes from Odr’s reference to them as such here]. Tall and indomitable, with great spires and sharp ledges. I walked for seven days and seven nights through the cliffs and precipices – I could nearly hear the echoes of the Halfling-folk beneath me, burrowing away for riches and treasurers in the great bowels of The World.

On the eighth morning I awoke to the sound of terrible footsteps. I quickly hid amongst the rocks and gravels, and then there, before me, as if melding out of the very mountainside itself, came seven figures. Six were smaller than the seventh, but broader and taller than men. They had long arms and heavy fists which they dragged along the floor, and they walked on their knuckles. Their skin was as hard and textured as if it were stone, and their mouths were full of tusks, and their teeth were as sharp and as grey as the great rocky spires around where I crouched. In the middle of them, though, was a creature like none I had ever seen before.

He was as a man, but twenty times as tall. Like the smaller beings with him, his skin was as if it were stone, but his eyes were glittery-bright and sharp like the chiseled gemstones of the Halfling-folk. His hands were the size of carts, and his feet like barns. In awe of him, I gasped, and one of his stone-skinned companions heard me.

I was dragged out from my hiding place and brought before this hyden [giant]. From forever above me, he gazed down at where I sprawled for a few moments, whilst his smaller-yet-still-large companions glared at me and gnashed their fangs. Eventually he spoke: ‘You are one if the Men-folk,’ he said. ‘A Man-folk of the West. Why are you here? Say or I shall crush you beneath my foot.’

‘I am Odr,’ I replied, ‘and I am a wanderer from the West, as you say.’ This hyden looked down at me and his great cliff of brow furrowed – if stone can do such a thing. ‘A wanderer?’ he said in a low growl that was as if a thousand feet walked across loose gravel at once. ‘Tell me, wanderer of the world, which peak in this hurd [great] range is the sharpest? Tell me, or I shall allow my Gduyri to eat you for breakfast.’

I gazed up at this great creature for a few moments. ‘That upon which I stand my own wit,’ I replied. ‘For those in my company seem slow and sluggish.’ I bowed my head and gestured to the great stone-like figure before me. ‘What say you to that, O Ael Druria [Mountain Man]?’

The giant’s gem-like eyes glittered and glared. ‘Ha!’ he roared in a voice like a rockslide. ‘You wish to duel wits, little creature of flesh and blood? You shall find my own as sharp as honed flint, whilst yours shall be like the intellect of these Gduyri in comparison!’ At his words, one Gduyr [Guh-die-ur; Troll, singular] roared in appreciation. He was silenced by a whack from one of his larger brethren. ‘Let me ask you this, O Faerdyn [Wanderer],’ the hyden said, ‘what is that which bites like a wolf, yet its teeth forever move and dance, even in the darkness?’

I laughed. ‘Fire.’ I said. The hyden seemed impressed and folded his pillar-like arms across his chest of boulders. ‘Answer me this!’ I cried aloud, ‘I am which cannot be seen nor touched, but felt all around. I am a thousand daggers at my worst, as piercing as the finest steel, and so honed that no armour may stop me; yet at my best I am a cloud upon the morning. What am I?’

The hyden scratched his head of rock for a moment. ‘The cold,’ he said. ‘That which turns one’s breath to wisps upon dawn, yet freezes and pierces like a thousand icicles in the darkest winter. Am I correct?’

I nodded. ‘Indeed. Another?’ I said. The giant nodded before me and opened his lips, which were like a gully in the mountain of his face. ‘Whether the sun sets or the moon rises, I exist. I walk silently amongst all living things – never seen, never heard. When I reach out my hand, only then am I known. My coming is met with tears and woe, and away with me all living things must go. What am I?’

The answer to his riddle was ‘Death,’ obvious, no? Yet the great behemoth of stone was so impressed that he let me be on my way. His Gduyri were furious, for they had hoped to feast upon my flesh that morning, but the hyden kicked them away with his great slabs of feet and wished me well…

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