You know those diner regulars who have an in with the waitresses, know the owner, but are open and amusing to anyone else who may wander in?
Yeah, these guys are like that….uh, kinda…
Ladies and gents, in case you ever wondered what would happen if trolls had a regular lunchtime hangout…
Welcome to Trip Trap’s! 🙂
It was an out-of-the-way location for a diner. It sat tucked between the western edge of Thadd Forest and the lazy flow of the Glass River. The view was picturesque and sweet wildflowers and healthy grass filled the meadow, but the area was not the bustling center of Kingdom City proper. The Diner sat in range of the suburbs and growing communities that were springing up around the city limits, though not many of the new transplants came through the door. Trip Trap’s wasn’t the kind of diner most residents in Kingdom City would bother to eat at unless they really wanted to be there, no matter how pleasant the staff or tempting the menu.
This suited Trip Trap’s patrons just fine.
The building was similar to a lot of Kingdom City architecture: built from tan chalk rock, it was lined with wooden accents and featured a wraparound roof made from shake shingles cut into jagged shapes. The front picture window was framed by branches, and the wild bushes planted along the walkway gave Trip Trap’s a rustic and homey feel. It wasn’t the appearance, the location, or the menu that subtly discouraged patrons, though. It was rather the steady noise of hooves and bleating that slowly drove clientele out of their minds unless they had grown up around the clatter. Needless to say, it was a popular gathering spot for shepherds and trolls.
At a table that was tucked a distance away from the front window but close enough to the shining wooden counter, two of the regulars opened the lunch menu.
“Same old, same old,” a voice like a devoted smoker grumbled.
“Yes, but at least it’s better than those chain places springin’ up everywhere,” rasped the older troll, the aural equivalent of dead leaves and dried lizard scales. “Y’never know what you’re gettin’ there.”
Uljah Toothgnasher sighed and thwapped his menu face down on the marginally sticky table top. At only three hundred and ninety-seven he was more or less middle-aged for a troll, but had kept his lack of looks through the passing of time. His body was bony, all knobs and limbs that protruded every which way like a confused spider, but his head was wide and his face pleasantly bulbous, made even more substantial looking by his long, black matted beard and important-looking unibrow. His clothes were of the more traditional variety, and the grain sack shirt and fur-and-skin kilt overwhelmed his lanky frame, though both pieces were quite useful for smuggling extra food and the occasional “special interest” magazine past his wife. He dragged a long nail over his scalp and a thin shower of dandruff flaked onto his shoulders. “True, true. Anything’s better than going to Magic Porridge Pot for the thousandth time, though the wife keeps telling me I should pack my lunch and save the coins.”
Across the table, Ippick Bonecrusher’s entire body bobbed with his shaking head. He nearly took up his entire side of the booth and was quite proud of the fact. When asked about his substantial girth, he would grunt and comment that he was as good an advertisement for the diner as anything else. His thick neck led to a terrible, large head that was always engaged in sniffing, snorting, glaring, complaining, or chewing at some thing or another, even if it was his cheek or a piece of old food dislodged from yellowing teeth. Although Ippick had started the balding process during the past seventy years, he suffered from indecision about how to deal with the natural process. While proud of the crusty shine of his revealed scalp, he couldn’t quite go all the way and let the rest of his hair grow in ragged grey tendrils that hung to his shoulders. Although stuck in his ways, he embraced an odd blend of fashion choices, a quirk Ippick had long written off as his right as a taxpayer and mean old son of a dragon. His tan, stained shirt was cut in an old-fashioned peasant style, though it was made of the synthetic fleece usually reserved for sleep shirts and cold weather. His trousers were ragged and dark brown. While they hung loose around his legs, they strained to hold in his gut, since he insisted on pulling them up well past his waistline. To ensure there would be no trouser malfunction, he had finished off his outfit with a pair of bright orange suspenders that were beginning to shed their elastic.
Ippick listened to Uljah’s groaning and rolled his tiny eyes, the only small feature on his body. “Bah, she’s just lookin’ over some gown in the catalogues, is all. I warned ye ‘bout lettin’ her get on the mailin’ lists. Do yerself a favor an’ cut up her card!”
“Oh she’ll love that what with all the preaching about equal rights these days,” Uljah huffed.
Ippick’s meaty fist collided with the table top, jolting the place settings up into the air. “A curse to us all if ye ask me! Just steal her a shiny trinket from the next passing motor coach and she’ll be pacified. If not, then give her what for!” His hand mimed a good smack across the mouth.
“Says the bachelor,” Uljah muttered, well used to Ippick’s tirades about the good old days. The only way to get through them painlessly was to let his friend ramble on and pretend to listen while doing something else. At the current moment, he was deciding which can of coins he’d dig up from his yard and polish that evening. The owner of a fairly busy butcher shop, Uljah was still up-and-coming financially, though he was every bit a troll in how he hoarded and loved on what wealth he had.
“At least I have control over my accounts!” Ippick snarled, choking and hacking on the phlegm the sound produced.
“Ahem.” Both looked up at the waitress’s approach. “Ready yet, gents?” She sighed, though it was a gesture done of good humor. Flora fit the requirements for her job perfectly. A human female with a pleasant figure that was just full enough to do sturdy work, she kept her hair and nails clean, had a face that was decent enough without being too eye-catching, possessed a wit as sharp as any of her patrons’ toenails, and had a disposition bold enough to keep up with the diner’s clientele. She pulled a mechanical quill from behind her ear, careful to not cause her chestnut curls to tumble out of their arrangement. Her foot tapped on the wood floor the longer the two trolls stared back at her. “Well? You’re not doing anything to class up the place, so are you going to order?”
“Still waitin’ on our third,” Ippick grunted without taking his eyes off the menu. “What’s good today, lass?”
“The boss has just done up some fresh goat—the little ones that couldn’t quite get to the bridge in time.”
“Serves ’em right,” Uljah remarked. “Makes for nicer ambience without all that blasted clippin’ and cloppin’ while we’re trying to have a conversation.”
The serving wench snorted. “Why d’ya think it’s called Trip Trap’s, genius?”
“Shuddup or you’ll get no tip,” Ippick snapped. “We don’t come here for yer intellect.”
Flora raised a brow and stared into the little narrow eyes. “I’m quakin’. You should be glad we don’t hold to that ‘no shoes no service rule’ like they do downtown, or else you’d end up starvin’ to death,” she snapped before whisking away to the next table, the blue skirt of her modernized serving wench uniform swishing as she turned.
“I keep telling you the poor lass is sweet on you, Ipp,” Uljah chortled, then winced as a clawed foot caught him against the knee underneath the table.
“Not funny at all! That’s the trouble with these maids and wenches and the like nowadays; they’re too comfortable. In my day—” Uljah’s bulging eyes had already started to glaze when a hulking figure scuffled through the door. “Well there he is, finally!”
“Paddlelump, over here!” Uljah called. He extended a long, knobby arm to wave their friend over, then wiped away the dirt that flaked onto the table.
The latecomer was the youngest of the three and had only recently begun growing his tusks. Though he was tall and formidable, his large brown eyes and rounded cheeks gave him a horribly friendly exterior, one of many woes for the up-and-coming businessman.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late.” He took the seat next to Uljah. “Stupid sheep and goats kept getting past me this morning while I replaced planking on the bridge from that brawl last week. If I don’t keep an eye out, the pests will cross as they please and eat up the whole field.”
“Can’t have that. Then all the townsfolk won’t come in for greens and all their mushy bouquet-type filth,” Ippick muttered.
“And then the tolls will go down until it all regrows and I’ll lose a fortune. I just can’t keep up with it all.” Paddlelump lamented and ran a hand through the bright red shock of hair that sprouted from his right ear.
“Well, you have to keep up!” Uljah pointed out and shifted his weight so that every bone and joint popped and realigned itself. “You’re the envy of our kind. Here you are, only a hundred and fifteen and you inherit one of the choicest plots of land.”
Ippick nodded. “Don’t know why yer da never put a bridge over Crescent Ravine down to his clearing. It would be like this here place takin’ out their bridge: it doesn’t make sense. Ye get all the travelers, the idiots that lose their way in the forest, all the traffic from the ‘burbs, the shepherds, the flower and herb fanciers—”
“The blasted sheep and goats,” Paddlelump grumbled. He glanced up at Uljah’s amused chuckle. “What? They bite!”
“Oh, I feel so sorry for you, boyo. You can exploit any stragglers not accounted for by their shepherds for wool and meat and make a pretty profit. Out of all of us, you’re set for life. Look at you! That’s the third new suit you’ve worn this month!”
Paddlelump smoothed the cloth of his jacket. No high-end designer catered to trolls, but he’d been lucky enough to find tailors in town that would make him clothes in a more modern style. “I’ve had to, though I feel a fool like this. There’s so much stigma with how troll bridges used to be, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and not use mine.”
“Well, you’re doing something right. You should be enjoying yourself, rollin’ round in all those pretty gold coins you’re earning,” Uljah quipped with no small amount of envy.
“Aye, what in blazes is goin’ on?” Ippick demanded.
Paddlelump sighed behind his menu. “I was late getting there. There were all the house chores to be done—”
“Blast, that’s no good,” Ippick hissed. “I thought ye were gonna kidnap a lass to help with that!”
“Hire, Ipp. It’s a changing realm, I’m afraid,” Uljah reminded.
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians.
Buy it here: