Feast

So we meet again. I hope you finally remember me. Yes. I am Troll. You friend. Exactly. A friend. Not an imposter. A real friend. Many call themselves as such, but only few really are what they claim to be.

You say you've been there? Right. Apparently, we all have been there. But that's strange, isn't it? It is as if those false friends we talk about aren't aware of their heresy.

Like my cousin Bort, for example. He and his friend were always regarding each other as the best one, spending years harassing unsuspecting passers-by in the swamp, stealing their possessions, scaring them to death and generally having fun. Until one day, an old granny resisted and called the police instead, pinching the two in their ears and holding them in check before the hand of law arrived.

It took a day for the lawmen to make it and casualties racked up to thirty cars, five fat cops and a crate of donuts. Who caused such carnage? No, Bort and his friend, two swamp ogres, didn't do it. Then who, you ask? Answer is simple. The swamp!

Condolences were given to families of the lost ones and funds were raised to heal the scars at least partially, knowing that money would never replace a life. The police accepted the generous sum and promised to put it to good use and make sure such accidents would never happen in the future. In doing so, they spent the money on buying a batch of emergency donut crates that floated on whatever liquid surface they were placed.

Oh yes, I got carried away. Upon the arrival of the remainder of the police force, the old granny handed the ogres to the lawmen in triumph. Then, the cops apologized for the inconvenience and proceeded to arrest the granny for public violence. During trial, a judge sentenced her to five years in prison, where she shared a cell with a former Jamaican wrestler Jamal Hugar Toolar, who reported being harassed by her on several occasions and repeatedly begged the watch to transport him to a different prison.

However, the entire incident would have never happened had Bort and his friend worked together as friends and not attempted to run away cowardly. Since then, the two never spoke again apart from occasional insults.

Yes. Only in tense situations can you really find out who a friend is and who isn't. You knew that? Yes, well I apologize for… no, don't leave just yet for your favourite TV programme! I beg you! Please! I'm far from the end! In fact, the story was an interlude. Wait! Free cookies and beer! Yes, beer! Good. I've seen that TV programme yesterday, it sucked. You won't miss out if you skip it. Really.

I'll cut to the chase, right. I won't bother you with irrelevant nonsense. You can count on that.

Two weeks ago, my great grandfather decided to arrange a gathering of our populous family. As was the tradition, he would announce his successor. Yes, sort of handing the crown from one to another. We had no kingdom and were no feoffers, though.

Things like culture have a significant impact on society, especially when you live in a swamp community where everyone knows their neighbour. Being a small place to live, we valued it deeply and knew the announcement would uplift one branch of the family while leave others to wither.

A cruel habit, I know, but traditions are very hard to break. Besides, it's not as stupid as government elections. Have you noticed that it's not about who will run your country the way you wish, but rather who will get paid from your money?

Anyway, the family gathered and, as you would have guessed, each respective part wanted to be the successor line. Blood ties aside, the feast table became a hidden battleground of wits and words. Between you and me, my great grandfather wasn't of a sound mind anyway. He was decided to make his son, the most cowardly creature on Earth, his successor.

Funnily enough, nobody knew except for those with wits. Namely me. It was all too apparent since the coward, troll Royce, had been buttering him up for the past eight years. Showering him with trinkets and junk man throws away when he finds it useless.

By tradition, the successor should have been a great warrior whose feats spoke for him, but times were changing. In the days of cars and quiz shows, those qualities were rendered obsolete. And… what? Yes, I babble too much. Ok, to the chase. I get it.

And so we sat down along a gigantic table in the hollow of an oak, aunts and uncles, fathers and mothers, cousins and siblings, grandfathers and grandmothers. Ogres, trolls, goblins, orcs and many other. We were a diverse family.

It was a boring feast to speak the truth, despite the food was good and drink abundant. As for the drink, Bralac, a hill orc and my uncle, got drunk beyond recognition and began talking his tales of battle. Many liked them, though even more knew they were made up stories of an inebriated mind.

"I stood there, watching the human, swinging my battle axe in front of him. You should have seen his face. I've never observed a human flee so quickly. It was fun."

"I believe I speak for everybody when I say we've heard that one already," Yalla, one of my grandmother's sisters protested. "In fact, you tell us the same story again and again every year."

"Don't you dare disrespecting me!" Bralac yelled angrily.

"Gentlemonsters," the mother-in-law of my grandfather's sister's husband's brother… well let's just say a relative named Grohk tried pacifying the situation. "There is no need for violence. Save it for those pesky door-to-door peddlers when they come and offer you garbage like vacuum cleaners."

"Very true," my… oh well… a relative named Willorn, a forest troll, elaborated. "Pesky scum. I despise them. Once, one tried to sell me an electric toothpick. When I said that we have no electricity here in the swamp, his eyes shined with light as he thought he was about rob a foolish forest troll blind. Apparently, he assumed that all forest trolls are extremely stupid."

"Why?" somebody asked with interest.

"He looked me in the eye and put on a serious grimace, informing me that he thinks we can be friends and that he can cut a special deal for such a friend. After asking him what kind of offer he had in mind, he answered that the tooth pick package would include one nuclear power plant. When I heard that compound word, my blood began to boil. He babbled something about discounts and that I would get the plant for half its original price, but I really wasn't interested. Honestly, I've been living without electricity for my entire life and I've never felt the need to have it."

"So what did you do with that peddler?"

"Well, we ate him. He tasted like wool, though. I bet it was the suit he had. Blah, I feel that foul taste in my mouth whenever I recall that story."

"Me smash peddlers," my dull witted cousin Maurice, a half-ogre, decided to tell us about his hobbies and habits. "Peddlers tasty. Peddlers good. Me want peddlers. Why no peddlers at feast? Me angry! Me smash!"

With those words, he stormed off. The rest of the guests watched him in awe and shock, but then Maurice's mother stood up and explained. "He will return soon. He went for a walk. And for a few peddlers."

"I see," somebody commented and then everybody resumed to food, occasionally whispering a few words to the other. I knew intrigues were taking place but seeing as I was used to travelling rather than domestic affairs, I didn't care. It was a feast of unimaginable heights, I have to admit, but when empty dishes were all that was lying on the table and the sound of munching deafened, the bitterness hanging in the air became apparent.

The anticipation was almost unbearable, or at least that's what I sensed in others. They knew the time of announcing the successor was nigh. Well, not everyone, apparently. My great grandfather was sitting at his place nostalgically watching his empty dish and drifting in and out of consciousness.

It was a stalemate. By tradition, great grandfather had to speak. But he didn't and nobody dared to disrupt the centuries old habit. Or at least those less ingenious.

Somebody sneezed. Loudly. In fact so loudly that nearly half of the guests shook.

"Excuse me," the perpetrator, a distant cousin whose name I didn't even know, apologized.

Eyes fixed at the youngster for interfering with the anticipated speech, nobody noticed a horrible thing that had happened. The sneeze shocked my great grandfather so much that he got a heart attack and died silently. I knew because I was sitting next to him and his breath had been so uniquely disgusting, but it had ceased just seconds after the sneeze.

It was embarrassing and amusing at the same time, knowing that most of us were so vain that all we cared about was our welfare and prosperity. A great grandfather was a phrase that didn't bother anybody. All that was needed was wealth, land and power. Even if there was so laughably little of it.

Time went on and we sat there for a half an hour, then one, then two, until it was beginning to dawn. Everyone was so afraid to even speak to our great grandfather so as to not anger him. Well, at least until somebody decided enough was enough.

His son Grobnok did so, a fearsome orc and a skilled warrior who would conform to the traditional successor line standards. However, he had anger problems, which had never been treated even though he had attended five anger management courses.

On one of those, he had slaughtered an entire building because of some social game where they had been instructed to pass around their favourite object. Grobnok's thing of choice had been, unsurprisingly, his battle axe. However, upon seeing that it hadn't been him holding it, he had gone on a rampage. After that, nobody had ever wanted to accept him into any course.

But back to the feast. He was already so angry that he jumped at the great grandfather and yelled maniacally: "Will you announce it already?! Will you say it?! I, Grobnok, am the successor! Grobnok is the successor! Say it, father! Say that Grobnok is the ultimate leader! Grobnok!"

He shook with the great grandfather so vigorously that his frail body cracked and fell from the chair.

"Grobnok is the new leader!" his son yelled in triumph, but he didn't realize his craving for fame and wealth blinded him. A swift blow in his head knocked him down, but it didn't stop him.

Far from it, in fact. It enraged him. He punched the attacker, then his brother Targ dashed at him, and his sons, noticing it, attacked Grobnok's offspring. The brawl began.

Thankfully, I was outside by that time, enjoying the swampy air. The din of fighting was so distant. I knew it would end with a few broken ribs and the monsters atoning for the mishap, realizing the great grandfather had died. Apologies would be made, comforts would be offered. Succession claims would be renounced by all.

But then, I also knew the guise of morality incited by guilty conscience would disappear the day after and the monsters would resume to their fights and intrigues, vying for the power divided by great grandfather's death.

Nobody learned the lesson. Friendship was just a temporal excuse for mutual interest or bad conscience. It was always like that. Friendship has never existed. There's no blaming anyone though, for it is written deep within our souls that we are driven by greed. And there is nothing we can do about it.

Yes, the lesson has been a dark one. I'd better leave it at that before we end up sobbing. Till next we meet, your friend Troll.