|Long Live Insanity #16: The Incredible Dancing Trollocs
“Where,” Shaiel demands, “in Shayol Ghul are we?”
“No, it’s not Shayol Ghul,” Shani says absently, looking around, “we’ve been there.”
“Kind of dark,” Shadar chimes in, “but not a bad spot for a hand or two of poker. You do need to take your own chairs, though, the rocks are pretty hard for sitting on.”
Shaiel counts to ten. “Where - are - we?”
“Oh, is that what you wanted to know? You should have been clearer.” Shani shrugs. “I haven’t the faintest idea. Have you, Shadar?”
“You two built the gateway here!”
Shani and Shadar look at her blankly. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I give up.” Shaiel sits down, stretching her legs out. “Tell me when you’ve -”
“Ladies and gentlemen! LADIES and GENTLEMEN! Welcome, welcome, WELCOME to the Craziest Show On Earth!”
Shaiel jumps up and everyone spins around as the voice booms out.
“Welcome, welcome!” The speaker is a middle-aged man, dressed - ah - ‘colourfully’ would probably be the most complimentary term. ‘Gaudily’ ‘shockingly’ and ‘by a tailor with total colour blindness’ might also apply. Shaiel, Sycho, Someone and Snarg stare at him in disbelief.
“Stranger!” Shadar and Shani exclaim simultaneously.
A second later, both say simultaneously “You know him too?” then, shrugging, answer each other “‘Fraid so.”
“He’s called Stranger,” Shadar explains to the rest, “because he never met anyone stranger than him. At least -”
“ - not until I met you two!” Stranger crows gleefully. “The only people in the whole world madder than I am! I see you already know each other, and may I say, what a lovely couple you make!”
Shadar bows. Shani curtsies. Everyone else looks bewildered.
“So, what are you up to these days?” Shadar enquires.
“I am engaged,” and Stranger strikes an oratorical pose, “in the production of a masterpiece! For years now I have worked toward one goal, that of creating the strangest dance troupe ever to exist -” a dramatic pause -
“The Incredible Dancing Trollocs!”
“Trollocs! You know what Trollocs are, surely? Yes, of course you must,” and Stranger blinks as he turns to look at the speaker, “you are one! Have you by any chance been taught dancing? We could do with another in the chorus line, you see...”
“Snarg no dance! Dancing stupid!”
“Snarg,” Shani chides him, “that’s not nice! And after all the trouble I went to teaching you manners!” She turns to Stranger. “I managed to teach him a few steps. He isn’t really very graceful. He talks quite well, though...”
“Teaching a Trolloc to talk,” Stranger says loftily, “is nothing compared to teaching one to dance. Which is what I have been working on. Of course he isn’t graceful. I’ve never seen a Trolloc that was. That’s the challenge of it.”
Shadar nods seriously. “And have you had any success…?”
“Judge for yourselves!” Stranger is immediately back to his pose. “I have the honour of presenting to you – The Incredible Dancing Trollocs! MAESTRO!”
Music starts playing from somewhere nearby. From behind a nearby copse of trees appear…
“Oh, my goodness,” Someone murmurs faintly, turning away.
“Trollocs in -” Sycho stares disbelievingly – “tutus?”
Shaiel swallows. “I knew I should have stayed in the Three-Fold Land…”
Eighteen ten-foot tall, horned, hooved or claw-footed creatures in gauzy, snow-white tutus glide and pirouette over the grass. Snarg watches avidly.
“’Trolloc Lake’?” Shadar manages in a somewhat strangled tone.
Shani’s lips move as she whispers to herself. “I am not going to laugh. I am not going to laugh. I am not going to -”
She catches Shadar’s eye, and bursts into laughter.
“You’re laughing,” Stranger says accusingly, and somewhat needlessly.
“So much for Aes Sedai infallibility,” Shadar says cheerfully. “Well, Stranger, I congratulate you on a truly unique dance troupe. That accomplishment may just have returned you to the status of strangest person in Randland.”
Stranger grins, triumphantly. The music switches to “We Are The Champions”.
“But don’t get complacent,” Shani warns him after recovering from her fit of laughter. “We’re right behind you! We’re mad, we’re bad and we’re dangerous to know – and anyone who can identify that quote wins -”
Someone perks up. “It was said by -”
“- absolutely nothing. Besides, I was talking to the readers.”
“Oh.” The Ogier looks disappointed, and mutters under his breath (i.e. loud enough to be heard clearly a mile away) “You got it wrong, anyway.”
“Did not. I adapted it to the situation.” Shani turns back to Stranger. “It was nice meeting you. But I’m afraid we really have to leave now.”
Shadar glances at her. “We do? Why?”
“I thought we should go -” She glances back at the others, who are listening (it’s always a good idea to pay attention to these two – you never know what they might take it into their minds to do with very little warning) and weaves an anti-eavesdropping ward around her and Shadar. What she says is inaudible to everyone else, but soon has Shadar laughing.
“Good idea!” he agrees as the ward dissolves. “All right, everybody, get ready! We’re going visiting!”
“Visiting who?” Sycho demands suspiciously.
“Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Wait and see. C’mon, Snarg!”
There is no answer.
“Snarg – not coming.”
“Not coming? What do you mean?” Shani follows the direction of his gaze. “Oh.”
The others look in the same direction. The object of Snarg’s intent regard is a female Trolloc.
(NOTE: Trolloc gender is a matter that most people prefer not to have precisely described to them. That being so, you may use your imaginations. For now, it suffices to note that said female Trolloc is somewhat smaller than Snarg, and that her fur is rather more neatly combed. Also, a pink ribbon is tied to one of her horns.)
“Oh, no,” Shadar groans, casting his eyes up to the sky. “Snarg’s in love.”
“Ah! Dear little Snargette. One of my best students.” Stranger looks critically at the dancer. “Yes, I suppose by Trolloc standards she would be quite attractive…”
“Let’s not get any further into this,” Someone breaks in hastily.
“I agree,” Sycho says firmly. “And I very much object to any idea of Snarg leaving. I know who that leaves as the butt of any jokes in this group!”
Shadar and Shani look at each other, and snicker. “Don’t worry, Sycho,” Shani pats him on the shoulder, “you’re going to be the butt for the whole next episode anyway…”
The dance ends. “Well, let me introduce you to Snargette,” Stranger says briskly, leading Snarg off toward the dancers, and leaving the other five looking at each other.
“Who’s going to carry my books if he leaves?” Someone demands. “That’s what I want to know!”
“What do you mean, I’m the butt for the next episode?”
Shani answers Sycho. “Wait and see.”
Shadar answers Someone. “Well, if you can’t, I suppose we’ll have to.”
“What? With the Power?”
“No, of course not. With insanity. We’ll just get them to float along behind us. That’s completely against the laws of gravity and thermodynamics and the rest, so it should be easy enough…”
Shani shrugs. “Well, they seem to be getting on pretty well, so let’s go.” She glances at Shaiel. “You’ve been pretty quiet. No complaints?”
“Would they do any good?”
“Not one bit. Don’t worry, you’ll like this next episode. Ready, everyone? Then let’s go!”
A gateway rotates open, and Someone’s books start floating through. The group, minus one, follow them through it as Stranger, Snarg and Snargette wave goodbye.
Sycho turns to see where they are. “Oh, no…”
They are standing in the courtyard of a fairly large house, built in the Amadician style. Sycho takes a step back toward the gateway, which promptly snaps shut.
“Sycho! Sycho Path!” A middle-aged woman is striding toward them. “What are you doing back here without notice? I suppose you expect all your meals cooked and your laundry done too! You haven’t even written! And just who are all these people you’ve brought home without so much as a by-your-leave?”
He glares at Shani and Shadar, who are laughing fit to burst.