The wild, loose steppes between the great empire of Ceres and the old Crimson Empire was once the territory of the trolls, beings of exceptional size, strength, and intelligence. Typically 7-9 feet tall, trolls were distinguished by their grey skin, large eyes, and lanky build. One key difference, and one only, kept them from establishing an empire or kingdom to rival that of the other sapients: their nocturnal nature.

Possessed of excellent nighttime vision and skin that was extremely sensitive to sunlight, trolls were generally unable to function during the daytime hours and would instead retreat to caves or underground dwellings. The light was enough to cause intense sunburn with long exposure, and the bloom from even a roaring bonfire was enough to blind a troll that had not had time to adjust. These traits were extremely desirable in the hot, arid steppes of west Ceres, but they came at a cost. Alone out of all the sapient races of the world, trolls never mastered fire, and they found themselves unable to make use of the wild steppe horses for riding or the great steppe aurouchs for meat and milk.

Instead, trolls hunted in organized bands, eating meat raw and also subsisting on what they could gather or steal. Since the other sapients tended to sleep during the night, troll culture regarded them as lazy and unintelligent, and therefore fit to be stolen from accordingly. Many a trade caravan, set upon by raiders at midnight, found itself relieved of most or all of its goods. The wiser caravans eventually worked out a system of trade, leaving valuables–typically forged metals or cooked meats–at designated places in exchange for safe passage.

In all other respects, trolls were formidable. They easily mastered languages and were powerful fighters and thinkers, with an oral tradition spanning thousands of years. One troll skald, or battle-poet, participated in each band, driving their fellows forward with ancient songs and rousing stories. The penalty for misremembering a single word of the old troll epics was death at sunrise. Those few trolls that were able to withstand the sun, usually due to generous clothing combined with near-blindness, were prized as scouts, diplomats, and traders.

But with their inability to make metal implements, their reputation as raiders and thieves, and the encroachment of Ceres from the east, the days of the steppe trolls were ultimately numbered. Cerean troops waged a series of extermination campaigns against the major troll groups, driving them further into the wilderness and breaking them up. In a cruel, if effective, move, the Cerean troops targeted the skalds specifically in battle, often taking them as hostages or prisoners. While this did lead to several rather complete skald-histories of the trolls being taken down by Cerean chroniclers, it also meant the distruption and destruction of their way of life.

By the beginning of the modern era, when Ceres began turning inward in a series of devastating civil wars, trolls were functionally extinct. It is possible some yet survive at the furthest edges of the great grasslands, near where the steppe turns to taiga, but if any yet live they are long since cut off from the stories and traditions of their forebears. And unlike the other sapients, their lack of mastery over fire means that the harsh winters of the taiga are an impenetrable wall of starvation and death.

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