Stump trolls are one of the smaller species of troll, and they live in the woods and fields. While not especially shy, they are rarely seen due to their impressive camouflage.
Stump trolls are a species rarely noticed, as they do not appear at first glance to be anything but a tree stump or another natural feature. When noticed, they are often mistaken for infant giants, goblins or even one of the fae. Therefore they have very few known encounters, and tend to pass below notice in most cases.
Traits and Behavior
Stump trolls, despite commonly being mistaken for goblins, are more closely related to giants and greatly resemble them. They are vaguely humanoid in that they have two arms and two legs, and generally walk on their feet. Their overall appearance is that of a tree stump, with their limbs appearing as branches or roots. Their skin resembles bark so closely that it can even grow moss and lichen; some may even develop mushrooms. When they sit or crouch down, and close their eyes, they are impossible to visually tell apart from a rotting stump.
Each hand of a stump troll will have between two and four fingers, as well as a thumb; their feet many have no toes at all. They have two to three eyes and a small nose set into the cracks of their bark; they have a remarkably strong sense of smell, which they use to find their food from miles away. They are a hermaphroditic species and do not identify by any gender.
Stump trolls vary in size depending on region, as they will resemble the trees in the area. Stump trolls in the Redwoods, for example, tend to be the largest of their species. They are rarely found in young or new forests due to the limited amount of rotting trees to blend in with. They are not a very social species, but as they are not territorial there can be hundreds in a small area, so long as there is food and water available. Their appearance is not genetic, and two sibling trolls can look like entirely different tree species if they have moved far enough apart.
Stump trolls are omnivores, and primarily eat food already beginning to rot or decompose. They do not hunt their meat; they are scavengers and can even eat bones and gristle from the corpse of another species’ kill. They are fond of fruits, and will gather ones that have fallen off a tree for later consumption if they are not sufficiently decomposed when they find them. They are very fond of alcohol, and will often seek out satyrs in the woods to attend their parties for some.
Stump trolls are entirely nocturnal; they spend the night foraging for food and singing to themselves in low tones, below what most species can hear. They use these songs primarily for their own entertainment, but they are also used to communicate to other stump trolls about resources in the area, if they are looking for company, information about predators, and so on. Stump trolls may go for years without interacting with one another, but communicate with their neighbors every night. During the day they settle in one place to sleep; they may have just one nesting site or several, but they will not move until the sun has set. It has been proposed that the sunlight paralyzes them, similar to a gargoyle, but this has not been confirmed.
Stump troll infants are born in groups of 3-7, to at least two adult troll parents. At birth they more resemble a root ball or chunk of wood in shape and coloring, but their limbs are more of a pale grey and they won’t develop their bark-like skin until they are 3 weeks old. At that point they are effectively self-sufficient and will travel alone to look for food, though they stay close to their parents for a number of years before they slowly increase their distance and find their own nest sites. Troll parents stay in the same area for those years, but do not form permanent partnerships with each other and will leave once the children are grown. They may have as many as 7 litters in their lifetime, but usually have several different partners rather than one.
Growing stump trolls develop more elaborate camouflage over time, with false branches, scarred bark and even woodpecker holes developing on their skin. Stump trolls have little to no feeling in their skin and are not bothered if actual insects or birds nest on them or eat the outer layer of bark. Lichen and moss growing on them is very common, and even ideal, as it helps them appear all the more stump-like, and they may cultivate it as well. There is some evidence they also use it as a secondary food source.
Stump trolls can live for centuries, and at this time there is no recorded case of one dying of old age. They get slower and more elaborately camouflaged with age, and may not bother foraging every night over time. When they do die, they simply settle down to the ground and in all respects appear to become a rotten stump on the ground. Stump trolls do not consider these brethren as dead, merely sleeping, though whether this is true or just a kinder way of looking at things is unclear. There have been cases where a stump troll has gotten up and started moving again after decades of sleep, so there is the possibility that they are in fact immortal and just need more rest with age.
Stump trolls do not actively avoid other species, but as they only move at night and cannot communicate with most species due to their low, deep voices, they rarely interact with others. They do appear to understand speech at human-level hearing. Many will live near or on mountain trolls and can communicate with them, and they are generally fond of dryad groves though the two species are not known to directly interact. Stump trolls are fond of satyr wine and other forms of alcohol, but as satyrs and fauns travel through the year and stump trolls tend to stay in one area, they don’t interact on a consistent basis. They consider social interaction something to be done rarely, and are content to spend most of their time alone, listening to the movement of the earth and rumble of the mountains, sounds that are hard to appreciate without their range of hearing. Their songs, if one can hear them, are said to be some of the most beautiful sounds on earth.
If a human does come across one, while they are awake, the stump troll will likely continue what they are doing rather than attempt to communicate or even acknowledge the other; unless they were seeking company of some kind, they consider any conversation attempts as rude and invasive, and will try to leave instead of engage.
Stump trolls are content to do their own thing, are too slow to be an active attacker for most species, and won’t take food or resources that haven’t already begun to decompose, so thus they pose no threat to anyone. There wouldn’t truly be a reason to need to harm one.
That being said, they are essentially invulnerable as any damage done to one will heal over time no matter how severe, and even if they stop moving for decades, that does not appear to be a guarantee that they are in fact dead. Any conflict with a stump troll is likely to end up in a stalemate where you cannot do any harm, and they in turn will outlive you regardless.