LORE

This is a central document for trolls as a species, since the troll lore here is a little bit different from the way trolls developed in Hiveswap proper. I personally think it's a bit better! More interesting, at least, than "grey guys with horns".

The intent here is to make troll biology a little bit more coherent, and a little bit less bullshit. Not immensely less bullshit, since I am just as much of a biologist as Andrew Hussie is, just slightly less bullshit.

LIFE CYCLE

Trolls as an ecosystem consist of four parts - trolls themselves, lusii, matriorbs, and the mother grubs. Each one plays a part in troll growth, and each part is equally essential. 

Trolls begin their life as polyps, similar in shape and nature to hermit crabs, as they grow within what will eventually become their horns. These polyps latch onto the inside of the bulbous thorax of a mother grub, feeding off her ambrosia as they grow into grubs. Mother grubs are kept in desert conditions, as the ambrosia's chemical balance is quite delicate, and while physical detritus can be filtered out, liquid contamination results in trolls taking on mutations. During polyp growth, the horn shape will bifurcate, taking their position on the growing form of a grub, as their body grows in segments.

Trolls start out as grubs / wigglers? and they are most similar to the larval form of dung beetles. Wiggler bodies exude their blood colors, seeping through their bodily segments. The scent of a blood color will often draw lusii towards a wiggler, though other factors such as dominance in the brooding cavern can lead lusii to a wiggler just as well. Horns also begin to take shape as grubs, and are a grub's primary line of defense in the harsh trials of the brooding cavern. Lowbloods will often have horn shapes that are intimidating, but difficult to actually fight with - more a marking to inflict fear than a meaningful weapon. 

Once a troll has been chosen by a lusus, it will bond with that lusus, and enter pupation. Pupation marks the end of the wiggler stage of life, with soon-to-be trolls wrapping themselves up in "silk swaddles", as the nutrient-filled wiggler segments are slowly digested and reform into anthropomorphized exoskeletal lifeforms.

During pupation, trolls will also take on smaller details from the lusus they bond with, often textural differences in chitin and coloration that reflects their blood colors. Normal adaptations may include chitin that bears the texture of scales if a troll's lusus is reptilian, or tufts of fur filling out space between chitin on trolls with mammalian lususes. In more extreme cases, or in pupas prone to mutations, trolls may adapt entire body parts and adaptive measures from their lususes - known extreme cases include trolls with fairybull lususes? adapting and growing wings, trolls with dragon lususes adapting enhanced senses of smell, and trolls with salamander lususes adapting weighted tails.

Once a troll is done growing its chitinous form, they are integrated into the nearest troll society, or at least as integrated as you can consider trolls, and at least as much of a society as you can call Alternia. 

Trolls will age not unlike humans, continuing to grow, and once this process is complete, their irises fill with their blood color. The average life span of trolls remains the same across castes when presented in a vacuum, however, societal oppression of the lower castes can lead to the appearance of highbloods living longer. 

Much in the same way that humans will tell their human teenagers that shaving will cause their facial hair to regrow thicker and darker, adult trolls have formed an idea that molting chitin will cause it to grow back thicker, and darker, when this is untrue - darkened chitin is caused by chitin healing itself over time, something chitin was not meant to do, and is a mark of emotional immaturity in trolls. 

Trolls also develop psychic powers when they exit their chrysalises - the powers attributed to a troll are not specifically gated by caste, nor lusus. The origin of these powers is genetic, and is subject to a lot of mysticism. How one develops these powers isn't fully understood, though the most common form of awakening seems to be reconciling your role in society with one's ancestor, intentionally or unintentionally. These powers can range from social influences like telepathy to more direct environmental influences, such as pyrokinesis or echoing voices.

LUSUS ASSIGNMENT

While trolls can have lususes pick them out from the brooding caverns, part of the role of a typical jade-blooded troll is assigning the best lusus for a wiggler - in a vacuum, this is a thoughtless job, as every grub is compatible with every lusus, but under the empire, this comes with rigorous standardization.

BLOOD LUSUS CLASS EXAMPLES SENTIENT?
RUST Prey animals Sheep, cows, chickens No
BRONZE Work animals Horses, bulls, mules No
GOLD Underlings Imps, centipedes, ogres, giclops No
LIME w)(atever Plants, algae, bacteria, then?
literally w)(o gives a FUCK
fuck no
OLIVE Domesticated animals Cats, dogs, birds, snakes
no snakes
Yes
JADE Prey insects Houseflies, dragonflies, moths, beetles Yes
TEAL Monsters Dragons, mimics, cockatrice Yes
COBALT General insects Spiders, ticks, mantises, caterpillars Yes
INDIGO Humanimals Humanimals Yes
PURPLE Aquatic mammals, amphibians Sea goats, salamanders, clowns Yes
VIOLET Amphibians, fish Skyhorses, sea bass, anglerfish, manta rays Yes
FUCHSIA Eldritch beings Glyb'golyb Yes

SIGN CULTURE

Signs are one of the most abstract features of a troll's life, and considering the segment on gender is coming up, that's certainly saying something.

A lot of beliefs about trolls are essentialist in a way - traits normally attributed to trolls, such as violence or sociopathy, are considered inherent, when they are actually taught, especially when the subject of cultural influences come up. However, this desire to merge identification and self-expression is a trait that trolls naturally lean towards in their names, both names given by lusii and usernames chosen to display online.

A troll's sign is not unlike a signature, though it is more codified - while humans don't necessarily need to sign the same way every time, failure to perfectly replicate their sign can result in death for a troll. When handwriting in Alternian, it's common courtesy to use a troll's sign alongside the chosen spelling of their name, however in the wake of the technological boom, in which most trolls have computers, phonetically spelling names has predominated, since no system can effectively keep up with how many unique signs there are, nor should they be able to, according to the inventor of troll Unicode.?

Signs may reflect a lot of things about a troll - it's effectively a signature. In some cases, this may be a simplified self-portrait, or a portrait of one's lusus. Sometimes it's a very appealing shape, or something that holds significant importance to that troll, however most trolls choose to keep their signs simple - writing can take quite a while when your sign is a realistic ink drawing of yourself, and it's difficult to standardize.

Should a troll opt out of having a custom sign, they will be assigned one from the table of 276 Empire signs. The Empire signs showed up as a result of the Great Signing Operation, brought on by a follower of the Sufferer, who remained nameless. 12 troll signs, one from each coherent caste, were fed into an empire machine and mutated, creating "frankensigns". Trolls with these signs bear the social stigma of these "frankensigns", engendering distrust in the same way one distrusts a police officer.

From this, protests against the empire took on the social technology of "sign jamming", the mass adoption of a single troll's sign to set off or confuse imperial drones, which, after the empire changed to robotic drones, were less capable of meaningfully identifying wanted trolls by their features, opting to identify signs.

GENDERSTRATA

Gender is a difficult, complex topic for even humans to approach, in human terms, but describing the troll approach to gender becomes even more difficult when limited to human terms as well - humans lack succinct words for "features adopted from one's lusus", and this issue is twofold - it must cover both physical traits, and the societal role assigned to a troll for having those traits, much in the same way that "man" gets used to mean both "assigned male at birth", and "the societal concept of a man". Though it may seem approachable, as trolls often wind up with lususes that are sexually dimorphous, this is exactly the trait that makes troll gender such an overly difficult topic, as the lusus affects appearance and presentation just as much, if not more, than secondary sex characteristics.

Under the empire, troll gender is reduced to two societal roles - "male" and "female", not unlike the human gender binary. However, this is not the extent of it - when fully examined, troll gender experiences start at the lusus.

There are 6 genderstrata - Animalia, Plantae, Fungae, Protista, Bacteria, and Archaea, each one the branch of a tree. This then spreads out to a lusus species substrata, and then into assigned genders based on that lusus. In lacking words for concepts like CROWGIRL, human words like "crow girl" will suffice.

Trolls that experience dysphoria will often experience dysphoria on multiple levels - while their assigned gender may conflict with the one they feel, it's also possible for a substrata to be incorrect, when the gender itself may be correct. Transitioning from one gender to another is usually just a social transition - the change of pronouns, presentation, etc. as the majority of trolls aren't sexually dimorphous enough to justify more, but transitioning from one substrata to another can be a taxing process. The act of transitioning from spider boy to spider girl is quite simple - she may grow out her hair, wear longer coats, inform her friends of the new pronouns and take up traditionally "girly" things, like FLARP. However, transitioning from lichen girl, to a nonbinary dove person may be quite taxing, emotionally, socially, and physically. However, these things are not impossible - in the best case scenario, trolls may find lususes willing to bond with them, inducing a "second pupation" in which they, over time, adopt the traits of the paired lusus. 

RECURRING GROUPS

Quite a few troll factions have risen and fallen over the course of troll history, shifting in and out of relevance as the world needs, but certain societal faction roles will reoccur, growing as necessary, though occasionally taking on other names.

Midwife's Union

Troll midwives - most commonly jadebloods, though assistants may appear from any caste - will often unionize, in order to keep the Empire from hijacking the troll reproductive systems as much as they can, as the empress has shown herself unwilling to  - midwife unions have fought to keep drones away from the mother grubs, as well as reduce supervision on the ground floor of the brooding caverns. After the rise of the myth of the Dolorosa, troll midwive unions took on the role of escorting trolls marked to be culled out of the culling space, often having connections to underground limeblood/mutant caravans, as well as keeping tabs on black market lusus trading.

Limeblood/mutant caravans

Limebloods and mutants, being killed on sight by drones, will often keep moving - the typical limeblood living places are within caves, connected through networks to the brooding caverns, keeping their distance from troll society overall. They live largely nomadically - checkpoints exist at brooding caverns and the rare lusus farm, but aside from those rest stops, limeblood life is constant motion, in snaking patterns, undetectable by empire drones.

Circuses

Circuses other than The Dark Carnival exist. On Alternia, in which sweets made for consumption are rare, kept out of the hands of lowbloods, circuses are speakeasies to lowbloods, and displays of ostentatious wealth and power to highbloods - the foray of explosives, acrobatic pirouettes, and bright, shining colors painted with grubs is an intimidating show of force, as cotton candy and caramel popcorn flies across seats at circuses. Circuses will often adopt lowblood trolls who've suffered runs of bad luck and adopt them into their folds, often killing them when the time comes to up the stakes of the show, as their wealthy highblood patrons froth at the mouth for the show.