Bones stuck out at odd angles, dripping from the fresh rainfall. Each marking dead ancestors of the Tile clan. Everyone that had died, once they had become a clan member. Everyone celebrated here, therefore, had passed this test. Each bone tattooed with the name and life dates of their clan reign.
This did not reassure Jubér. They had yet to pass the test. This meant they belonged to their birth clan still. This meant if they reached puberty they would have their gender chosen for them, would have their tribe role chosen for them. Two things they did not want.
The first thing any clan member got to choose was gender, then role, and a proper Troll name. Jubér would, if they passed the Tile test get a Tile name. They knew what role, name and gender they would choose.
The dark entryway to the Tile tribe test was covered in grey slime. It was from the Troll leather that baked in the sunshine and then washed in the tropical rains. It was old. Warn. It was still strong though. Made from Trolls past who had the glory of becoming a Tile leatherback. Slime dropped from it as Troll skin was full of minerals. Even after death, they kept seeping out for years, even centuries after.
Trolls are natural herbivores, but ate dirt and rock as well. They needed minerals to have strong bones and skin. For in ages past, Trolls and their moonkin, the Orcs shared blows. Orcs natural carnivores saw Trolls as almost prey until the Trolls had fought strong enough back. Ever since they shared their moon, an uneasy peace kept.
Juber walked on as Tile clansman had to be brave, their only protection skin, their only weapon a small knife which they held in their left hand. It was carved from his grandmothers left thigh bone. Her life’s years carved on the handle. Jubér wondered what the Misfit clan test was. Grandma had belonged to that clan. She had done so to gain the ability to choose to be female. To choose to be a Misfit, and a warrior-woman spy.
Jubér was choosing a different clan. For a different reason. Tile clan was the clan for creators. Artisans, Musicians, Storytellers. Trolls took this job just as seriously just as they did any other. Anyone who wanted to be a Tile has to be brave, strong of spirit and true of heart.
A leatherbound manifesto was on the door of the next corridor. The dark and the slime were all that seemed to curse this corridor except for the small sheet of paper.
On it was the first test. It would say something.
It was one word.
This was not unexpected. Jubér had to make something that would let them get past the test. They noticed that the ground was no longer soil. Ancheint Troll tooths. So many that they where like tiles. Tile Clan. Jubér looked, staring in the dark for the one that wasn’t from a troll. Their. That one. A goldhound throat pouch. Then nearby a dogfish bone, and then a bit further back a bit of the leather was loose. It was dogfish leather. Probably from the same dogfish.
Jubér got to work.
The path beyond was darker than previous, it was beyond even their sight to be able to see it. It was clear that the task was to make a useful tool. In this case a torch. Binding the leather to the pouch and bone and making them into a torch. The goldhound pouch would light up when it was shaken. The night hunting insectivores loved to attract and eat every sort of insect that they could. Barking and yipping happily as they did. Most trolls had goldhound pets to chase the insects away from crops and protect their abodes.
A few shakes and it started to glow. Within seconds the path beyond was clear. More tiles and leather covered the wall. With each step now literally on their clanmates, it was hard not to feel like they were watching.
Then a door. A big black door. Made of Stonewood. Harder than iron, twice as heavy. This door was made to last anyone trying to just knock it down. Stonewood grew slow though. The tree that made this door must be older than the clan itself.
Barely carved, just a single handle and lock. Jüber tried the handle. As most would predict, the Stonewood door was unopenable. There would be a key, or perhaps they needed to make one.
Looking around, there was no key hidden, but then Jüber noticed the tiles on the floor were different slightly. One just had the letter O on it. Then another with the letter G and finally one with the letter H. Hog. Jübee knew this was a puzzle now.
In a few seconds they realized it was a bad pun. And poked the dogfish bone into the hole. A click sounded from the door and it slid easily to the side.
”Dogfish key, key fish dog, hog fide key. Puzzle pinning. I like it.” Jüber knew that there would be one last thing they had to do.
The dark spaces got tighter. The teeth tiles, sharper. Blood now seeped a bit from their feet. There were leatherback coats from the first hundred years of Tile clan trolls. Then bones. Full skellingtons from those who had dedicated their wholeness to the clan. This each had their name and what they had done to warrant such great glory.
Finally the last test. A somewhat morbid piano made of bone and hardwood. The keys of which had the letters ”Play”. Inscribed upon them. Jüber bet that the strings inside were made from Troll intestines. What to play? Anything? No. The Tile Clan song. The song that every Tile Clan member must know.
With a minute of key playing, the piano opened. There was a bit of paper and a dogfish bone pen with ink already on it. The paper had:
Tile clan path: leatherback, stone mason, bone poet, musician, creator
Jüber filled them in, and left the paper on the piano. Knowing the way back was to go the way they came in. It should be very interesting, being who I am for the rest of my life.