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The problem is that when the subject of troll romance is broached, our sparing human intellects instantly assume the most ingratiating posture of surrender imaginable. But we will do our best to understand regardless.

Humans have only one form of romance. And though we consider it a complicated subject, spanning a wide range of emotions, social conventions, and implications for reproduction, it is ultimately a superficial slice of what trolls consider the full body of romantic experience. Our concept of romance, in spite of its capacity to fill our art and literature and to rule our individual destinies like little else, is still just that. A single, linear concept. A concept usually denoted by a single symbol.

Troll romance is more complicated than that. Troll romance needs four symbols.

Their understanding of romance is divided into halves, and halved again, producing four quadrants: the FLUSHED QUADRANT, the CALIGINOUS QUADRANT, the PALE QUADRANT, and the ASHEN QUADRANT.

Each quadrant is grouped by the half they share, whether horizontally or vertically, depending on the overlapping properties one examines. The sharpest dichotomy, from an emotional perspective, is drawn between RED ROMANCE and BLACK ROMANCE.

RED ROMANCE, comprised of the flushed and pale quadrants, is a form of romance rooted in strongly positive emotions. BLACK ROMANCE, with its caliginous and ashen quadrants, is rooted in the strongly negative.

On the other hand, the vertical bifurcation has to do with the purpose of the relationship, regardless of the emotions behind it. Those quadrants which are CONCUPISCENT, the flushed and caliginous, have to do with facilitating the continuation of trollkind. Those which are CONCILIATORY, the pale and ashen, would be more closely likened to platonic relationships by human standards.

There are many parallels between human relationships and the various facets of troll romance. Humans have words to describe relationships of a negative nature, or of a platonic nature. The difference is, for humans, those relationships would never be conceptually grouped with romance. Establishing those sort of relationships for humans is not driven by the same primal forces that drive our tendency to couple romantically. But for trolls, those primal forces involve themselves in the full palette of these relationships, red or black, torrid or friendly. Trolls typically feel strongly compelled to find balance in each quadrant, and seek gratifying relationships that each describes.

The challenge is particularly tortuous for young trolls, who must reconcile the wide range of contradictory emotions associated with this matrix, while understanding the nature of their various romantic urges for the first time.

Of course, young humans have this challenge too. But for trolls, the challenge is fourfold.

When two individuals find themselves in the flushed quadrant together, they are said to be MATESPRITS. Matespritship is the closest parallel to the human concept of romance trolls have. This is pretty obvious! Not much more needs to be said about this. Moving right along.

When a pair of adversaries delve into this quadrant, they become each other's KISMESIS. As one of the concupiscent quadrants, it plays a similar functional role to that of matespritship. There is no particularly good human translation for this concept. The closest would be an especially potent arch-rivalry.

For instance, human players would never be able to adequately diagnose the relationship between the queen and her archagent. But troll players could immediately place it as a dead ringer for kismesissitude. They would think we were all pretty stupid for not getting it. And they would be right.

This quadrant involves a particular type of three-way relationship of a black romantic nature. Falling on the conciliatory side, it has no bearing on the reproductive cycle, except for indirect ramifications.

When two trolls are locked in a feud or some otherwise contentious relationship, one can intervene and become their AUSPISTICE. The auspistice mediates between the two, playing the role of a peace keeper, preventing the feud from boiling over into a fully caliginous rivalry.

Since such lesser feuds are quite common among trolls, there is a significant need for auspisticing parties. Without them, too many ashen feuds would become caliginous, and begin to conflict with other exclusive kismesis relationships, leading to a great deal of social complexity and sore feelings (even more so than black romance usually involves). Without auspisticism, the result would be widespread black infidelity.

The relationships each quadrant describes tend to be malleable, if not volatile, especially on the concupiscent half where more torrid emotions reside. It doesn't take much to flip a switch and transmute blackrom feelings to redrom, and vice versa.

In many cases, one party will have red feelings while the other has black. But it will often be the case that one party's feelings will swap to match the other's, since there is no quadrant which naturally accommodates such a disparity. But thereafter, it's not uncommon for the two to toggle between red and black in unison now and then. These scenarios naturally result in both red and black infidelities.

This sort of relationship volatility is why conciliatory relationships are an important part of troll romance.

An auspistice can stabilize particularly turbulent relationships. If the auspistice fails to mediate properly, or has no interest in the role, or perhaps has different romantic intentions him/herself altogether, then the relationship often quickly deteriorates into one of an especially hostile and torrid nature. There are many outside factors and influences tugging and pulling these relationships in different directions, and unlike humans who have very orderly, simple, straightforward romantic relationships without exception, trolls exist in a state of almost perpetual confusion and generally have no idea what is going on.

Being confused by troll relationships is one thing we do have in common though.

This quadrant presides over MOIRALLEGIANCE, the other conciliatory relationship. A reasonable human translation would be the concept of a soul mate, but in a more platonic sense, and with a more specific social purpose.

Trolls are a very angry and violent race. Some are more hot-tempered and dangerous than others, to the extent that if left to their own devices, they would present a serious threat to society, or even to themselves. Such trolls will have an instinctive pale attraction to a more even-tempered troll, who may become their MOIRAIL. The moirail is obliged to pacify the other, to function as the better half. The two partners in a strong pale relationship will serve to balance and complement each other's emotional profiles, and thus allow their other relationships to be more successful.

It's often ambiguous especially among young trolls whether a bond formed between an acquaintance is true moirallegiance, or the usual variety of platonic involvement. Furthermore, romantic intentions of a more flushed nature can often be mistaken for paler leanings, much to the frustration of the suitor.

Yes, the romantic landscape is rife with false starts and miscues and infidelities, red and black. But every troll believes strongly that each quadrant holds one and only one true pairing for them, and it is just a matter of time before the grid is filled with auspicious matchups through the mysterious channels of TROLL SERENDIPITY.

In short, their belief is that for each quadrant there exists a pair or triad of trolls somewhere in the cosmos that were…

MADE FOR EACH OTHER.

♥ ♠ ♣ ♦

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