Rose hit hard and was very grateful for her helmet.....helmet? She grabbed the talisman and discovered that it had shrunk. She pondered that for half a second and realized that she had grown. Her hair was a funny colour. She was all different....and it wasn't at all comfortable sticking straight upside down on her head.
She was surrounded by the strangest creatures! Were they also planning to eat her? They were all smiling at her but she had learned to distrust smiles. The white monsters has smiled the entire time they had assaulted her.
The good thing was that the only white here was the blocks of foam and on her blouse. Even her clothes were strange. The pain from having her wings torn out was gone. Rose had enough awareness of magic to suspect that her wings were gone forever. She had crossed the barrier wingless and the talisman hadn't realized she was supposed to have wings when it adjusted her to survive in this new reality. It was only a tool, not an inteligent being, after all.
Rose sighed. She would grieve for her lost wings in private. For now, she had to be strong and brave, look tough! She wanted them to think twice before attacking her.
Although she had no way of knowing it, Rose wasn't the first person to be astounded at the fervour with which trolls could devour plastic. The chunks of white foam that had inadvertently come with her when she had crossed into this realm were seized upon by the trolls. Chewed and savoured, the chunks quickly went into troll tummies. There was no fighting, or quarreling over the food, which made Rose very happy. These trolls might look funny but they had good manners and were civilized people....even if they didn't wear any clothes.
She was lucky to have come here, she decided.
"Let's all give a big welcome to our new Exchange Student!"
"Exchange Student?" Rose wondered. That sounded better than being classified as lunch.
"PARTY FOOD!" came the collective welcome. They weren't looking at Rose, however. "The new one brought party food! Yummy good, party food! May we have some, please?"
That 'please' reminded Rose of her manners. "Oh,yes, please help yourselves. I do hope there is enough for everyone."
"No! That's my talisman!" Rose wailed. "I need it!"
"You will get it back as soon as you graduate," Rose was told by the trolls. "All Exchange Students must surrender their talisman to the school until they have passed the course. You don't have to worry. It is perfectly safe in the protective dome. Now, we need to know your name so that you may be properly registered."
"My name is Rose."
"A rose is a flower: a plant." Rose was informed. "You are clearly not a plant. Therefore you and not a rose."
"Not a Rose?" Rose demanded shrilly. "Why of course I am a Rose, just as my mother was a Rose and my grandmother and my great-grandmother!"
"Not-A-Rose! Thank you.Your name is now registered, Not-A-Rose. Study hard, be good, and you'll be happy here."
Rose protested but the trolls began to chant "Not-A-Rose!" until the noise drowned out her complaints. Like it or not, which she didn't, she was now Not-A-Rose for the duration.
The class began and Not-A-Rose learned they were studying rocks. They started out big, learning about the planet's composition, how mass created heat (and pressure) which drove the creation of different types of rocks. The igneous rocks, as opposed to the sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks had their own chapter. There was a lot of chemistry and math to absorb, more than Not-A-Rose had expected, since to fairies a rock was just a rock.
"Hey!" yelled Not-A-Rose as a round stone hit her helmet. "That's not nice! What are you, a boy?"
"Maybe I am a boy," the troll said, teasingly, "or maybe you are the boy. How do I know you're a girl?"
"You know I'm a girl because I'm smart, polite, responsible, and brave," Not-A-Rose responded. "A girl wouldn't throw a rock at someone, especially from behind!"
Not-A-Rose was having a hard time with the whole gender issue. She had been taught her whole life that girls were smarter and stronger than boys but trolls didn't believe that. They didn't think it made any difference if one was a girl or a boy. To prove their point, they dared her to tell which trolls were girls and which were boys. Rose didn't like not being able to tell.
"The trolls with rounded belly jewels are the girls," she tried, "and the trolls with pointed gems are boys!"
"Oh, no!" she was told. "Our tummy jewels are given to us when we are old enough to go to school. We get to pick them out ourselves. We pick ones we think are pretty."
Not-A-Rose was near to tears in frustration. "You've told me that the difference between boys and girls isn't related to your eye colour or your hair colour and now that it isn't related to your tummy jewels. I give up! How do you tell the girls from the boys?"
The trolls all burst into laughter. "We DON'T!" they laughed. "There is no difference. We told you! Trolls are not boy-trolls, or girl-trolls. We are all the same! Trolls!"
"Come and eat, Not-A-Rose," she was urged. "See? Here is the access node. We can draw upon it for anything we want. If you know how. You do understand magic?"
Not-A-Rose shrugged. "Magic is just channeling energy along a chosen path to the desired outcome."
"Right! But, you've got to make sure your path can contain the energy and will produce the desired outcome. Watch me!" The troll concentrated and pulled out a chunk of shiny material which s/he bit into. "It's good!"
Not-A-Rose was still angry at the way she had been tricked. Okay, maybe there was no difference between boys and girls among trolls but that changed nothing. She was going to show them. She might just be an Exchange Student, who knew nothing about trolls (and very little about rocks) but she was smart!
She pulled but nothing happened, so she pulled again. Still nothing, so the third time she pulled as hard as she could. Pow! The shiny food exploded out of the access point with enough force that it knocked her over.
The trolls all laughed. "Greedy!" one shouted. "You shouldn't take more than you can eat. It's not polite."
Rose burned with anger and humiliation. To her surprise, the troll who had thrown the rock spoke up, saying that Not-A-Rose was simply trying to be generous, to feed the whole group. S/He was hungry and would help Not-A-Rose eat the food. There would be no waste and it was only wasting food that was bad.
Bedtime brought another surprise. Trolls sleep standing up. They never used beds. That made Not-A-Rose think sadly of her snug little bed with its pretty blankets. When she got too tired, she lay down and used a rock as a pillow. It amused her fellow students that she had to lay down to sleep, or she would fall down, but they were too sleepy to make jokes....until morning.
Sweet dreams to one and all.