More news has come from Madeline Brown in Minglemist:
I have been to Sparflea. How I got there, with whom I went and what happened to me there must remain a secret for now, for various reasons. But I will describe the town to you, because the sights and sounds and smells are so unique.
Sparflea is in the Felkie Valley along the Gwyndle River. At first sight I thought it very dull and dingy, covered with a layer of smog rising from countless chimneys belching coal smoke into the air. Factories were clustered on both sides of the river, surrounded by a hodgpodge of dwellings that seemed to be all connected, swarming over the flats and rising on the hillsides like a giant insect growing out of control. But as I entered the city gates I was astonished at the riot of color greeting me. The buildings were painted red and purple, pink and orange, black and blue, most of them connected by endless sets of rickety staircases, railings and clotheslines sporting polka dotted vests, lacy bloomers and striped knee breeches. Haphazard boards nailed crookedly together formed complicated passageways leading nowhere and everywhere all at once. It seemed an ineffecient means of getting around, as in order to get to your next door neighbor's you might have to go up and down several tmes, twist through a maze of walkways and duck under a line or two of laundry before arriving at a spot very close to where you started. But maybe the trolls enjoyed walking. I couldn't help gawking when I got my first look at them. Trolls are large in every way: their heads, necks, limbs, feet and hands, features and voices. The men have massive shoulders and enormous bellies, the women are pear-shaped with very broad hips. Trolls' clothing is a bewildering array of checks, stripes, flowers and polka dots decorated with fringes, bells and brooches. The women wear an astonishing amount of jewelry and the men sport chains and earrings. Both men and women have large rings on almost every finger. Purses and pocketbooks seem to be status symbols; the larger and gaudier the better. Hats, tiaras, parasols and ribboned barrettes are also essential. One other necessary troll adornment: strong perfume to disguise the fact that they don't bathe very often. I discovered this as soon as I entered the crush of people bustling about.
The market places were especially aromatic; exotic food, garbage and nose-clogging perfume made every breath an adventure. I passed by fortune tellers selling charms and potions, jugglers, dancers, musicians and tinkers, cages of exotic animals, kettles of mysterious-smelling brews, and game booths offering cheap prizes. I browsed through a bewildering array of cheap and tawdry jewelry, statues, paintings, fabric, dishes, trinkets and knickknacks.
One thing you do not want to do is wander the streets of Sparflea after dusk. I got caught doing just that, and barely escaped with my life. Squinny-eyed little creatures gibbered under stairways and rummaged through trash bins. These were gnomes, I learned. It seems the troll women think it fashionable to carry baby gnomes around, or wheel them along in fancy little buggies. But when the gnomes get old enough to scratch and bite, they're turned loose on the streets where they roam around in packs causing all kinds of mischief. But far more dangerous than the gnomes are the chimera dragons that seep out of doorways when night falls, gathering together in the gloom, casting their burning eyes towards innocent people who don't understand what they are or how to avoid them. Rows of taverns line the downtown streets, dark and unwelcoming in the gaslight, with shadowy figures spilling out the doors or huddling together in the alleys.
I was rescued, thank heavens, and now that the experience is behind me I want to go back - in the daytime, of course. There are things I must do in Sparflea. But that will have to wait....