People will judge you based on what you look like, but they can be very wrong. The truth is found when your actions do the talking.
"There was this ogre named Hoke," I told Margot the troll, "who was purported to be so ugly that he'd walk through town and babies would get the colic if they saw him. He used to swagger around, proud to turn heads -- turn them away, that is.
"Restauranteurs used to pay him to stay away from their establishments, or in really competitive times, he'd take bids from them. Pierre's Boulangerie might pay top dollar to get Hoke to stand in the parking lot at the Rosicrucian Bar and Grill, where he'd scare the horses and ruin appetites.
"He had big googly eyes and a nose like a skeleton, and a great big mouthful of snaggly teeth. No chin, skinny little arms and legs, and a flabby gray pot belly." I looked up at Margot to see if she was listening. One corner of her mouth turned up unwillingly, as she visualized Hoke the Monstrous. "No hair, either," I said.
"Unsuspecting travelers would sometimes pass out at the sight of him lounging at the way stations!" Margot turned and looked down at me reproachfully. "I'm not making this up!" I put my hands up to show I had no figurative weapons.
"One day a tour bus came through town, drawn by six black horses. It was the 'Dungeons and Wagons' Tour, and it had been chartered by the Midwest Ogres Auxiliary, a bunch of lady ogresses out for a change of scenery and a good time. That was the same day that poor Hoke was contracted by Pierre's to lean against the front wall of Farfregnuegen's Sausages in a stained muscle shirt and elf-tights." I shook my head. "It was a horrible sight. Business was bad at the Sausages, only a couple farmers going in for a beer on the way home, them being too tired to even look at Hoke. And that was the evening the bus came through with the Ogres Auxiliary. They were looking out the windows of the coach, took one look at Hoke, and nearly swooned, each and every one.
"'Stop!' they screamed, and piled out of the wagon. Old Hoke took off running with the whole Auxiliary after him. Stomach-turning as he was to everyone else, Hoke was the most gorgeous creature they'd ever laid eyes on. Oh! The saggy sumptuousness of his midriff! Oh! Those nubbly wattles under his chin! Coochy-coo, those rubbery feet!"
Margot refused to look at me, watching instead some pigeons circling a far-off barn. "You're trying to make me feel good about myself. That's okay. I do. I just accept that most folks find me ugly as -- ol' Hoke in your story. You'll give me the old crap story, 'Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder,' until I get fed up and tell you to shut up."
"Maybe Beauty is, and maybe it isn't. I'll tell you a line much simpler, and more true. Three words: Is As Does."
We walked another ten steps or so while I left those powerful words sink in. "You said it yourself earlier today, that you can see how people are by the way they react to you, because they don't try to pretend with trolls. Is as does, Margot.
"Do they snub you because of how you look or dress? Then they're just snobs. They are, as they do. Do they discriminate against you because you're a troll and not an elf? Let them look in the mirror and see the person they've become because of what they do. I don't care how fine the nobleman dresses, or who he knows. If he acts like a crud to anyone, then he IS a crud.
"And no, not everyone sees that. A lot of folks wear blinders on their eyes because they don't want to see the difference between good and bad, don't want to look past superficials, but there again, they are what they do: shallow, insensate, as focused on their own lives as bulls competing for the same cows. 'This is my pasture, everyone else get out of my way.'"
"You get so damn worked up, Aser. Would you like me to dunk you in the creek?"
"No, thank you. I've never seen you act cruel or hateful, so I take exception that you think of yourself as 'ugly'."
Margot shrugged. "Maybe it's a family thing; my parents were crazy about you skrunky little humans."
I turned to her. "I know a wizard who could give you little pink arms and feet, cut your size by about half ..."
"No!" Margot growled. "I'd rather look like me."
"Then you're not really ugly, are you?"
Her forehead wrinkled a little in annoyance, Margot said, "Maybe you are."
I shook my finger at her. "Tsk-tsk, Margot. It's not a matter of looks: remember, 'Is As Does.'"
"That must make you Smartass Royalty."
"Sheer flattery. Margot, what makes a troll look good? Slightly iridescent gleam to the scales?"
"And nice even fangs. Good size, muscles. Straight black hair. You're good-lookin' Margot. You got it all."
Margot stumped along, looking at the sky. "Here's where I'm supposed to say that your little talk made me feel beautiful ... "
"But it just made me feel stupid for even bringing the subject up. I know every thing you've said. So if I feel stupid for having asked the question, does that make me stupid?"
I shook my staff at her. "No, it's Is As Does, not Is As Feels. Feelings just happen. What one does indicates the person who makes the decision to do."
Margot finally looked at me. "So I won't chop you up for dinner."
"I thank you once again," I replied. "See why I think you're lovely?"
"Other people will still think I'm ugly."
"People in general will almost always judge on their preconceptions, and that's sad. Sounds like you're looking for someone to be a mirror for you, to show you that you're not just beautiful, but good, true, and lovable."
"I'm not looking for anyone."
"Then trust what your own eyes tell you in the mirror. What your heart tells you on the road."
"Who tells you you're beautiful, Shaman?"
"Margot," I said, "I see part of the other world, the part that comes after Death. I've seen the torment, the boredom, the remorse. All the suffering is a result of not reverencing Life or for not accepting what is Life. For deliberate misconception or for just lack of appreciation. I see what happens when souls refuse to see the value and beauty in others, and in themselves. Is As Does. I don't need to hear that I'm beautiful. I just need to do what I believe is good, and then I'm good, too. Of course I have to listen to others to see if I'm on the right track, but that's the case for everyone, isn't it?"
"Maybe. Where was this town where Hoke the Horrible was hanging around?"
"The port city of Skuleflight Harbor. On our way if we continue south," I offered.
"I want to see him. Then I'll decide if you're really telling me the truth or if you're just some shit-shoveling feel-good pansy-assed ... "
"You're welcome," I said.