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From my new forthcoming novel, The Halfling

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1.  The Great Troll Hunt

 "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee." Nietzsche

The five men of the Wolf Clan moved with a kind of precision and purpose that was more than a hunt for wild game.  It was a combat patrol.  Each one controlled his own wolf dog on a short leash.  There were two women also.  Each of them had a bitch in tow.  One was obviously pregnant, the bitch, not the woman.  The men were all young, in their early twenties, tall, athletic, proud, strong, the women were barely nineteen.  They were out-members of the group, women who had joined the clan from another clan after the great annual fall bison hunt.

Their mother would have never permitted them to come on such an adventure.  Women must take care of the home and the family while the men hunted and protected them.  That was The Way that the All Mother had laid down for them.  No, their mother could not stop them.  They were free and independent and had no children, yet.  The head Witch had warned the two that leaving with the men on the hunt was a sin against nature and that the night shades of the damned would haunt their dreams, but the two sisters laughed at her and said they would bring her back a Troll head to decorate her hut.  The Witch called out for a great blessing of protection from the All Mother.  Their courage was an inspiration to everyone.

Now, the two did not feel so courageous.  The smell of it made them want to gag, but the bitch's mouths watered.  So, it couldn't be that bad.  The leader directed two of the men to keep watch.  The other three stood before the strange totem, examining it.

The short fury body was perfectly impaled with a long stake, twice the height of a man, from anus to mouth.  The arms and legs were outstretched and held that way by two long poles forming an X.  There was a pole behind it, neatly propping up the display.

The leader pronounced his verdict.  "That Troll has been dead for over two weeks."

"At least."  The man beside him added.

"I've never seen work like this before."  The third one commented.  "Who would do this?"

They stood on a small rise in the middle of vast open spaces, definitely not Troll territory.  Trolls kept to the forest, if there were men occupying the open areas.  The totem demonstrated that this space was occupied by men.  Wolfgar took his four closest friends and the two young women on the danger quest, because he wanted to see for himself what lay beyond the pass.  Their wolf-dogs' travois were laden with their own feed, dried Troll, from last month's battle, and extra water.  Each of the men and women carried a knapsack stocked with human food as well as a bed role.  Now he would see if the stories grandfather Wolfbane had told him were true.

"Are the wildlings still pacing us?"  He asked the question casually, as if to no one in particular.

Priss could see that her sister, Puss, was totally grossed out by the display and was not paying attention.  She nudged her lightly.

"Yes, Wolfgar."  She recovered quickly.  She forgot it was her turn to answer.  The dominant twin, Priss, usually answered for her when they were together.  Puss was trying to learn to assert herself more.  "The last time I looked, back at the draw near the big gullies, I spotted a wolf.  She looked back at me and did not flinch."

Keeping eye on whatever was following them was the only job he had assigned them, so far.

"They never do."  One of the others commented.

"Maybe this totem will give them something to do for a while."  Wolfgar mused.

"Catgirl."  Out of respect, none of the men ever called her, or her sister Priss, by her little girl nickname, even though they were both unmarried.  The courage of the quest earned them their real names.  "Do you see that?"

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