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for battle.
The troll sat up.
It was short and dense. Its head was shaped like an eggplant, with the tuft of dark, dread-locked hair
rising from the stem end, its small agate eyes under a shelf of brow in the middle, and its broad,
thin-lipped mouth across the big round part at the bottom. Ears like flyswatters stuck out on either side of
its head. Its neck was invisible. Its shoulders were impressive under all the stinky, filthy hair. Even its
muscles had muscles. It crossed its arms over its broad chest and dared me to come closer by flicking an
agile, snake-split tongue at me.
My growl grew louder. I crept forward, right across my daughter's sleeping bag, until the troll and I were
almost nose to nose. If you could call that little button a nose.
"Grrrr!"
It smiled and licked my nose like a grateful puppy. Disarmed by its friendliness, I didn't react for a
second when it copped a feel. Not easy to do through mail, even light mail.
If it did that to me, what had it done to my daughter? Kayla's tender heart or not, nobody touchedme
without an invitation! Choose your issues, the counselor had said. Protected species or not, the beast
was about to become troll sausage. I jumped on the troll, calling on my totem wolf to give me strength.
"Mother!" Kayla screamed. "Stop that this instant! Leave Sticky alone!"
There was something intoxicating about wrestling with the troll. The narrow confines of the cave forced
us totally into each other's personal space. I found myself straining to breathe in its scent, and began to
wonder if it exuded some sort of pheromone that interfered with my warrior abilities.
Pretty soon I had lost track of my original goal of killing it and concentrated solely on the pleasure
inherent in roughhousing. It was pinching me, hard enough to hurt, and I pinched it back and felt proud to
hear it gasp at my strength. Then it licked me with that tickly tongue, and now I gasped because I realized
I was getting slightly more excited than was appropriate for a woman who thought she was being licked
by a dog.
The troll was a worthy opponent, one of the few I had wrestled with recently who possessed a strength
equal to mine. I couldn't help but be impressed by his power. In some ways, we were equals. We rolled
around without letting go of each other. We smashed into walls and rocks and each other. He tickled my
armpits with a stocky finger. I laughed. I couldn't stop.
I had my arms around the troll and he had his arms and legs around me and his mouth so close to my ear
I felt his hot breath moisten my skin when I heard Kayla scream, "Mother!" in a tone of absolute shock.
It had been a long time since I'd startledthat tone out of her.
The troll pressed his broad mouth against mine and licked my lips. The taste was not at all unpleasant.
He hugged me one last time, then rolled off me and vanished down a narrow tunnel into the darkness.
I sighed. He was gone, yet his spicy taste lingered on my lips and his strong scent filled the cave like a
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pleasant memory. I wondered if I could work up a scent based on the troll's b.o. for the company.
Would I name it "Attract" or "Repel"?
"Mother, how could you?" Kayla demanded.
I sat up. "I didn't kill it. I didn't even hurt it much."
"You terrified him!"
"I don't think so." I patted kinks out of my mail. The troll had really strong fingers. "Roll up that sleeping
bag and get back where you belong, young lady."
"It's not fair," she said, and sniffled. She shoved ineffectually at her sleeping bag.
"Life's not fair. Actions have consequences. Your actions in particular are going to have some big
consequences. Deal with it." I had a worry I didn't even want to bring into the light. After fighting with the
troll, I knew he was male, horny, and well-equipped. What if Kayla's actions had the consequence of
making me a grandmother to a half-troll child?
I blinked at her my innocent baby. Hah! She was no more innocent than I was at that age. I
remembered my mother's vague warnings when Ned and I were fooling around in the back seat of his
Chevy. At the time I thought she didn't know what we were really doing.
Now I saw that she must have known, she just didn't know how to effectively deal with it. But Kayla
and I had gone through counseling, so I knew better. At least, that was the theory. I decided to pretend
nothing had happened, just like my mother.
I wanted to ground Kayla for letting that troll loose and sneaking off with it. She knew the camp's rules.
Nobody stole someone else's catch.
Grounding, however, did not work on Kayla. Obedience to authority, mine in particular, was one of her
issues.
I was tired of flashing my knife and my teeth to get her to do what I told her.
Maybe I should just lock her up in a troll cage.
She glanced up and caught me staring at her. "Mom," she whimpered, and my heart melted.
My head was still solid, though. "You're grounded," I said. It never worked, but what else could I do?
"You're so grounded we're leaving for home at first light. No shopping or malls for a month! No TV for a
week!" Any longer without TV and she would drive me crazy.
"Mom," she said again. I guess she realized I was serious. She snapped the sleeping bag over, flicked it
so it rolled up, and stuffed it into a stuff sack. Shedid remember everything I'd taught her on our first
camp-out.
Then she glared at me. "I hope you know, this is war. I challenge you!" She shook her head and looked
down at me. "I'll never forgive you," she whispered.
"For what?"
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"Stealing my boyfriend." She turned and crawled out of the cave, never glancing back.
When I woke up the next morning, I had the most beautiful collection of bruises I'd ever acquired, even
in a lifetime of mock and real battles. Troll-pinching-mail-pinching-skin equaled bruises shaped like
purple-black roses, mostly concentrated on my butt. I dressed in my everyday warrior woman wear, mail
hauberk, stainless steel cuirass, and chausses, my mail stockings, which covered all my troll marks but the
three hickeys on my neck.
Despite the already stifling heat, I unpacked my coif-de-mailles and put it on my head. It covered my
head and shoulders, leaving only my face bare. My hair instantly dampened with sweat. It was going to
be one of those days. I swallowed a salt tablet and chugged some water.
I pulled on my boots and loaded up on armaments. I really wanted to kill something. Preferably
something big.
I stepped out of the teepee into the heat of the sun, and flashing light temporarily blinded me. Shading my
eyes, I took another look.
A tall woman stood there in mail so shiny I knew it had never been fought in. She wore a helmet with a
gray whale rampant for a crest.
I sniffled. Her birthday suit, the one I gave her when she turned fifteen. My daughter had finally put it on.
She raised her visor. The look in her eyes chilled me.
"Well," she said. "I hope you're happy now."
By all rights I should have been. She was armed and ready to fight. It was everything I had hoped for
when we began this trip. Her upper lip curled into a snarl and her nostrils flared as she sniffed at the air.
My daughter the warrior was ready to assert her final challenge to my authority.
The girls from the Teen Warrior program danced around screaming, "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!"
Cookie bent down to draw a circle in the dirt with her cooking spoon. Gladys Badger Woman, who
was our warrior parliamentarian, cautioned, "No holds barred. Just remember our two rules."
I wanted to say, Stop. It's just a troll! He's not worth fighting over. But I couldn't bring myself to say the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]