He was a strange figure, a dull lumpish creature that the locals knew only as Trog. Whether that was the name his parents gave him or simply an unpleasant title dreamed up by the people around him nobody knew. It was the name he called himself though and his unfortunate neighbours would often hear him lumbering around in the darkness of the night calling out obscenities and invoking his own name as if he considered himself some unseen tormentor or deity in his own life.
They wanted him gone, those neighbours, for Trog was a nuisance and an unpleasant annoyance in their lives. They never knew when a peaceful afternoon would be interrupted by cries of “Trog, Trog, Trog hates trees,” or “Trog, Trog, Trog is mighty!” and then the great shape of the thing itself would appear at their hedge or fence, looming over it and leering or grimacing at them. They wanted him gone, but Trog was cunning and sly as well as strange and clumsy. He had great hoards of wealth in his cave, he said, though few people had been given a glimpse of his treasure, and he bought the friendship of strange travellers who came and went through the neighbourhood to visit him in his dismal hole in the hill. When his neighbours came together to discuss the lumpish creature, Trog would always hear of it, and without warning many of these strange travellers would arrive to disrupt the gatherings with high, piping exclamations and would brandish lengthy documents of impenetrable precedent that purported to show why Trog’s right to dwell in the hole in the hill, and his right to harass his neighbours, and his right to bellow obscene and unusual oaths at all hours, and his right to be allowed to live were inviolable and – they went on – since nobody could argue that a creature did not have the right to live QED the neighbours had no basis for their cruel persecution.
At length though the neighbours lost their patience and gathered together to evict Trog from their neighbourhood. The pleasant forest walks had been littered with animal bones from his ravenous appetite for flesh, great trenches had been dug around the area for no reason that anyone but Trog could understand, and the nocturnal ravings were increasing in both volume and frequency and keeping everyone awake. So one afternoon the neighbours met and agreed that Trog must go. The crafty creature however had been listening to their conversation in secret though, having buried himself in the earthen floor of their village hall, and how he fumed when he heard their plan. As soon as the neighbours had left the hall, agreeing to meet again the next morning and march together to the hole in the hill, Trog clawed out of the ground and fumed. He scratched his belly, dislodging clumps of mud and earth, and clusters of scurrying beetles. He stamped his feet and gnashed his teeth. Out of spite he ran into the corner of the hall and fouled the floor near the entrance so as to provide an unwelcome surprise for the next visitors. And then he went back to his cave in the hole in the hill and he emerged an hour later dragging heavy sack and made his way ponderously through the woods to the very edge of the trees.
From the sack he took the body of a goat that he had caught the previous night and strangled with his bare hands. Apart from one or two ragged bites in the flesh he had not devoured any of it as yet, and he placed it on the ground just beyond the tree line. Climbing clumsily up the nearest tree with the sack now half filled with heavy stones he waited, gnawing at his knuckles. His plan was a clever one, clever and sly. When the wolves came at nightfall, as Trog knew they would, to devour the goat carcass he would take the stones and hurl them with all his might. He was strong enough to slay a creature this way with a single rock. One, two, three wolves would fall perhaps and then the rest would flee. But these wolves were not cowards and he knew they would return once their initial surprise had worn off they would return filled with fury and anger. And when they returned… well Trog would have left a trail leading right back to the village where his annoying neighbours slept in their beds and plotted against him. Once the villagers had been devoured or chased away by the angry wolves, Trog would return to his hole in the hill and be left alone, and he gnawed happily on a sturdy branch while he waited.
The day passed, the sun set and the moon rose as darkness fell. Trog waited, and gnawed, and watched. When the wolves came as he knew they would he waited a little longer. Once their muzzles dipped to the carcass he swung his flabby arm with as much power as he could and hurled a rock into the pack. A crack, a yelp, and a wolf lay dead. A second was thrown, and another wolf died before the pack split apart and bounded away from the carcass of the goat and their two fallen sisters.
Trog slobbered with delight and shifted his weight to gain a view of how much damage he had done. With luck he would see the dashed out brains on the grass, a sight that always pleased him. But the branch splintered and cracked and he fell straight down to the ground, landing on the sack of stones, his own weight crushing his ribs against the hard missiles, though the impact with the ground would have harmed him little. Howling and gibbering with pain he took hold of the treacherous tree and tried to pull himself upright but he had lost the strength in his arms and every breath was a torture of pain and jagged points inside his chest. The wolves heard. And they came. And they followed the slow progress of the crawling Trog though the woodland, walking mere paces behind him, seemingly calm and willing to let the murderous thing suffer in its own fear for a while. Trog’s whimpers turned to angry cries at his silent tormentors and he rolled onto his back to face them. He called aloud his name in defiance, the one thing he owned, the one thing that was truly his, and the wolves fell upon him.
The hole in the hill was empty the next morning when the neighbours called upon it.
Finn’s first novel A Step Beyond Context is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and a few others as well. It’s a punchy genre-busting mystery with a heroine who is a Regency lady, a high tech mercenary and much more.