"And what are you doing on my land, human?" asked the troll, trying to sound intimidating.
"Your land?" said the man in hat and cape and looked around. "I didn"t really see a sign of ownership around here."
"Well, you better leave if you know what"s good for you..."
"Then I think I might have stumbled into trouble", said the man and scratched the back of his head. "You see, I am kind of lost and I don"t really have anywhere to go."
Ogmund thought for some time. "If you wanted to you could just spend the night here in my cave."
The man put his hands on the sides and chuckled. "Nice trick, but you won"t fool me. troll! I know what you are thinking. As soon as I fall asleep you will eat me alive, won"t you?"
"Just trying to be friendly that"s all. But if you rather you could just spend your night out in the wilderness and pray to the Light that you don"t get ripped apart by werewolves, weepers, draugrs, vampires, wraiths, shriek-wights, and all the other creatures of the Shadowrealm lurking in the woods in the dark."
The man walked with steady steps towards the cave opening. "Fair enough, you"ve made your point, troll." He lifted his hat in an elegant gesture. "Might I ask the name of my host?"
"The name is Ogmund", grunted the troll. "And may I ask yours?"
The man waved dismissively away the question. "Oh, it is really not important, but if you must know the name it"s Herfang Rettlig. I am a simple merchant of the roads."
The troll looked suspiciously on the small figure. "You must be hungry I suppose?"
"Oh, sure I am", said the man. "I could really go for a baby or two."
Ogmund stood as still as if he had been paralyzed. "Where in all of Eden have you achieved such a despicable apetite?"
The man looked confused at his host. "You don"t eat babies then?"
"Absolutely not!" said the troll angrily. "What kind of sick-twisted creature would put an infant in his mouth?"
"What I meant was baby deers", said the man. "I think they taste delicious, but I am sorry if I have offended you in some way."
The troll shook his head. "No, no. You nearly startled me there for a moment. I would never dream of eating a human baby. And as for you and your delicacies, I am afraid I don"t have the habit of eating newborn animals as well."
"I am sure we could work something out. How about elks?"
The troll grinned atrociously. "I love elks..."
"Good, then we have ourselves a supper..."
The odd couple ate and drank in the late midnight hours. Ogmund offered his guest the wine which he had plundered from an old bandit camp further down in the woods. They were both sitting at Ogmund"s oak table which was made â€‹â€‹out of a single magnificent oak tree that he felled in the previous years.
"So what do you think of the elk, Mr Rettlig?" asked the troll.
"It"s fresh and roasted", said the man with a smile. "That"s more than good enough for me."
The troll wasn"t smiling back. "Mr Rettlig, If I may, I have three questions to ask you before I go to sleep, but I fear that the last one will be the death of me."
"Then don"t ask them..."
"But I will anyway. Here comes the first one..."
The night was cold and damp. A long silence fell over the cave. Even the noisy sounds from the outside seemed pay respect to the silence.
"What is your real name?"
The man lifted his head and the troll stared into the lifeless eyes that stared back at him. "My name is Lazarus Kain Grimm", he answered in low and deep tone. "Herfang Rettlig is just my name along my travels."
The troll nodded. "I will still respect you as my guest, even though you lied to me. What a man calls himself is his own business. But I will go on with my second question."
"What is your real profession?"
The dead gaze of the eyes grew even more intense. "I am a Witch Judge", he said. "My profession is to hunt down the servants of the Shadowrealm. On occassion I also serve, as the name of my profession suggests, as a judge in trials of people accused of witchcraft and necromancy. I also tend to slay creatures that disturbs the peace in civilized territories where humans are resident."
"Then you"ve lied to me two times since you first met me, Lazarus, and I can only accept one more spoken lie as a host before I must kindly ask you to leave my home. So answer my last and final question truthfully now."
"I am listening..."
The troll took a deep breath. "You"ve had your hand on that flintlock pistol of yours in the back of your belt for a pretty long time now. Are you going to kill me?"
Lazarus grasped the piston of the gun and held it demonstrating in front of him. He looked at it for a long while. "No", he finally said and put it back in the belt.
"Might I ask you why?" asked the troll.
"Because when Mayor Theoderic told me of the hideous troll he wanted to get rid off, I told him that to destroy a foe you first need to learn its nature, in other words you have to know thy enemy. That"s one of the most important rules of my order. And from what I"ve learned from you, you are an exceptional troll. You don"t seem to be one who troubles humans, snatch babies from their cribs and eat them, or even destroys bridges or block roads with trees. And besides you seem to be far too polite for an average troll."
Lazarus rose from the oak table and started walking towards the cave opening.
"Wait", said Ogmund. "Why did Mayor Theoderic want me dead?"
"He believes it was you who kidnapped Beatrice"s 18 year old daughter."
"Did he now?!" said the troll furiously. "Well, that"s a lie if I ever heard one! He is the one who has kidnapped her!"
"Oh?" said Lazarus. "Why?"
"Because he is a rapist, that"s why! I had snuck into the village to straighten up a fallen chimney from one of the cabins when I became witness to how that perverted man forced himself upon that poor beautiful girl and then tossed her down his root cellar. When I tried to sneak out of the village he must have seen me."
Lazarus nodded understanding. "And when I had my ways past Ossuary he called for me and claimed that you were the monster who had stolen her so that I would kill you, and then there would be no witness."
Lazarus looked down to ground. "I thank you for your hospitality, Ogmund. May you live in these woods for as long as time chooses to keep you here, while I will go and deal with Theoderic and save Beatrice"s daughter."
"You are more than welcome back to my cave, Lazarus Grimm", said the troll. "Oh, and Lazarus?"
The Witch Judge stopped at the cave opening with his back towards the troll.
"It seems that you missed one of your most important rules when you first met Theoderic: know thy enemy..."
"Indeed I did", said Lazarus in a whisper. "Indeed I did..."
And so he wandered off into the dark forest towards Ossuary with only the pale light of the silver moon as his guide and the howling of wolves as company...