I finally have a title! The completed almost-final draft is off to one of my beta readers/my editor right now and I should have it back by the end of the week. I’m on track to publish it by Awesome Con DC in April. AND I should have a cover to reveal soon!
Here’s a snippet from the near the beginning:
The summer I turned twelve, my friend Tirta, his cousin Dathlo, and I were given the second significant test. Otso-ka decreed that we would steal wolf cubs. They would be raised until they were nearly adults and then killed for their pelts. Wolf fur is thick and warm, a fitting tribute both to the ferocity of the animal and the courage and cunning of the man who killed it. Raising a wolf cub was perhaps less courageous than killing an adult, but the cleverness was greater and so the honor was considered comparable. Besides, it was part of the test. A warrior must prove himself both fierce and wily.
First, we had to find a wolf den. In the distant past, our ancestors hunted wolves. They used horses and dogs and lasso poles. Sometimes they used bows, but often the wolves were too fast, or too tough; they could survive long enough to kill a man, even after a direct hit. The better method was to use lasso poles. They would catch a wolf around the neck and hold it in place while a man could advance close enough to club it over the head. Arrow holes in the pelt lessened the value considerably. The dogs were not allowed to kill wolves caught in the lasso poles unless human lives were in danger; they would destroy the pelt. Dogs were essential to the hunt, though. They helped track the wolves when the men were hunting, and they guarded the men and horses while they worked.
That was then. We had long since lost that skill, and our dogs had lost their thirst for wolf blood. The Erdemen soldiers had come often enough onto the tundra to keep the wolf packs in check, and we had not been forced to defend our flocks as often as in the past. Our flocks were smaller now and kept within the camp among the tents. Even the boldest wolves would rarely venture between the tents themselves, and we kept watch at night. We killed wolves, of course, lone wolves scouting around the tents or even small packs that roamed across the tundra. But we had not been on a grand wolf hunt in thirty years.
Although our dogs were no longer in the habit of wolf hunting, they could still follow a trail. Tirta, Dathlo, and I took three of the largest, fiercest dogs with us. They led us some eight leagues northeast, into some of the rolling hills at the base of the mountains.
The dogs sniffed and searched, and hours later we found the entrance to a den. The dogs were excited, but not howling with rage, and we guessed the mother wasn’t inside.
We tried to get the dogs to crawl into the hole first, but even the smallest didn’t get much past his hips before wriggling back out again. A torch we lit revealed a narrow tunnel, but I thought we could make it. We threw a luck piece to see who would crawl inside.
Dathlo won, or perhaps lost. He stripped off his coat and outer tunic and shivered for a few seconds in his undershirt, gathering his courage. We tied a rope around his waist; in case something happened, we could pull him back out. He shoved the torch into the hole, then slithered in after it, knife in hand.
We could see the light in the gaps between his body and the edges of the wall. Then the tunnel turned and his body blocked the rest of the light. Farther. We heard some muffled sounds, and then grumbling as he slid back out.
He shook a few bits of dirt from his hair and sat back on his heels.
“It’s too narrow. I can’t fit. But they’re back there! I could smell them. I heard a tiny sound before they got quiet.”
Tirta and I stared at each other.
“I’ll go,” I said. I didn’t want to. But if I was to be chief, I should be brave. I was smaller than the other two, and I had the best chance of fitting through the narrow hole. Tirta nodded, looking a little relieved.
I stripped down to my own undershirt and shivered. The wind gusted, a few forlorn snowflakes icy against my bare arms. I trembled while Tirta tied the rope around my waist, making sure it was tight enough that it would catch on my hips.
Dathlo tied his parka closed again. He gave me a reassuring clap on the shoulder. “Go on. Make us proud.”