TRAIL OF MYTH - CHAPTER 2
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to listen to a few stories,” I said. I wanted to conserve my energy for tomorrow and was admittedly very curious to hear about other hunters. “I’ll go put my things away and wash up.”
“Hurry back,” the chieftain said with his usual, half-toothless smile.
I gave him a little nod then rushed out of his large yurt and over to the little one I shared with my master. Most lived with their family, but my master and I only had each other. I didn’t mind, it meant we had plenty of space, and I wasn’t forced to socialize with anyone I didn’t like.
Once I had put my weapons away in my corner of our home and washed my hands and face, I passed by Myrin and grabbed a couple fish and a handful of berries. I wanted something to eat while I listened to the stories.
When I returned to the chieftain’s yurt I was relieved to see that the other two women had left. I didn’t want the chieftain or my master to feel like they had to hold back on the gory details.
“Hopefully you’ll still be interested in eating all that once we tell you the first story,” my master said, eyeing the handful of food I was carrying.
I shrugged as I sat down near him. “I’ll be fine.” He of all people should know I wasn’t easily disturbed.
“I hope you will be. And I also hope your pride won’t get in the way if you start reconsidering going out on your own,” my master added.
“It won’t,” I replied, hoping that to be true. It was no secret that I hated being seen as cowardly or foolish.
“Well if you’re ready, I’ll tell you the first story,” the chieftain said. “Unfortunately it involves some men your master knew and it doesn’t end well.”
I nodded as I started to nibble on the fish I brought, encouraging him to go on.
“They were from Chief Renor’s village. Three of the best hunters went out, hoping a bigger party would help them in the hunt. They were quiet, patient, and extremely careful to stay upwind and behind the trail of the great boar. When they finally tracked the beast down, the lead hunter, Jorn, loosed a very skilled shot. It was perfectly placed, but the thick hide prevented it from piercing deep enough to reach the heart. All it did was make the great boar incredibly angry. It turned on them and charged. None of them were ready for how fast it moved. In order to protect the other two, Jorn made sure he was the one to attract the beast’s attention.” The chieftain’s brow furrowed into a pained expression. “He paid the price for it. He couldn’t get out of the way of those tusks. They tore him right open.”
My hands stilled for a moment. It finally hit me that this great boar would be the first prey of mine to ever have a chance of doing as much damage to me as I could do to it.
“How big are the great boars?” I asked, doing my best to keep my voice steady and non-chalant.
“As big as bears,” my master said, eyeing me carefully. Damned man, I wished he’d stop looking at me like that. It was as if he were testing me. Waiting to hear me say that I’d back down or at the very least accept help.
“Did the other two get away?” I asked with my mouth half full, casually taking another bite of my fish.
“They did. They returned with a bigger party and poison arrows. After watching Jorn fall, they were a lot more concerned with killing the beast by any means than preserving the meat.” the chieftain said. “Nobody else was injured after that first fatal mistake. They stayed up in the trees and made no careless moves.”
That strategy would definitely get the job done, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was a horribly cowardly way to kill a beast.
I popped a few berries in my mouth, trying to get re-interested in eating. I would need the strength.
“I’m guessing most of the bad stories end that way,” I said.
The chieftain nodded. “Most skilled hunters are able to get that first shot. The problems come after. Those great boars won’t be felled by a single arrow and you need to be prepared for that.”
“But I will have better arrows,” I said. “I’ll be taking the new ones we traded for last moon.”
My master nodded his head in approval. We’d traded many furs to get those new iron arrowheads from the town a couple days trek south of us. I say we, but I’d never set foot in Oakmire. We sent our best trader to deal with those people. He understood the ways of the townsfolk with their strange coins, noisy contraptions, and tall buildings. Tales of these places disturbed me like these boar tales never could. It sounded awful, like being trapped in a cage of your own making. Why anyone would choose to live in a town, let alone a city, was beyond me.
The only thing I appreciated about the townsfolk was the way they worked with metal. Better arrow heads. Better blades. I enjoyed fancy tools and felt no shame in saying so. I’d much rather use the metal arrows than rely on poison.
“They’ll help, but you’ll still need more than that on your side,” the chieftain said.
“Well how did the others hunt without using poison then? I doubt they had iron arrows.”
The chieftain chuckled. “What they had was madness. And I’m certain Oro was the maddest of them all.”
As soon as the name was uttered the yurt fell as silent as a winter night and just as cold, like a curse had settled upon us.
“Oro?” I echoed. I’d never heard that name before.
“We try not to talk about him.” For the first time in my life, I saw a darkness in his deep grey eyes. Whoever this Oro was, my master did not like him, and my master liked everyone. He was not one to hold hate or grudges in his heart. “He is not a man to aspire to.”
“This is true,” the chieftain said, his eyes noticeably avoiding my master’s. “I shouldn’t have brought him up.”
“But he was successful and his story could help me,” I said.
“You couldn’t do what he did,” my master said. “It would be a pointless story.”
“It’s not pointless at all, I need to know so I won’t foolishly attempt anything similar! Please, master, let the chieftain tell me,” I said, trying to appeal to my master’s concern for me. I didn’t want to reveal that I was just as curious about the man himself as I was about how he killed the boar.
“Fine. But I don’t want to hear any more about him after this.”
“I understand,” I said. I wouldn’t be able to push my luck any further when it came to this topic. My master spoiled me, but there were still a few lines that he would not allow me to cross. I just never expected that one of those lines would concern a person I didn’t even know existed until now.
“Oro isn’t exactly a hunter, I should tell you that first,” the chieftain said, keeping his eyes trained on me. He still seemed unwilling to look at my master, and I couldn’t blame him. I wouldn’t be surprised if my master had a few strong words for him after this. The chieftain might be head of the tribe, but my master was one of the most respected men in the village, and one who always supported the rule of the chieftain. It wouldn’t bode well for the two of them to be at odds.
“What is he then?” I asked.
“Well, a bit of a madman as I mentioned. There’s a reason he doesn’t belong to any clan. No village would be able to handle him for long and luckily he’d never be interested in staying anyways.”
I nodded a little, trying to hide my growing curiosity. A nomad? Very few men were able to live that sort of life. Taking on the world alone was difficult not just physically, but mentally as well.
“Truthfully, he’s the best warrior I’ve ever seen. Hell, the best warrior anyone will ever see for a long, long time,” the chieftain said with a heavy sigh, as though it pained him to admit it. “He was the same age you are now when he went after the great boar alone. He hadn’t even planned on it. Just like you, he just happened to discover the tracks and markings on the trees while out on an expedition. He stalked it for a day before he finally found it.
“Like the other hunters, he carefully approached and managed to get off a good shot. And just like the others, it wasn’t enough to truly damage the great boar. It charged him. But this is where the story changes,” the chieftain said and leaned in closer to me. “The boar never got the chance to impale him. Oro let it come at him and dove to the side at the last moment, grabbing the arrow that was still sticking out of the boar’s side and used it to leap onto its back.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Impossible.”
“I would’ve thought so too, but I saw the boar after. It had all the wounds he said it would.”
“He wouldn’t be able to stay on a boar’s back!”
“But he did. He held onto the arrow with his left hand and with his right grabbed his knife and stabbed it into the beast’s side with all his might, deeper than the arrow was able to go,” the chieftain said as he spread his arms wide, pretending like he was Oro holding onto the arrow and stabbing the boar.
I laughed softly at the chieftain’s energetic performance and shook my head. “There’s no way.”
“He lied then. Something else must have happened.”
“It didn’t,” the chieftain said and leaned back. “It threw him off after that, but the knife did the trick and he climbed up a tree to get away as it thrashed to its death. I was one of the ones to help carry the boar back. The wound was indeed a knife wound. The arrow was still stuck in its side. And more importantly, Oro had barely a scratch on him while that boar was definitely dead.”
“I can believe he killed it, but not as you said he did. This reminds me of those ridiculous faerie-tales you used to tell me as a child. You’re trying to make a fool of me, aren’t you?” I replied.
The chieftain glanced to my master.
My master let out a huff, sounding more than just a little annoyed. “It isn’t a lie. And Oro wouldn’t lie either. The man doesn’t give a damn about anyone, least of all their opinions. He had no reason to make it up.”
I blinked, surprised that he would stand up for the man despite very obviously not liking him.
“Point is, I don’t want you trying to do what he did. You wouldn’t be strong enough to get a knife into a boar and you’re too light to try to stay on the back of one for long. You’d be tossed in a second.”
“Now that I can agree with,” I said.
“And you’re still wanting to go? Despite knowing that only a madman can take down a boar alone?”
“I am. If I have to run, I’ll run. I know the woods and I know my ability,” I replied.
“Then what is your plan?”
I licked at my lips as I considered. No matter what, I was taking the new iron arrows so I’d have a better chance of piercing deeper into the boar’s tough hide. The only other equipment I was considering taking with me was the weighted net I had been itching to try out. But it would be difficult to move as quickly and quietly with something so cumbersome. It also took some time to set up the trap and there was no guarantee that the boar would set it off. However, if successful, it would hopefully trap the boar long enough for me to loose all the arrows I needed to bring the beast down.
1) Take the net. (Winner!)
2) Leave the net behind and rely solely on the skills she’s already mastered.
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