Campaign of the Month: August 2016

Oath of Crows

The Great Hunt

493

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The snow had given away to a light drizzle that slowly turned the forest into slippery maze of wet bark and treacherous undergrowth. Yet the birds muted chirps and the rustling branches gave the forest a peaceful, almost tranquil, atmosphere. Many great thought could be had if one would’ve walked here alone and the deep peace could surely envelope even the most hotheaded buffoon in its damp quietness. In that forest far north from the familiar plains and hills of Salisbury walked Rhyfel, afraid that he, at any moment, would crap his breeches. His head darted from malevolent shadows and imaginary beast rustling in the bushes as he slowly inched forward with the thick spear in his hands. The baying from the hounds and deep tones from the hunting horns seemed so far away now and God did he miss them. Back home they called him Rhyfel the Brave or, depending on the speaker, Rhyfel the Idiot for the many times he pitched fights or embarked into the forest but right now he felt more terrified than ever before. He was leading his Lord towards the one thing that would make any man tremble during a hunt; a wounded boar. All this because of his lord’s big mouth.

‘’…and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Genesis 1:26’’ Lord Maelgwyn had said with one of those half-hidden smug grins of his as they alone ventured forward, armed only with spears and clad only in their light leather. In the clearing behind them waited lord Meilyr, surely ready to aid them but too far off now to be of any help? After all: who was lord Meilyr to deny his guest this thrill? Rhyfel had not paid much attention when the lords spoke but he was sure there was some sort of bet involved… something about who should receive the meat and bones and the lord Meilyr just chuckled. He didn’t understand how they got along so well and he had seen fights break out between far more similar men. Meilyr spoke loudly of his deeds, both in and out of the bed chamber, drank like a mason on payday and even poked fun of lord Maelgwyns daily prayers; yet the lord of Chillmark only smiled and joined the banter, all be it more concerning Meilyrs growing girth than anything else. So they passed the evenings laughing and talking only stopping the merriment to go hunting or hawking, frolicking in the noble pastimes as there was no tomorrow; for the dog boys and Rhyfel the month seemed to never end.

‘’See that? We’re close boy.’’ Rhyfel drew in the cold air sharply and focused again. The blood was fresher here. Lord Maelgwyn hunched down best he could and started to inch forward in that peculiar way all knight walk when they think they are being stealthy. Bent knees but with an almost straight back and feet that seemed to seek out every branch and twig that could snap. The bushes rustled and broke as a small piglet, screeching, darted between the feet of Rhyfel as it fled through the forest. But as the screeching of the youngling slowly ebbed away among the damp trees Rhyfel perceived a far more ominous sound; the panting, rasping breath of a mother who knows its children are threatened. He could not tell if it was luck or fear that guided his feet when he turned to run but it sure saved his life. The boar was, at least when the story was retold later, more of a demon then a mere boar. Its eyes flaming with hatred and pain, its tusks gleaming with the blood of hound and frothing spit, its ragged hide bearing a patchwork of scars and wounds. Rhyfel dodged and turned in the slippery undergrowth only finding footing by some divine will with the Mad Boar only a few paces behind him at every turn. The boar had no trouble finding footing and in lieu of a path it simply broke trees and bushes to make Rhyfels lead even shorter. Then finally he saw his lord among the trees. Standing with his feet broadly parted, his heels deeply dug into the muddy ground. Rhyfels heart leapt and then fell. For a moment he was sure that he, no they, were going to survive. That his lord perhaps had some clever plan to avoid the boar or otherwise flee this hopeless battle; but his lord was, as always, as stupid as he was brave. No man could face such a beast as this boar by himself. One of them was going to die… and his lord seemed ready to sacrifice himself to save Rhyfel. As Rhyfel passed his lord in the small clearing he felt gratitude but with every step he took afterwards a feeling of disgust rose in his throat. Disgust for his cowardice. Fuck it! If they were going to die fighting this bloody boar then so be it! There must be worse fates then to die next to a famous knight! Drawing his short dagger he turned to face death with his lord.

‘’My lord! Draw it towards me!’’ But just as he was going to charge to Maelgwyns help he stopped dead in his track. His lord had not moved an inch in order to receive the boar. The impossibly large creature had stopped mere inches from his lords heaving chest; the long spear impaling it from eye to tail. The boar was quiet, looking almost peaceful in death. A great beast that accepted its fate with a strange tranquility. Slowly lord Maelgwyn let the spear slip from his large hands. The boar fell to the ground, its rugged flanks still moving with gasping breaths.

‘’Fetch the others boy.’’ Rhyfel shut his gaping mouth and started to hurry towards lord Meilyrs company. The last he saw of Maelgwyns before his figured were shrouded in the green of the thick woods the lord slowly fell to his knees in front of his fallen prey.

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