“You know we don’t have to hunt the boar right?” Edmin said with half a mouthful of bread.
“I know.” But Fin couldn’t shake the urge to start tracking one down. Signs of the massive Dire Boars surrounded them, uprooted trees, ditches in the ground, heavy hoof tracks and even piles of dung. It took more self control than Fin could admit to stop himself from picking a trail and hunting down one of the beasts. “We’ll probably run into one sooner or later though.” He said, more to reassure himself than Edmin.
They kept moving, heading deeper into the woods towards the mountain range that ran parallel to the long grassed plains on the other side of town. Fin figured that the Dire Wolves would build their dens in the mountainside where caves would have naturally formed.
Fin didn’t know the area, but he knew beasts. Every creature needs a place to rest, a food source and running water. He didn’t want to go after the den straight away, instead he hoped to find one of the wolves that was out hunting, preferably not in a pack. For that, they would need to find some Dire Boars, but it wouldn’t be of any use to do so this far away form the mountain range. They would need to spend almost an entire day traveling on foot to be close enough to start looking for the prey of their prey.
The hunting partners walked in at a steady pace. Fin was taking in his surroundings and resisting the urge to run towards the direction of every sound that might be Dire Boar. Edmin was also taking in his surroundings but in a different way to Fin. His eyes were wide and his mouth failed to close the full way, a smile pulling at its corners.
Edmin’s cheeks flushed a dull red, “Besides going into town for the market or tracking the White Stag when I saw it from the edge of my Pa’s farm, I haven’t seen much besides empty fields and muddy pigsties. The woodland may be normal to you, but to me it’s like a whole new world.”
Fin nodded, “I understand, but besides the forest surrounding Knotwood village I haven’t seen much of Anveil either.”
Edmin seemed taken by surprise at this, “I’ve just realized that I know so little about you.”
“Don’t let it bother you, there’s not much to know.”
“You might be right, but indulge me anyhow. It’s a long walk to those mountains so we best speed the journey with stories of Knotwood forest and the hunter Fin Wulfkin!” Edmin clapped his palms together, startling the nearby birds which ceased to sing for a moment.
Fin smiled and begun his tale, that he was the son of a blacksmith but pursued the profession of the males from his mothers side. His father had taken his mothers family name as she had no brothers to carry on the name, it seemed that that decision had altered how Fin was wired, he had no desire to craft tools from steel, instead he wanted the rush of blood he felt while hunting. His brother Terrin didn’t seem inclined either way, instead having an interest in the arcane. The varying interests under one roof meant a lot of interesting conversations, sometimes ending with raised voices.
“You speak of your family a lot,” Edmin commented after some time, “which - don’t misunderstand - is interesting, but I asked about you.”
Fin paused, “I suppose even this far from home I am concerned about what they would think of my choices.”
Something shot through the air, missing Fin’s ear by a hairbreadth, landing in the trunk of a tree up ahead of them. An arrow fletched with the feathers of a dull brown bird - maybe a quail - protruded from the bark.
“Run!” Fin called to Edmin while looking for their attacker. He thought he saw the deep green material of a cloak, but it vanished behind foliage of the same color so quickly it might have been a trick of the eye.
Fin ran low, ducking his head forward and close to his chest. He kept his eyes forward to not run into a tree, also looking down to avoid tripping on loose stones or a tree root. They ran for what seemed like hours, but certainly wasn’t. No further arrows were fired, which Fin found strange but he wasn’t curious enough to turn and ask their attacker why that was.
Soon the sun was dipping behind the mountain range, providing an early dusk which would lead to a swift nightfall. Fin noticed that the sounds of the woodland were beginning to change as the nocturnal creatures were waking and the beasts of the day went to rest.
“We should make camp.”
“Is it safe?” Edmin panted.
Fin slowed his pace down to a walk and shrugged, “Continuing to head towards the mountain in the dark could be far more treacherous. A broken ankle or loosing your way are just as deadly as an arrow head. Not to mention the predators of the night.”
“You’ve convinced me.”
They set up a makeshift campsite nestled amongst thick trees that grew close together. Fin was pretty sure that the thick leaves of the tall trees would disperse the smoke from their fire enough that their location wouldn’t be given away to other hunters, especially the one that had fired a single arrow at them. Even still they would wait until the sun had disappeared behind the mountain range before lighting the fire.
They had half an hour of dim light to gather sticks and larger fallen pieces of wood and Fin had found tinder in the form of the soft insides of a vibrant red flower. Fin built a half dome from wood, the larger pieces further from the center of the stack. He set the tinder down on some of the dryer grass that Edmin had found and placed it inside the dome with smaller sticks in his hand ready to add after the grass began to burn. Fin stuck his flint with his knife. It took a few strikes before the sparks caught the tinder but when they did, flames burst into life lighting the larger logs on the pile. Fins fell back from his crouch by the fire in a quick retreat.
“You’re good at starting fires.” Edmin also stared in amazement at the roaring fire that had moments ago been a pile of gathered forest debris.
“Not I,” Fin said as he stood, “the flower.” He tossed his handful of sticks in the fire, they sizzled and ceased to be. “Usually you have to build it up from tinder to dry grass, sticks and twigs up to larger branches and logs. This flower tinder skipped all of those steps.”
“So what, it’s some sort of… fire flower?
Fin shrugged, “I suppose.” Fin went back to the bush he had picked the flower from and gathered as many as he could. Coming back to the camp he opened one of the empty Sovren pouches and stuffed the soft insides of the fire flowers inside the pouches, tossing their old housings into the campfire. They burnt just the same as regular flowers, giving off a faint but pleasant scent.
The pair shared the rest of the bread they had bought along with some of the cheese and dried meats, which Fin carved into smaller pieces with his hunting knife. They ate around the fire in silence, still listening for the arrow shooting enemy, or other dangers of the night.
“There’s no moon,” Edmin said, his voice breaking the quiet like a troll’s tusk breaks a man’s skull, “If we are being followed it will be difficult to do tonight. I think we might be safe.”
Fin nodded, if their attacker was going to make a move on them they would have already done so. He relaxed, but only a little.
“Before we interrupted before by - you know the arrow - you were going to tell me one of your tales.”
“I haven’t told the tale of how I hunted the White Stag have I?” Fin crossed his legs on the log he used for a seat and straightened his back, like how he had seen the storytellers of Knotwood village do. “It was getting late, dusk had began playing tricks on my eyes but I hadn’t caught anything yet. I could have given up then, but what kind of hunter would I be if gave up? I’m from a long line of hunters you see, on my mothers side at least. Not that I’ve met any other Wulkins, my teacher Garron is like family but isn’t… Back to the hunt. Through the trees gleamed a white hide, I approached slowly, low to the ground…”
Fin told his story as best he could, using as much detail as he remembered and answering questions from Edmin when he had them. The two talked for a little more before falling asleep to the crackling of the fire.
A mighty cracking woke Fin from his dreamless sleep, making him feel as if no time had passed since his eyes had closed. The light was young, so it was just after dawn. Fin searched for the cause of the sound as he got to his feet and shook a still sleeping Edmin beside him. He mumbled something unintelligent but slowly got up.
“Listen.” Fin hissed, knocking an arrow and raising his bow.
He didn’t need to wait, a long loud groan of something ancient being forced to move rattled Fin’s bones. It was followed by the creaking of a now uprooted tree being lifted into the air.
“Move!” yelled Fin, scrambling behind some closely grouped trees with Edmin. Not a moment later the tree trunks shook as the uprooted tree was tossed against it. They held, but wouldn’t last another impact.
Fin peered around the now bowed tree that he hid behind, on the other side was a boar. A boar almost as tall as the middle aged oak it had tossed like a twig. It was now chewing on the roots still left in the ground and didn’t appear to notice Fin yet. Thick yellow tusks gouged the earth to reveal more of its food, Fin couldn’t help but imagine what they would do to a man. “I’m glad we slept in our armor.” He whispered.
“A Dire Boar!” Edmin had come out from his hiding place too, only he didn’t posses the quiet demeanor that Fin was using to scope out their assailant. The beast looked up from it’s meal and pawed the earth with hooves like boulders. Hot air steamed from it’s snout and it’s eyes flashed in rage. The Dire Boar charged.