“What is that?”
I pointed at the shape in the distance. It didn’t look like anything I had cleaned in the past. My father peered between the trees, and crossed his eyebrows. He drew his spear—he had only brought one that day.
He whispered, “I have never seen such a creature. As a warg, but with long hair.”
We watched it, and I thought it watched us.
“We will continue,” my father said. He put his spear on his back and took one of the spools off of his shoulder.
He pointed, “See here is a good place, the trees are very close, so they have to go through this space. Hmm. Yes, this is so good, we will not need bait. Tell me why.”
This is how he spoke when he was trying to teach.
“No think, just look.”
I looked at the spot. It was a small alley where two tree trunks crossed each other near their roots. Maybe I could have fit my fist in it. I looked around it, and confirmed that the brush was too tight everywhere else.
“This is a good spot, they have to go through there.”
I looked again, and then I saw it. Scratch marks in the ground, and claw marks in the wood.
“Oh,” I said, “so this spot is already being used.”
“We will not need bait,” he handed me the snare, “do not put your smell on it.”
I set the trap, and then stood, looking around. “Where next—there it is again!”
I pointed this time, a foolish thing to do, and the creature saw me and hid. “What is that?”
“I do not know, I did not see,” he said.
We continued as if I had not seen anything. I set a few more snares. It was not hard to do. My father told me that I caught on faster than the boys did, I don’t know if that was true. But, he told me that later he would teach me how to set the other sort of trap.
We reached the ridge around afterdawn. I was impressed by the sight.
“We are the village that is closest to the western ridge.”
The cliff wasn’t too deep, likely someone could climb it if they were skilled. Although, I would guess that if someone went over, they would die twice over at least from the fall. At the base was a desert-like plain that stretched and expanded to the north. To the south was a stone wall, an artificial structure that still astounds me to this day. That is the Solune wall.
But I wasn’t quite interested in either of those. I pointed straight ahead, and said, “What is that forest?”
My father sat down beside me and said, “That is no forest. If you went past that treeline, you would be shocked at how dark it is, it is always sunset—always dusk in the Elken Yjungle. Look.”
I saw what he meant. The trees were thick, and they looked to be only leafed trees, not a mix like here.
“Who lives in the jungle?”
“The Elken people. They are our ancestors. Later, I can tell you of them.”
“Perhaps.” He must have thought hard about it here. It was his night to speak at the community fire, and he wasn’t sure if the Elken were a good topic.
We ran out of snares at the same time that we finally caught up with the rest of our party. Shortly after, the other half of the men arrived. I looked around at the clearing we had all gathered in, and saw the circle of rocks, the mounds and logs. This was a campsite!
“How was the woman, Errand?” Sandgrain called to my father.
“She catch on faster than your son, I would say,” he laughed, “Lime, how long did it take you to learn to set a snare?”
“Eh,” Lime looked between the two men, “three?”
I looked at my father. It seemed that he was unsure whether that meant three days, or three sub-fragments of a day.
He said, “Talc can set a trap already. I will show her the deadfall on our way back.”
Sandgrain lokoed impressed, but he did not voice it. He said, “You think she will mind her fingers?”
“We will see, I expect.”
My father, Sandgrain, and Sour (the hunting elder at that time) gathered apart from the group to discuss. I saw that Silver and Quick were bickering in front of the pit, and snapping each other with leftover snare line.
Lime and most of the other boys and men were gathering wood. I figured I should be more useful than those who were sitting, so I went into the nearby brush to see what I could gather.
There was not a lot of dead wood on the ground. I was unsure what to do, but you should know I have a capacity for cleverness! I looked around for a specific sort of tree, and started pulling at its branches.
After I had taken a few off, someone else saw me and called out, “Hey.”
I finished, and brandished the stick. The boy sounded young, so I felt safe fooling around. He dropped all but the longest of his sticks and struck at mine.
“You will never hit the target if you aim only at their weapon!” I said, swiping at his arm.
The attack hit, and he followed up, hitting me in the ribs. I jabbed him in the chest, and he fell over.
I said, “Maybe we should stop.”
He coughed and looked up at me. He said, “You really are a girl, aren’t you?”
I frowned, “I do hope so.”
“Do you really know how to set snares already?”
I realized that this was Lime, Sandgrain’s son. “Yes, and I know when they do not need bait.”
Lime stood up and leered at the ground. “I don’t learn very fast,” he said, “I’m surprised that you do, although, maybe that’s normal, and I’m just slow.”
I didn’t like this manner of thought, especially not in a man-to-be. I said, “You will find no happiness if you only look at that which makes you unhappy.”
He looked up at me. I added, “My grandmother says, do not speak of your flaws unless you intend to fix them and do not speak of your virtues except through your action.
He said, “Oh,” and began picking up his sticks. “Well, I came to say, you should get dry sticks off of the ground, and not take living ones from trees.”
I decided to test his intelligence. I pointed to my tree and said, “Look.”
He did, confused. After a minute the confusion wore off, and then he surveyed the ground. “Oh, that’s a dead tree, is it?”
“Are my sticks not dry?”
Perhaps this boy was not so hopeless after all.
Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Triumph