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Fiction: Hunter's Night.

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  • Fiction: Hunter's Night.

    It was a pleasant Summer's night. It was mild and clear, with enough Moonlight to see my hill field's dry-stone walls. But, that made it a Hunters' Night.

    I huddled under my cape in the stock enclosure's guard niche. Behind me, the llamas, sheep and small cattle huddled together. I kept flexing my grip on my staff lest I cramp.

    I'd seen 'Big Puss', one of our barn cats, patrol the field wall's line about an hour earlier. An inky swirl of motion, a bitten off yelp suggested Puss and her weaned kitties would eat well tonight. A minor predator, she was safely gone before any Heavies could arrive.

    First up was the wicked wedge of a male Great Fox. His red eyes scanned my field from the wall's stile notch. He focussed on this enclosure. Surely he could not see me, but the wind blew that way.

    Great Uncle Tam had taught that foxes were clever, but only took the lame, lambs and carrion. This, though, was a Fall Beast. No calf or young sheep was safe until yearling. And, even then, a Great Fox was so clever...

    That canny stare reckoned me too great a threat for now. He'd pick over the bones after our wolf pack came through. With a swirl, he was gone. Too swiftly, perhaps ?

    Yes, the new spread of eyes, the size of head warned of a 'Lone Wolf'. Tam called this grim Fall Beast a 'Dire Wolf'. At least, as yet, they ran alone. And, after tallying the odds, this male followed the Great Fox into the night.

    The Moon and its bee-swarm of Fall Rocks moved a quarter hour-- I could almost hear Tam's sigh, see his head shake. Yes, yes, our round Earth turned beneath the slower Moon, whose pace set Neaps and Springs in the harbour...

    More eyes at the stile ? Two big ? Four small ? Green ? Slits ? These were the local Mountain Leopard and her yearling cubs. Though not Fall Beasts, perhaps even kin to our big barn cats, their like had thrived in the Fall Time. Their keen noses tested the stile for its visitors, decided this place was not for them.

    The Moon angle gradually shifted. The greatest of those circling Fall Rocks passed across the freshly scarred Face. Then, the small noises of the night fell quiet. Suddenly, the top of the field wall bore humps, humps with eyes. The wolf on the stile was big, very big. I counted six or seven looking over the wall. There would be as many juniors or whelps in the wall's lee.

    I gulped. Our small Clan would have to track this big pack, smoke and wall their den. Of course, I must first live to bear witness.

    I took a slow, deep breath as that 'death tide' flowed over the wall. They knew I was here. They knew I was alone. They knew there was an 'all you can eat' feast to be had. I rose from my niche, crouched in the enclosure's entrance and, pointing my staff towards the wolves, set its shod heel against the front face of the threshold slab. Behind me, this field's live-stock bunched up. If I failed, there would be terrible slaughter. Yes, a few junior wolves, even a lower male or female might be trampled or gored, but my morning relief would find only bloody bones.

    It had happened before, it would happen again.

    The pack halted half way from the wall. That was but a few swift heart-beats should they attack. Their next step was simple, cruel. Starting with the Alpha Male, they focussed on me, tried to stare me down. Any wolf was frightening, a dozen by Moonlight froze my marrow. Yet, there was more, perhaps gained during the terrible Fall Time. Shepherds had been found, unmarked, their minds broken to babes. Such slowly taught that the simple, weak-minded or ignorant among us must not stand guard on a Hunter's Night.

    I could Scribe. I could Tally. I could recount the terrible Fall Time tales and our small Clan's short, proud line. Thus, I endured.

    When their combined stares failed, the Alpha Male took a step forwards. I twice rapped my staff's shod heel against the threshold slab.

    Snick-snick ? A long shape aimed ? A doubled metal sound ?

    Did I have a Gun ? I'd given the Alpha Male a pretty problem.

    Wounded, he would have to fight upstarts while weakened. He might lose his Pack status. He might lose his life. On a long chase, others could take the lead by turn. Here, he must lead. For better or worse, he must 'Stick or Twist'.

    For long, long seconds, the Alpha Male re-tallied his counters. My respite could not last. Nor did it, for the wind shifted. Perhaps he smelled the animals behind me afresh ? Perhaps he smelled their fear ? Perhaps he was too hungry to delay further ?

    He launched.

    When no Gun fired on his first stride, he surely thought himself safe. He was not far wrong. I had one chance. Just one. I placed my right foot on top of my staff's heel, tallied the distance.

    Three strides.

    Two strides.

    Now ! I rose from my crouch, guided the staff's shank tip into the great wolf's upper chest.

    The shock would have thrown me down but for the planted heel. As it was, my stout staff bowed, bowed. If it broke, I died.

    The staff straightened, dumped the wolf in a heap. I let go of the staff, dived forwards, drawing the curved 'wolfbane' knife from my cross-belt. The heavy blade was not great metal, but it was crafted for this task. It bore a keen, keen edge. My strong slash across the Alpha Male's exposed throat sprayed hot blood everywhere.

    As I clambered to my feet, the other wolves stood uncertainly. I'd killed their Alpha Male, and that changed everything. Their Pack order lay in ruins. The Alpha Female must defend her pups against her rivals, then against the new Alpha Male when he emerged from tonight's ruck. Already there was shifting, growling and snarling in the ranks.

    I eased the hand-span spike from the dead wolf, repositioned my staff, again twice rapped the heel on the threshold slab.

    Snick-snick !

    Who's next ?

    The stink of spilled wolf blood surely drowned the smell of our livestock. If the Alpha Male had a Lieutenant, this was his time to strike. But, no. Un-nerved, the Alpha Female turned away. The humbled pack filed back over the stile, faded into the night.

    I allowed myself the smallest, blood-spattered grin. Hunting, only the Alpha Male would scent mark, and only on special places. Slinking home, their Pack order broken, every contender would mark everywhere. Our Clan's hunting dogs would track them with ease. Their lair destroyed, survivors driven into the hills, we would have peace until the boundaries settled.

    Tonight, with the reek of hot wolf blood on me, no other Night Hunter would dare approach. This carcass was mine, mine, mine. I'd give skull and paws to the Clan Tally-man, who'd trade them to the coast for fish, plus more 'rebar' to arm our shepherds' staffs. I'd thread the lumpy spine bones as babies' rattles. I'd throw the big bones to the Clan's dogs. I'd give the smaller bones as play-things to our Bairns and our barn cats.

    Best of all, this Winter, I would have a wolf-skin coat beneath my much-patched cape...

  • #2
    Just wondering if your wanting feedback, if so what kind, or just providing a story?

    Dale

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    • #3
      Just a fun tale to read over coffee, Dale...

      Feedback welcome, but a polite nod or chuckle at my naïf would suffice.

      Don't usually write such dark tales, but have done *too much* mild urban fantasy recently, and just woke, grabbing for note-book. Had to deduce much of back-story from dream details...
      {Shiver}

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      • #4
        A nod and chuckle to you. And feel free to continue to post your tales. Much enjoyed.

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        • #5
          FWIW, 'Hunters Night' was prompted by an unsettling Astronomy report.

          https://phys.org/news/2015-02-years.html

          https://phys.org/news/2018-03-eviden...ory-solar.html

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholz%27s_Star

          Nik-Thought:
          About 70,000 years ago, Scholz' Star, a tiny binary system of M9 Red Dwarf & T5 Brown Dwarf, passed our solar system about 52,000 AU out. Given the absence of big impact craters of that age, seems its Oort objects missed us. But, that pass will have stirred our Oort cloud. Though most such objects have yet to arrive after their long, long in-fall, what if a few came early ?

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          • #6
            Fun story.........I enjoyed it greatly.......thank you.
            One day you eat the chicken.....next day the left-over chicken.....next five days you eat chicken feathers, head and feet.

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            • #7
              Thank you, Nik. Your writing is a treat! Appreciated the links and backstory about the Astronomy report, too.

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