The Hunt


“So as you were saying?”

“Right.” He threw down another bite and began. “I beat my chest and the boar snorted. I took a few steps toward him, far enough away from the boy and his father. It remained still for a moment, but I could see the bristles above his shoulder stick straight up. And let me tell you, it stank.” He fanned his scrunched nose. “Even this liver smells better. It looked straight at me and chattered its teeth.”

“That means it’s mad.” Addanc, wide-eyed, plopped into an empty chair, propped his elbows on the table, and rested his chin upon fisted hands.

“Well I certainly figured that out soon enough, kidder. You see, he barked—barked like a sick dog. Strands of spit hanging from his maw. And all of a sudden…” Erosoi, reading the tension on their stampointed faces, paused, his gaze bouncing from enraptured to enraptured. “He charged!”

“Straight toward you?” cried a young, and absolutelydishy, blond.

“What did you to?” asked Cebhfhionn, scratching the webs of her fingers.

“I sidestepped him, of course. He ran past me a short distance, then stopped. He looked at the boy and his father. I yelled at it, got his attention. It charged me again, but I did as the same. Then I figured out my strategy. Once I knew what he did, I knew what I had to do. Again he charged and this time, just as I stepped to the side, I plunged by trusty dagger into his shoulder. It squealed and snorted and looked at me as if I’d make a big mistake—the biggest mistake. My heart was pounding. My knees wanted to wobble but I wouldn’t let them. And then he charged. I missed him that time, but that would be the last. It seemed as if every time he charged and I got him again, he returned faster.”

“How many times did you get him?” asked an elderly man from behind Erce.

“Weren’t you scared?” Addanc followed.

“I don’t know and, yes, to tell you the truth, I was scared. Not so much for me, but I was scared for that boy and his father. I knew if I fell, they would follow.” Then, Erosoi stood and put his story into action. “He would charge, and I would side step like this.” He demonstrated. “Then—” He mimed his thrusting motion with his left hand. “—I stabbed the mighty beast. He stopped and I stabbed him again. He squealed his ferocious scream—” He tried his best to mimic the boar; several members of his audience oohed. “—but did not fall. I stepped far back and the monster charged again. And again I did the same.” He shifted his weight to his right food and, playing to the conflict exposed on their gripped faces, exaggerated his gestures.

Then—” He leapt a hundred and eighty degrees. “—the beast rammed me! Its tusk almost ripping me to shreds.” He pointed to the tear in his tunic. The crowd ahhed. “I hit the ground and thought I was done for. The beast hunched, and snorted. I looked past him to see the boy’s eyes. Tight with fear they were. Despite the pain in my side, I knew I had to get up. I had to stand and face the vile beast. That’s when I remembered my net. I fetched it and stood to face the boar, chiding it on, screaming ‘Come and get me, come and get me!’” He beat his chest. “It stamped the ground and reared its mighty head and let out the most horrendous piercing squeal you’ve ever heard. It lowered its head and I swear by the gods it smiled at me. Smiled at me! He hurtled toward me. My heart pounded as hard at its hoofs beat the ground. Then it leapt. So high I thought it might fly. I stepped back and laid the net down. And there it landed, its feet caught. And in its excitement, and in its bucking around, it got tangled. Twisting and turning, the giant fiend barked and shrieked and spat and spluttered. And so with two hands I raised the dagger high and came down with all the strength I could muster. I stabbed the foul stinking monstrosity in the top of the neck. And let me tell you, the way it squealed could have broken glass.”

Some clapped, some hoorayed. Others couldn’t move a muscle.

“You killed it!” shouted someone scruzed in the crowd.

Erosoi waved his hand. “Not yet, not yet. It struggled under its mighty weight. Twice more in the neck I plunged my trusty dagger to the hilt. Then, thought I, should I blind it, it would be mine, so I stabbed him in the eye—” He covered his own. “—then the other. He kicked with such force I fell to the ground. All I can say is thank the gods I didn’t break any ribs. Even stuck in the net, he kicked and kicked and circled around in a fervor you could not image. His head thrashing back and forth, spit flying everywhere. I don’t know what happened next. Maybe he thought his rampage useless, for it fell to its side, breath slow and shallow. I took pity on him and my fear departed. I kneeled at his side, slit his throat like this.” The swollen crowd ready to burst, he ran his hand along his neck. “Blood streamed and spattered my face, my shirt.” He drew his hand down his reddened tunic.

“You killed him!”

“Darn right I killed him.” Erosoi slumped his shoulders and fell, exhausted, into his seat. “He, my mighty foe, was dead.” He dropped his head, closed his eyes, and stuck out his tongue.

A burly man with hairy arms lifted his cup of ale, which, Erosoi had noted, he’d not taken a sip since he joined the audience. “To Erosoi!” he yelled with such gusto, three blackbirds absconded their perches in a nearby oak.

Everyone returned the same, some adding the word “hero.”

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