By Cody Claassen
The Old Forest reaches from top to toe,
And through this woods we all must go.
Let evil be vanquished with each kill we sow,
What the Children learned then, the Elders now know
“Wilric, what is the most important thing to remember during The Great Hunt?” Teacher asked. Wilric jolted awake from where he sat in the clearing, lit with the dying sun and the content flames of the fire in the middle of the circle of children. He saw a disappointed look from the retired Forest Guard. Snickers from the other Leaf Scouts tittered from his left and right side.”I’m sorry, Teacher, I didn’t hear the question. What was it again?”
The scarred teacher sighed. “During The Great Hunt, what should you do?”
“Ummm… You should chew on willow bark?” said Wilric, his tone jovial.
“No, Wilric,” the teacher chided. “That’s for mild pain. Can anybody else remember?” Many other hands shot up from the other children gathered in the clearing. Murmurs and pleas for selection arose from the young students. “Marten, what is the answer?”
“During the Great Hunt everyone should stay indoors, lock all doors, and open them only after the sun has risen again, always keep something made of iron on your person or close by, and keep a fire made of rowan burning hot in the hearth,” said Marten with no hesitation or pause.
“Very good, Marten.” said the teacher, scarred from age and combat with a smile, pride briefly touching his one good eye. “And if you are caught outside?”
Marten paused before speaking. “I don’t know. I suppose I would want to seek shelter anywhere I could.”
“Hmm, that’s part of it, definitely seek shelter: find the safest place you can find. But the most important thing during the Great Hunt is to be mindful. Be mindful of your surroundings, be mindful of the time, and most importantly, be mindful of the horns,” the teacher said grimly.
“Well,” said Wilric. “I think we should also look out for antlers and tusks and all manner of pointy things.”
The teacher’s face changed into a gnarled mass of anger, but only for a second. “No, Wilric,” he said in a restrained voice. “By horns, I mean bugles and trumpets. Horns that would be used in a hunting party. If you are outside during the Great Hunt and can hear the horns, find the direction it is loudest and then go the opposite way. If the horns end suddenly, you’re already dead. Find shelter, do not build a fire, and do not draw your weapons. That will only enrage her.”