Frost covered the roof of the modest hut as smoke puffed from its central port. November bore its wintry clothes early this year. Inside, a woman stooped before the fire. Fish from a nearby stream sizzled on the clay pan. In the shadows, a man stood, lacing up his fur cloak.
“Come. Eat your breakfast.” The woman commanded.
“You eat.” He countered, “You need your strength”.
“And what of you?” she asked, “Two days with no food is not good”.
“I’ll be fine.” He said bitterly while reaching for the door.
“You’re going again”?
“I must. The harvest was poor this year. We need meat, or will perish”.
Sonji knew this was true, but she felt wary of his leaving. He had grown thin with hunger and the cold was ferocious.
Relenting, she murmured, “Brock, be careful.”
Brock smiled warmly to his wife and stepped out against the cold outdoors.
The frigid air assaulted his bones and sensitive teeth. Hissing in his breath, he pulled his cloak tighter for protection. Up the North trail he strode to the flowing stream that was the lifeblood of his village. Stooping low, he filled his water skins to their limit, then began to stand when out of the corner of his eye, to the left, darted a minnow into view.
“It’s a test.” He thought, “If I can catch it, I’m sure to find food”. Brock struck swiftly, his arm thrust into the freezing water like a pike. He clenched his fist, pulled it out of the current, and opened it with great anticipation.
Brock grumbled to himself, “Surely this must be a bad omen”. He spat on the ground, rose stiffly, and continued on to the hunt
Although the sun shone brightly overhead, a west wind came up strong, and made it feel colder than the norm. Brock opened and clenched his fists repeatedly trying to keep them warm. The tracks he had been following for the past three hours looked promising. They were from an Elk.
“The gods smile upon Me.”, Brock thought as he neared his prey. Soon, Brock spotted his prize. Off in the distance, yet still in striking range, stood a magnificent buck. He stood at thirteen hands. Almost five feet tall! His rack was proud and broad, displaying many tines. He was in the peak of health and best of age. The strong elk stretched out his muscular neck and called out to any prospective mates.
“Arrunk! Arrunk! Arrunk!”
Brock had hidden himself behind a large evergreen shrub; making sure the elk hadn’t noticed his presence. He then used the knowledge that the years of experience had taught him. Cupping his hands together, he called out to the elk as a doe. The buck froze, fixated on the call. Brock took his spear and hurled it to his prize. It struck home to his salvation. With a triumphant cry, Brock flew to his trophy. The spear had fallen the majestic elk, but had not killed it. Quickly, Brock took his copper blade and slit the elk’s throat, giving the elk a quick and less painful death.
“Thank you.” Brock whispered to the elk; “Your death has given my family life”. With rapid efficiency, Brock emptied the carcass and cleaned the meat with the water he had brought. Exhausted, yet relieved, he decided to camp for the night. Brock knew the elk was too heavy to carry and a sled would have to be built to bring the prize home. He spent the waning light building a wind break and making fire. He chose a small portion of the bounty and cooked it over the open flame. Savoring the tasty fortune of his struggle, he felt relived. His family would not starve this winter. Relaxed and assured, Brock fell fast asleep.
He had slept so deeply that he hadn’t heard the wolf that had sniffed the elk flesh carried on the wind, sneak into camp. It was only the unexpected cracking on the burning wood in the campfire, causing the wolf to yelp that woke him.
“Get out of here!” Raged Brock as he grabbed his spear for battle. “Leave you mangy whore”!
The wolf stood his ground and snarled in defiance. Brock charged the beast only to be toppled in mid stride by a second wolf. His spear clattered from his hand. Before he could react, four other wolves dove upon him. Brock fought ferociously for his own life, but to no avail. Seeing his opening, the lead wolf latched onto Brock’s neck and snapped it like a twig.
The pack descended on the warm body like locusts, hungrily devouring it. The lead wolf was pleased. Two kills for the risk of one. It was a great victory and the needed the food. Winter had come early and hunting this year had been poor.