The Ancient Hunt
|Gundestrup Cernunnos from wikimedia|
I wear loose leather breeches that enfold but don’t constrict me, and I keep my torso bare to the elements; the humid air leaves a slight sheen on my powerful chest and shoulders, sending a challenge out to the sky. On my feet, light kidskin boots, flexible enough that I can dig my toes into the loamy earth. My hair is free to the wind, cool in the night air, and giving my shadow an indistinct, spiky appearance.
My arms are all the weapons I need. Stretching and jumping to limber my muscles, I feel the blood pumping through me, fill my limbs with heat so I won’t strain a tendon or a joint in the chase soon to come. As I stand in one spot, reaching, bending, extending, speeding up, coming alive, I feel the thrill of adrenaline rise, the eagerness to be moving, the impatience for action, for blood, for the life-or-death race to the kill.
Even this Year, I naturally eschew modern hunting technology: weapons, surveillance, communication, transport. It was never available on previous hunts, so it seems improper to take advantage this time. If the prophecies are to be believed, will not be available for the next.
I hear the unmistakable noises of the hounds becoming excited nearby, yipping and growling, snapping at each other, panting happily as they strain against their leashes. So close I can almost smell them, their hunger, pitilessness, teeth ready for hide and flesh.
The land slopes gently behind me, blossoming upward into a long, looming hill, the barrow of one of our ancient giant-kings; not that anyone today would believe that. The other side, the small forest of tall, impassive trees, where it will all begin. In the distance, a river, dark, quiet, deep enough to cut off prey, or to lose the scent. On the plain, moist grass and hard soil give the unmistakable smell of a cool island summer, fresh breeze in from the sea, clouds never far away. Several directions, several terrains to choose from.
Moonlight from a burning sliver of cold fire against the midnight blue, is bright enough to cast gentle fluorescence on the edges of the landscape and flora, but soft enough that the aligned planets and stars are visible to the naked eye.
I breathe heavily, blood warming, bouncing on my toes. I’m ready to begin. I’m as fit as I have ever been, and my muscles itch to prove it, my heart thunders and my lungs pump air, effortlessly feeding every millimetre of my body, my limbs, my senses. This is going to be a spectacular night.
You blow the horn.
You loose the hounds.
As happens around this time every Great Year, you will eventually catch me and tear me apart. But I will keep you running for as long as I can.