The Nurturer, the Hunter
‘During the times of war, humans are more vicious than most predators, their instincts are about more than just survival, it is a desire to be supreme, not just to survive, but to kill. Cruelly, without purpose, without need, just to be superior, to boast a false statement. Regardless of whom their hooves trample. In their bloodlust, the haze they stir in themselves, in us, we ignore their crimes against the world and its other denizens, just as we turn a blind eye to their crimes against themselves’
A raven’s wings fluttered in the sky, extending rather majestically for its status as an ill omen, a croak escaped its beak, as its grim dark eyes fell on its prey, it tilted In its flight path preparing to land, to feed, in nature; death is never an end. Sometimes it’s a beginning, or a continuation, someone’s ill omen is someone else’s good fortune. The raven landed near the carcass, it was of a Bear, a black bear of magnificent size, those who would observe the stars would think this is the Ursa Major constellation incarnate, and it was in a pool of its own blood, nothing was taken from it. Several arrows were planted in its thick fur, and a javelin, a hunting javelin, its making was sophisticated beyond that of the tribes’ craftsmanshhip, the tribesmen in these parts rarely hunted bears for they were solitary animals, rarely venturing to populated territory, the raven knew this much? Sure it did, for the only Cimmerian settlement or encampment its eyes came upon was almost 2-3 days away from this scene, there was a look that froze on the bear’s face, a look of fear, despair, a pity, such creatures displayed emotions more profoundly than that of mankind, yet by some whim of the world; Mankind rose, and these creatures became subservient. Strange are the whims of fate. The designs of nature sometimes went awry. The raven croaked again, this time in acknowledgment to its partner’s arrival, its human partner.
Achyn’s footsteps were heavy as a sigh escaped him, he squatted near the bear, laying a kind hand on its fur, and it was warm. Its hunters were nearby. How near though? He did not know. And where were they heading, next to here was a sacred grove of trees, the one he came to visit, the eclipse was coming and he had a duty to perform, the Lord & Lady demanded it. He was a man of the wilds, and its avatars demanded worship after all. He looked to the carcass of the bear solemnly.
‘We make kindling of our hate, wage wars out of wrath and petty reasons. All over a world we all can share, we water its soil with our blood over petty differences, cut down its trees to make weapons, hunt its animals to near extinction just for sport, to feel superior. And in our hubris; we prey on the weak and defenseless, those who we have no qualms with .A predator that hunts but does not eat or use its prey is rapid, and rapid creatures, lost to the darkness of the void and its mad gods, these are put down.’
He got up and closed his eyes as the croak of another raven is heard. The druid presents his forearm as the second raven lands; the first one takes flight in another direction. The druid brings his cloak closer to him as his foot takes to the snowy trail off towards the Grove of Ysha.
He flexed his hands as he approached the grove, he could hear the laughter of men, the desperate crying of a girl, the crackling of fire burning wood, wood harvested from a sacred tree, for the bemusements of rapid predators, his nose curled as he caught their scents, almost wishing he hadn’t. His amber eyes burned with disdain as his hand gripped the haft of his club hard, any harder it could have broke. As a gust of chilling breeze passed him fluttering his cloak like the wings of a raven, the veins pumping with the blood of life were like a race track as his blood flowed like wild horses, or a pack of wolves eager for the kill. He snarled, his canine-like incisors showing, the time of the eclipse was nigh, and it seems some men have forgotten how sacred this grove was, they hunt its animals for sport, cut down its trees, and even slake their lusts from unwilling wombs in it. It all reeked of darkness, the evil of men came from beyond the belt of light, for the gods of the void whisper their madness like the demons do; subtly, quietly, it starts with a simple deed and it grows till your soul is like a pit of tar: sticky, thick, burns those who try to touch it. And it drowns you. You don’t notice you’re drowning till the tar burns your throat. Such is the way of those corrupted, the evil men, and the ones born and raised in the dens of humanity, the hives of civilization, the abodes of the corrupt.
He stepped into the tree grove but not before sending the second raven to flight, as he stepped in he placed his hand on a tree’s bark and closed his eyes, exhaling slowly as if expelling the taint of mankind from his being and embracing nature’s warmth unto his veins, it felt right, it felt natural. The world was in turmoil, and though he hadn’t accepted the burden yet, he listened and knew what to do, he understood the trees’ creaks, what words the winds carried, the rapport of the creatures both predator and prey, he was attuned to the green, to the planet itself, for it was his charge. A heavy burden it is, one he will take the mantle of protecting some day when he is ready, 'Nature is divided into two halves, not opposites but compliments ’ he recalled his mentors lesson, before Venturing into the tree thicket.
The Hunters were huddled around a fire, casting wood into it to make it grow more, to warm their bodies, though they spared no expense for that warmth, they wore lavish furs clearly they were no random woodland hunters, but nobles basking in what their coin could buy. Close to the gathering of men was a black haired young-looking woman, her skin suggested Hyborian descent, but showed nothing more, a man was straddling her trying to force himself on her as the others laughed and joked, draining their barrel of ale from its contents, it seemed to be a celebration of sorts, amber eyes watched them from a forest thicket, they weren’t too many but they were more than three, two among them were too well built, almost every one of them was drunk, whether his drunkenness was from bringing down the bear, raping the girl, or the liquor and the company of several weak willed men Achyn couldn’t say, it was perhaps all of this. It didn’t matter much, they sat at the foot of the sacred tree of Ysha; an ancient, odd carved tree, made to the likeness of a Stag, the ancient art of tree singing was lost upon the children of the wilds these days, and even those who knew its lore did not have the skill in their blood to bid the tree to grow in the carving they wished. Or so the texts and oral traditions spoke.
“Why are you taking this long Arnius? Get it over with my ■■■■ is too hard to be kept waiting longer, better hurry up before I end up joining you” a cruel string of laughs erupted from the ape men. The druid’s jaw clenched, anger was burning through his veins like a wildfire through an ancient dry wood. It was one of those nights after all, he felt more savage than serene 'Nature has two halves ’ he reminded himself as he heard the croak of a raven, his gaze drifted above, the men of course cared not, this was Cimmeria after all, it is practically the birthplace of ravens. The girl was crying, her resistance was weakening as the much bigger man was at the phase of toying with her one of the drunkards got up, this one was rather big Achyn gritted his teeth as he saw the man brandish an axe "More wood for the fire, we need to get this meat cookin’ " he waved his axe and was about to bring it to the tree’s bark, the Sacred tree, Achyn was almost reflexive as he gripped his bow, nocked an arrow, took aim and immediately let fly towards the big man’s hands, piercing the flesh of the palm and prompting the brute to cry out in pain. The other men almost stirred from their stupor, they all got up brandishing their weapons, mostly swords and axes, edged weapons, befitting murderers and defilers, Achyn thought as another raven croaked, his concentration broke by a brutal voice of the other big man, the one called Arnius standing over the woman “Show yourself whoever you are…only a coward strikes from the shade!” his sword was dangerously close to the girl, Achyn did not think twice as he climbed down from a tree
"This is your first and last warning,"
He said rather firmly as he placed the bow behind his back as he gripped his club “This grove is sacred, you’re not welcome here” the men looked at each other and laughed, even the one with the arrow sprouting from his hand, he pulled it out with a groan and waved his axe around “There’s six of us boy, and you’re alone, We’re all strong…” Achyn simply growled and hit the ground with his club as he looked to the men rather defiantly with an arrogant smirk “The Green is stronger” at the end of his sentence a wolf’s howl was heard as two wolves ran and jumped two of the men rather suddenly, chaos ensued, as the two ravens flew down plucking the eyes out of two other assailants, as the 4 men struggled against their animal adversaries, one of the two brutish men, the one holding the axe charged Achyn, he was quicker than his size implied, Achyn thought, as he barely dodged the Axe strike, it cleaved an arc through the air with a whistle, and then another, but Achyn missed a step and the man hit him on the chin with the haft of his axe, the druid was knocked back and stirred in his fall testing his jaw to see if it dislocated, it seemed fine, but he tasted the copper taste of blood and felt its warmth in his mouth, he spat a curse as he got up before standing up the man uttered “Walk away wildling, I eat men like you for breakfast!” Achyn gripped his maul; his amber eyes had a predatorily look in them.
"This Mountain is not moving!"
As the man charged him a second time Achyn jumped out of the way and placed his hand in his pouch, plucking a handful of thorns and in one fluid motion throwing them at the man, the thorns planted themselves in his arm which immediately went numb, he then smiled rather haughtily as he howled rather fiendishly as he, this time, charged the brutish man and caved his skull in with one vicious strike from his maul, he then looked over as the men preyed on by the wolves kicked their adversaries away and were now coming at him, The druid looked around either surveying his situation or searching for aid, he then placed a hand in another pouch and blew a cloud of powder at the two men who almost immediately collapsed gasping for air, he haughtily walked away as he muttered “three down, three to go” two men were a little occupied with the ravens picking at their eye sockets and faces, croaking rather profusely, Achyn placed his palm on the ground and began to mutter in an almost song like verse of ancient phrases and syllables as he drew a rune on the ground before getting up and violently landing his club on the ground, the earth rumbled slightly, and the men’s movement felt hindered. The earth rumbled again, before a string of roots erupted from the ground locking the men’s legs in their position, he charged the two men as the two wolves came to his aid and pounced on their prey eagerly before their druid companion, going straight for the men’s throats; they were dead before even hitting the ground.
Achyn stood before the last of the defilers, Arnius, the man held his sword to the girl’s throat “Alright you barbarian filth, walk away now or your sacred grove will be desecrated with the blood of this ■■■■■” Achyn stopped in his tracks, his amber gaze fell on the woman, she had power still in her, though behind teary eyes, she still had her pride and dignity, her body had many bruises and signs of the savage treatment these defilers did to her. Arnius held the girl by her cheeks rather brutally “Drop your weapon, boy, or she dies!” the girl was terrified as Achyn threw down his maul the two wolves circling him, and the two ravens perched on one of the sacred tree’s branches, she was mewling in her tears as Achyn looked down to her “What’s your name woman?” the woman looked at him quizzically as he asked again “Your Name, what is it?” she seemed confused before muttering behind her tears and with a quivering voice: “Anna. I’m Anna from Zingara” he smiled warmly at her, his deep voice empowered by his sacred surroundings: “All will be well, Anna, it will end before you know it.”
“Boy! Look At Me” Arnius brutish voice commanded Achyn’s attention, as the latter smirked “I am looking at you, Arnius, but with other eyes” the air was torn through as a large black bear walked into view letting out a fierce loud roar and stood to its full height, Arnius looked back and in his surprise and horror let go of the girl who ran towards Achyn’s legs as the latter spoke “it isn’t fun when the prey actually fights, is it, civilized man?” the Bear mauled the man who fell unconscious by the brute force of the blow. The girl looked up to Achyn who knelt and embraced her trying to reassure her before looking to her “I told you; all will be well” he then blew a powder in her face and she collapsed in his arms, fast asleep from the effect of the powder and exhaustion. He placed her near the fire as he looked up to the sky 'the time is near, I better prepare the pyre ’ he looked to his animal companions who scattered each going its own direction, Achyn smiled as he muttered another lesson “Nature is my ally, I am never alone”.
When Arnius came to, a cold breeze blew through the grove, he shuddered as he tried to move but he was tied, he was on his knees staring the stag-shaped tree directly behind him burned a pyre, it smelled of cooked meat. The man felt something around his neck, a string of rope or root, he didn’t know what to think, he tried to struggle against his bonds but they were too tight he felt his extremities go numb from the lack of blood circulation as a deep voice boomed behind him “Do you know what this tree is? Or why is it sacred?” the man howled back “untie me you Cimmerian filth! Do you not know who I am” Achyn responded calmly “in the wilds you are as common as any man” The man struggled against his bonds “you savage wildling how dare you!” Achyn pulled the roots around the man’s neck and he choked looking at the tree as he held tightly “This tree carries the essence of an ancient protector, one of the Bruidd, his name is Y’sha. He was one of the wild gods serving Kurnous and Yvanna, the Lord and Lady; he protected this planet from the hungering maws of the outer dark’s gods. In the lore of the wilds; it was Y’sha’s sacrifice that gave the rest of the wild gods time to erect the belt of light around this earth and protect it. And you were desecrating his grove” Achyn then stepped back giving the man a moment to breathe before landing his club with brute force on his head phasing him “and your desecration will have a price” the man shook his head as the latter held his head back placing a strange sickle around his neck “But lucky for you, your death will be much more significant than your miserable existence” Achyn sliced the man’s throat with cruel precision the man’s blood spurted against the bark of the sacred tree, and the sockets which were its eyes shone with blue light “You came from the earth, now go back to it” as the man was breathing his last Achyn knelt before him and carved his heart out, the man was kept alive by the mystical life force going through the grove, the heart was beating as Achyn presented it before the tree “brave Y’sha of the Bruidd, we, grateful of your sacrifice present you with the blood of our own and the fires burning in this heart, wild like the life first bloomed in your grove, we cast it into the pyre at the eve of the eclipse. May our sacrifice strengthen your heart and your heart strengthens your hold on the belt of light. Protect our world by the grace of the hunter & the mother” Achyn then cast the heart into the pyre and then dragged Arnius’ dying corpse into the pyre as it burned brightly “and may it be accepted” Achyn seemed slightly upset at his deed, he gazed towards a hill and saw the ethereal form of a stag, he kept his gaze on the stag before drawing a couple of runes with the blood on his hands 'three men burned in the pyre, three hearts sacrificed to the protector and the other three will serve another purpose ’ he then headed to the woman his hands still bloodied, he wrapped her in a cloak and carried her as slowly as he could trying not to disturb her, he would take her to a caravan heading towards civilization, or even take her there himself.
The next morning a group of tribesmen moved past the grove, accompanied by an old man, they stopped before one of the trees, where three men were hung by their intestines, wrapped around their necks and a blood rune was left on the bark of a tree, the men looked to their elder who smiled and nodded "This grove is protected," he said to his men "We get our wood from somewhere else." They moved on.
Achyn stood over the woman who was lying with her back against a tree they both looked at the sky which was full of meteors tearing through its canvas like the fabric of reality he smiled at the beauty of the sight he looked to the woman “Do you know what are these? It is said that meteors are demons and other void entities that are repelled and killed by the power of the belt of light, impaled upon Y’sha’s antlers and his companions’ blades, fangs, and claws. Meteor showers usually are an omen that we are protected that we continue to live another day” the woman brought the cloak closer to her and smiled at the sight of the man and the meteor shower.
‘Humans are either the smartest of animals or the most dim-witted, they mistaken your silence for passivity, your calmness with weakness, your kind heart with lack of will, they do not understand the dichotomy of things; that you do not desire to shed blood marks you as weak amongst them, while it might be your wisdom to avoid a conflict or your understanding of the true cost you will pay and how it would weigh on your spirit, how the purity of your essence will be affected by the deeds you do both light & dark. They do not understand how the mightiest predator is also the most loyal and faithful mate, or the most protective father or nurturing mother. That nature has two halves, not opposites but compliments: the nurturer and the hunter.’