Clemnilshala and the Winter Hunt

The wind howled and brought the pallid shriek of porcine fury. Crash! Bam! A fence had blown away in the wind. Clemnilshala stood amongst her dwarvish peers, superior and subordinate alike. She tightened horsehair decorations around her arms and legs, she readied her bow with ribbons and twine and wire. Twine wrapped around stones and coins that clattered together. The common house in town, an inn, where the others grew unsteady, she could hear “his” thumping hooves. His swine’s cry over the winds and thunder. A terrible night for a gaggle of three little greenhorns to become leather bottomed if one asked a certain eynnil. They whispered amongst themselves as Clemnilshala hummed a song. She loosened her belt from around her waist and removed the metal items, small pates, from her shoulders and ankles.

“Do not fear the wild things, the white boar poses his challenge to us this year again” Clemnilshala laced her fingers together with a wry smile. The youngin’s didn’t share her enthusiasm.

They huddled together as she took arrows and sifted through them, laying aside all her standard tips to make room for bodkin tips and whistlers. The younger dwarves shied further away as they helped one another fasten shin guards and iron boot caps. They went about muttering amongst themselves.

“Please lads I won’t let nothin’ happen tae ye. I didn’t last time did I?” she tightened a length of rope into a knot around her neck, punning her family crest through braided fibers, tugging on it she strummed her bowstring like a musical instrument. The swine’s cries grew louder, she pulled her hood over her head. And waited. Wait. Waiting. Trying ribbon to arrows and adding small lucky items. Playing with her earrings that clinked together on the side of her cheek.

“Think this is the year? Think we’ll get ‘im?”

“Iffin we do, I’ll make him intae family dinner fer every lad and his family here. By thunder, I’ll even bring ye fancy vinegar.” She leaned back on the wall, long tail thumping quietly against her leg. There were cheers, whoops, and hollers as Hjomnir the Bold burst into the scout’s barracks. Clemnilshala leaped to attention, nearly falling over with new hoof plates, ornamented and carved with runes and images. This hunt, she’d been looking forward to since the sun went down.

The weather was as dangerous as the prize. Icy javelins thrust over the lines of men and women filing out of the mountain from the top of the read one could see the way the shadow of the great wild boar could tear through yet another fence.

Outside waited Rigmol and a legion of Riding rams. Reined and ready. Hoofbeats in the snow with cold waves of ice parting at their chests. One eynnil and twenty dwarves cascaded through town into the basins.

Clemnilshala was hit first, she saw it coming from straight ahead. Yet she didn’t have the time to stop an eagle’s corpse frozen to a wooden fencepost. Across her chest, it struck, throwing her backward. she squeezed Rigmol’s sides between her knees, trying to keep her hooves in the saddle stirrups. To no avail, the force of a frozen bird brought her shoulder-first into the snow. Taking Rigmol sideways. Clemnilshala, tumbling backward, end over end until she’d landed her head so close to a rock. She’d thought she’d be breaking her other horn off. Rigmol rolled over and off the side of a hill.

“Rigs!” She shouted, scrabbling her hooves away from the trees to see her stag’s lumbering grey streak come to a halt as a wave of snow dusted his top. The last thing she saw was his shadow rising and cantering off.

She hadn’t the time to grab her bow, once she’d come to her hands and knees, she was deafened by the wild squeal of the Wild Thing she and twenty dwarves had been hunting each winter for just as many years. There he be. The Great White Boar loomed. A great set of tusks sprouted from his jaws and reached up like winding vines toward the sky.

“I didn’t think you’d find me so quickly. Last time it took you days.” said the boar with the double voice of a decade of the men and women who fell at his hooves. Clemnilshala’s face burst with a great smile, she held open her broad arms

“Finally, we meet once again” she smiled with all her teeth, reaching forth to pet the boar’s great snout. She splayed her fingers out and stood idle for a moment. She lowered her head and politely bowed deeply. “Ain’t every winter where I get tae be seein’ the Wild Thing’s eh?”

Clemnilshala embraced the boar around the snout, just before a duel would commence. As they have in so many years past but no one would leave this place filled with spite. The great boar pulled away and lowered his huge head bucking his chin and scratching at the snow with beaten hooves and scarred legs.

She rolled backward and stamped in the snow, packing it down under her cleated hoofplates to create a platform to stand. Clemnilshala took her bow in one hand and her skinner knife in the other. Before she could use the stability the boar reared and smashed the mountain’s stones under his weight. A mild avalanche from above fell in ribbons over her shoulders. Clemnilshala’s leg’s crumbled under her, she dropped to her knees and doubled over. She slung her shielded bow over her haunches and protected the back of her neck.

Ice chunks hailed on the wood, stone, and metal scale shield. Her ears nearly deafened as the ground beneath her shook. Her backside was shoved forward where she planted chest first between the boar’s great hooves. She scratched in the ground, going clear down to the dirt to find her skinner knife. Crawling under his belly and threw a punch upward. His skin did not break. Instead, the trunk of his body shuddered with a laugh.

“I’ve become stronger since last I saw you child,” he said, shaking snow from his body. He reared again. In time Clemnilshala blocked his hoof with her shield, it skittered off and he was sent to his knee.

“So have I Nahchog” Clemnilshala came to her hooves and stood, turning her knife in her hand “I learned so much”

“Perhaps you need another lesson more” said Nahchog the great boar. “As you may put it, you may swing first”

Clemnilshala snickered, readying her shield first “How about a game, adversary. Give me a hint”

“But of course, and you will tell me what color it was” he replied.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand”

“you, I have seen you ever year, you don’t belong here, you look different, you took a different name into your heart. You used to hang on the tails of an aging man but three years, by my count, it’s only been you alone. What color was his face covering”

Clemnilshala lowered her knife “Green and yellow. It was runed. She bent her knees and rushed the swine. She tumbled forth and head butted his neck. The boar laughed like an old man.

Clemnilshala rushed him, wrapping her arms around the sides of his neck.

“Come on now, where is the clue. How can I defeat ye and turn ye intae dinner eh?”

“With your hands, child” he bucked his head into her stomach, knocking the wind from her lungs. In an attempt to throw her to the side.

Clemnilshala held tighter to the pig’s mane and drove the length of her skinner knife along his scruff. Pinching his flesh against her thumb. The boar laugh, his skin did not break. Her blade rattled against its handle. Her hands slipped on the leather bindings. Nahchog bucked his head and threw her from his space, scraping the snow with his hooves he burrowed his tusks.

“your hands, I said! do you not remember?” he said rearing up and bring all his weight down. His cloven hooves tore through the thigh of Clemnilshala’s leather. Just in time, she scrambles her legs back, avoiding her dewclaws. Cloven hooved beasts were always so hard to predict but the more legs one had the simpler it was to maneuver around them.

She rolled onto her front, crawling underneath the board. With her beast whip, she snapped the handle upward, casting the length over his back, the girth of the swine. She attempted to grapple the other end, the braided tip of her whip broke away in her fingers.

The boar laughed once more. Oh, how he laughed. He delighted in her struggles. The storm raged on. Blowing down the space between the back of her neck and her gear. Her horse hair decorations tickled her face. She squeezed her eyes shut. In that time her adversary pulled from her whip and released a great shriek.

“Foolish child!” he snarled, gritting porcine teeth “Another hint is in order! Defeat me before sunrise, lest you need another year to learn to use your hands!” the boar reared back up, his hide, impenetrable by the skinner knife.

Clemnilshala got an idea. Before a crack in the clouds would take the boar for another year. The sky becoming a mauve color as the night greeted the morning. A rosy kiss between two who could not stay together forever.

Rosy kisses rested on Clemnilshala’s cheeks. The boar, Nahchog, brought his face close to hers. Resting his wet nose on her gently. He reared and took several steps back

“No!! Doon’t escape me yet!” she snarled into the wind.

The swine’s squeal bored itself into her ears as he lunged at her. The clouds split in two and the blizzard faded. The bursting flash of sunlight blinded Clemnilshala. When she could finally see once more the board had vanished with his whisper on the air.

“You need to use your hands” he said.

There was nothing she could do. She leaned back and sighed, burying her face in her hands. For a moment she relaxed before whistling for Rigmol who burst through the snow-covered trees. He lowered his great head letting a small weasel off of his forehead. The little creature, an ermine with a sooty black tail, reared up on his hindquarter and bowed to Rigmol who laughed.
“I was looking all over for you. You just disappeared” said Rigmol completely out of breath. He shook the snow and pine from his antlers. Kneeling down to allow Clemnilshala to check his tack and mount up. She pulled the stag’s reins and turned him back toward town.

“I’m fine, old friend. I didn’t get ‘im this year. What happened tae ye?” She cocked her head to the side. Rigmol excitedly went on about a new friend he’d made and how much he was going to eat and drink once they returned to town.

The hunt only lasted one night. This year at least.

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