Drunk Priests and Dangerous Beasts

Well this is where it starts, it’ll either be death or glory and to be honest death seemed a more likely outcome. What am I on about? Allow me to explain. My name is Tyrhan and I’m a Hunter. Well that’s what I like to call myself. Although until I’ve completed the tasks set by the Priests of Velorne I had no right to call myself that, at least not out loud and in earshot of anyone else. As openly calling myself a Hunter now would lead to being mocked and getting a few severe thrashings. Both of which I was rather keen to avoid. To be more truthful I’m Tyrhan the youngest son of Treffis the Farmer. Farming was in my family’s blood as it had been for generations but that blood didn’t flow through my veins. Don’t get me wrong I love my father and the rest of my family. But ever since I picked up my first bow and loosed an arrow from it I knew what I wanted to be, a Hunter. Armed with my bow, a quiver full of arrows on my back and a sharp blade that was all I wanted. My older brother Farius will, as tradition decrees inherit the farm after our father’s death. I as the second born wouldn’t be left with anything much, maybe a small bag of silver and a Cow at the most. Fortunately this method of inheritance didn’t sadden me. In fact I was glad for my older brother and felt it was only right that Farius would inherit it, as unlike me he had taken great pride in learning all he could about farming. He even looked like a farmer, all red cheeked and weathered skin from long hours spent tending the fields. Whereas I did my fair share of the work I definitely didn’t share my brothers passion for ploughing and planting. I preferred to spend more time in the nearby woods with my bow.

Now I bet you think becoming a hunter is pretty simple? Well you’re wrong. You see being a hunter isn’t just about killing lots of animals. It’s about learning and surviving in the wilderness, whether it be Grassland, Forest or Mountains. It’s knowing how to track and how to conceal yourself from your quarry, and from creatures that would regard you as a good meal. No, being addressed as the Hunter is an acknowledgement of skill, dedication and bravery. I want to be ‘Tyrhan the Hunter’ not ‘Tyrhan the guy who goes and kills some animals to feed his family now and again’. So how do you get this prestigious title then? Well there are two ways to earn the Hunter title. One way is to kill extremely rare creatures such as Agrellian Deer or Haroc Eagles. Yes just go kill fifteen creatures that are considered so rare they’re usually only seen in books, and of course have proof of the kills. After all Hunters may not be considered the brightest lot but they aren’t that stupid. And that believe it or not is the easy way. The other way, known as the ‘hard way’ or the ‘they’ll be dead in a week’ way is to kill five of the most dangerous beasts in the land. And by dangerous I don’t mean beasts like a Grey Lion or a Swamp Bear, as dangerous as they are this calls for something far more formidable.

Which brings me to where I am now, stood in front of a hung over High Priest in the Temple of Velorne. A grand temple built to fill a visitor’s heart and soul with awe and wonder is what the other Gods got for a temple, this one to put it bluntly was a complete dump. Two long wooden tables with benches either side of them ran down the centre of the Temple. The remains of yesterdays feast were still scattered all over the tables, benches and floor. Sleeping priests were sprawled on the benches their heads resting on whatever food was in front of them when they had finally passed out. It looked as though a rather grand feast had been dropped from a great height into the Temple. But this wasn’t unusual for a Temple of Velorne, they were all like this. You see Velorne was not only the God of Hunting, he was also the God of Festivals, and this was a role the Priests took very seriously. Serious to the point of having some sort of Festival as often as they could, unless they were just too hung over from the previous festival. On those days the High Priest would proclaim a day of ‘Quiet Contemplation.’

Today as luck would have it was a ‘Quiet Contemplation’ day. So I stood proudly before the High Priest an old man named Olaphain. His long grey beard and finely embroidered robe could have made him look wise and dignified, had it not been for the amount of food stuck to them. He tried his best to keep his eyes focused on me as I spoke but the effort was too much so he just closed them and nodded at appropriate moments. When Olaphain finally spoke he asked if I was ready to renounce my devotion to Ansali, Goddess of Farmers and Florists and become a Son of Velorne. With rather too much bravado for my own good I loudly declared my devotion to Velorne, and immediately had to duck from a hail of chicken legs, goblets and other missiles thrown at my head. When the barrage finally subsided I brushed myself off stood up and asked the High Priest to give me his Blessing and allow me to undertake the five tasks. Yes I was choosing the hard way, well I never claimed to be a genius did I. Olaphain looked rather taken aback by this. He even asked if I was absolutely sure about it, but my mind was set and there was no changing it now. A few of the Priests who were in earshot raised their heads and made what sounded like laughter before slumping face first back onto the table. Olaphain looked at me as if waiting for me to change my mind then softly sighed, and called out a name. A priest three seats down from Oliphain murmured something unpleasant under his breath and slowly began to rise. It was like watching someone who wasn’t entirely sure what arms and legs were for, or how they worked. But eventually the Priest figured it all out and with one bony finger motioned me to follow him.

I followed the Priest silently through the hall, the only sounds being the crunching of food underfoot and the muttered curses of the Priests as a pewter goblet was accidentally kicked along the stone floor. As we reached the temple library, the Priest carefully unlocked the door, grimacing painfully as each bolt relented and slid back with a loud crack that echoed through the corridor. Finally the last bolt succumbed and to the Priests great relief we both entered inside. The library unlike the rest of the Temple was rather tidy, books were placed neatly on shelves as they should be and sheafs of paper were stacked neatly for use. This was the only place in the Temple where order was expected and maintained. We made our way to the large table at the far end of the library, a large old book was left open upon it. I tried to read the words on the page, but they were written in that fancy style of writing that religious types like, all extra curls, lines and wavy bits that seemed completely unnecessary in my opinion. But what I could read appeared to be a list of creatures, some of the names I recognised. Others were completely unknown to me. But I didn’t have time to read any more as a long bony finger stabbed at one word on the page, Hallox.

Now the Hallox is the sort of creature that divides people into two distinct groups. The first regards the Hallox as an interesting creature worthy of long and intense study. The second group regards the first as completely insane and should be locked up in a deep dungeon for everyones safety. Which might appear a bit heartless, but when you consider what a Hallox is, it does make sense. The best way to describe a Hallox is to imagine a Bulls head with a rather squashed snout on an ape-like body covered in long thick reddish brown hair. Now picture it between fifteen to twenty foot high and top it off with a temperament that ranged between annoyed to psychotically deranged. Finally throw its rather unique defence method which is if the Hallox feels threatened by something, it eats it. And thats a Hallox, and my first task was to kill one. How hard could it really be?

 

Dave Wilky