The night was clear and the smell of the pine wood fire made Darry feel at home, at peace. He sat on a rough log bench outside his single room cabin relaxed while the copper pot of rich broth simmered over the fire.
"Old man Dar! Old Man Dar!" The children's shrill loud greeting preceded them. Tonight there were seven of them. Five boys and two girls. One of the boys handed him a jar
"Ma'am sent this. Berry preserve. She opened the barrel this morning."
Darry nodded, carefully taking the jar and placing safely behind him. The kids had sat down around the fire, all silent and waiting. Darry took his time filling his wooden bowl with the now steaming broth and swallowed a spoonful before turning his attention to them.
"So you want a story tonight."
Mara, the oldest of the kids replied. "You promised to tell about Darrian."
"Why him? He is no big hero like the Silver Sword. Huh? How about the great wolf?"
Another boy sat up in protest. "But Darrian is our greatest warrior. You promised."
"Yah. You promised." Mara added.
"OK OK" Darry relented and after a few gulps of his broth, he began the story.
"This is about when Darrian was thirteen and still not a fully trained hunter. They did not have these fancy guns back then, just normal revolvers, rifles with a metal sighting cross and fighting knives.
One autumn morning there was a commotion outside. Darrian rushed to see why the crowd was gathered in the main square. To his horror it was Gar and Dot, the hounds he had looked after, Hell he had grown along with them for near four years. He listened to the crowd as he cradled the bloody heads. It had been a bear attack. This was unusual given the season and the nearness to the houses where the bodies were found. The bear was mad, rabid they concluded and soon they would have to kill it. The elders council would be called tonight they said. No sense in blundering in the forest, better to arrange things for a a two day hunt and only then go after the bear.
Now Darrian was burning with grief and anger. To wait even a day was unbearable. In his anger he went home and snatched his father's rifle and the three cartridges of bear shot he found and ran of towards the woods."
Darry stopped while he refilled his bowl while the children whined for him to continue.
"So he manages to find the bear tracks near the place where the earth was still red with the hound's blood. He plunges into the wood following the tracks, his heart aflame at seeing the bloody stains. Sooner than he thought, the bear found him. It was not as big as a house but still it was twice his size and the scarred muzzle was spitting foam. The small eyes were filled with madness. Darrian stopped and brought his rifle up even as the bear stood up with a roar and charged.
Now a normal child would have frozen hearing the loud roar and looking at a mad bear rushing at him. But Darrian managed to get off a shot before the bear had flung him away with a swipe. Luckily for Darrian his shot had hit the bear in the shoulder and arm which had hit him. He was thrown into the branches of nearby brambles and ended up bloody. His couldn't move his left hand, the pain in his shoulder was so intense, Darrian puked and his head started to spin His shoulder was dislocated and the claws held left behind two deep furrows leaking blood.
Darrian stumbled away from the bear looking for narrow passages between trees where the bear could not directly follow. His rifle was nowhere and the bear was right behind him. What could he do? He thought of what would scare the bear away- he did not want to die, revenge was erased from his mind, replaced by a heart gripping fear. Guns could scare the bear but he did not have any. And fire could scare it and.. And."
Darry stopped looking around as the children looked at him, all of them holding their breaths to know what was to come.
"And he had a book of matches. Darrian swerved to climb onto a rocky mound. He removed his hat and filled it with dry twigs and leaves and set it on fire with a few matches. The bear had reached the mound and was clawing for a grip to climb up. Darrian threw the hat in his face and the bear retreated with a roar. It paced a few times to the left and right and then lowered to charge at Darrian who was ready to leap off in the opposite direction. Then two gunshots rang out and the bear gave out a loud roar and toppled over.
One of the elders had seen Darrian run into the woods and had called for help. They had followed and reached the mound in time to kill the bear. OK . That's it now, hurry home kids and listen to your elders."
The children walked away talking among themselves. Darry sighed and placed his bowl down. He had not told them the true story. No help had arrived to help Darrian. When the bear had tried to climb the mound Darrian had thrown the hat at it and jumped after it with his knife. The fire had caught one eye and Darrian's knife had found the other. The blinded animal had thrashed around for nearly an hour before any of the elders had come. Darry rubbed his shoulder feeling the two deep scars the bear had given him, it would not do teach impulsiveness to kids.
PICTURE CREDIT: OPENCLIPART