Although his breath frosted in the air before him and the ground he lay stretched out upon was blanketed in snow, the hunter felt no chill.
He had spent hours creeping over the folds in the frozen tundra, edging towards his prey, grey and white furs camouflaging him. Now he looked down from a small rise at his prize. He studied the group of caribou carefully through narrowed eyes, picking out the oldest, the one with the least seasons left.
With an almost imperceptible shift of his head, he nodded to his companion that he had selected his target. Slowly he began to rise, starting the sling in his right hand in to a lazy spin, low to the ground. He remained crouched for a moment, taking time to ensure his movements hadn’t been spotted, then exploded in to motion. Snapping upright and whipping the sling around in two violent spins, he released at his target.
From the instant of release the small herd seemed rooted to the ground, their pawing at the snow for sustenance halted as they searched for the danger they now sensed. Their ears pivoted and eyes rolled as they began to sway their heads in anxious foreboding.
The hunter’s gaze remained intent on his prey as he watched the stone flash away from him and impact on his targets skull, releasing the magic stored within it. The strength of his arm and impact of the stone stunned the animal and the flash and crack as the magic released disoriented it and scattered the rest of the herd in blind, panicked flight.
The moment the report of the magic rolled through the coulee his hunting companion leapt to his feet and sprinted at the only caribou not moving. In moments he was rolling under the staggered animals rigid neck, prized steel knife flashing as he took its throat. Crimson blood steamed and burned in to the crisp, white carpet surrounding the dying beast as it slumped to its front knees and collapsed.
Shaemus returned his sling to its pocket inside his cloak as he ran down the slope towards his cousin, who was crouched on the far side of the carcass, waiting for its twitching to stop. As he ran the hood of his cloak flew back, releasing his flaming red dreadlocks to trail in his wake.
Boras gave a friendly smile as he watched Shaemus slow on his approach, standing after cleaning his knife in the dead caribou’s fur.
“Nice shot cousin! Not that it would have been a problem, but it made it easy for me!”
“Ha! you would still be wrestling with it if I didn’t have such a good aim!” Shaemus replied with easy banter.
The two young men clasped forearms and pressed foreheads together, both still grinning, as they acknowledged each others skill and friendship. Both stood just over six foot in height and could easily be mistaken for brothers, having the same strong physique, honed by life on the tundra, and similar rugged features. The obvious characteristics standing them apart were Shaemus’ red dreadlocks framing eyes the blue/grey of a storm wracked sea, compared to the muddy brown dreads falling around Boras’ shoulders surrounding green eyes that glimmered like a river dancing under a summer sun.
“Best not forget your pebble cousin, don’t forget we need it for the elders to present to the ancestors”
“Aye, I’ll not forget Bor. This is one ritual that will interest me, finally no longer children”
Shaemus collected the stone as they both crouched by the corpse and spoke thanks to the animals spirit and their tribal ancestors. They then bound its legs and hefted it between them, its bulk laying across both their shoulders, as they began the trudge across the tundra to the place where their tribe was currently camping.
Both walked in silence in their vulnerable state, listening intently for any predators on the prowl for an easy meal, eyes scanning the horizon ahead, until they eventually crested a fold in the seemingly endless frozen plain to look down upon the gathering of tents that housed their tribe, over a hundred of the hide-bound structures in all.
The Fuar Mac Tire tribe were amongst the larger of tribes that roamed the Caelgora peninsula following the migrating Caribou for survival, numbering nearly five hundred strong. They hunted, roamed, survived and very rarely fought each other.
Protected from the majority of Tanrisal’s upheavals by the Cael land bridge, the tribes of Caelgora were an insular people thriving in a hostile climate thanks to the spiritual forces provided by their ancestor worship. Trade was their main source of scarce resources. As the snows returned south with the onset of winter, following the all too brief summer, the tribes eventually left the caribou trails to head to the top of the Cael land bridge. It was here they would meet caravans from the south and trade for wood, steel and news before returning to pick up the hunting trails. It was here the Fuar Mac Tire tribe would reach within the next few weeks.
Boras and Shaemus felt the fatigue of the hunt and trek fall away as they reached the edge of their tribal encampment. It seemed to both as if their load lightened and they stood taller as their elation at their success took over. They strode to the centre of the mobile village and the largest structure of all, the Halla na Sinsear, the Hall of Ancestors.