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Chapter 2

Two years had passed since Ragnar first toppled his giant brother and he had learned much in the ways of fighting from both his brothers and the other lads in the tribe. He had also grown considerably in size, especially in comparison to the other lads his age. One day Olaf and Vilgrid were on their way out to hunt for game because the Feast of Crows would be held in a night’s time. The Feast of Crows was a yearly feast Ragnar’s tribe held to honour the fallen spirits of ancestors who had fallen gloriously in combat. There were few feasts that were practiced universally among the Northern tribes and the Feast of Crows was no exception. As far as Ragnar knew no other tribe celebrated the Feast of Crows. Though he assumed they honoured their fallen in their own ways. The two brothers found Ragnar out on one of the trees climbing to try and get at some of the wild fruit growing near the top.

‘Little brother!’ Olaf shouted. ’How would ya like to come with me and Vilgrid to hunt like real men ‘stead of foraging like the women and children do?’

Ragnar scrambled down from the tree and said wide eyed ‘Really!? Father said I could?’

Olaf grinned before replying ’He said: take Ragnar out with youse boys, it about time he learnt how to hunt in the Great Forest.’ Putting on an impression of their father’s rough and stern voice which made them all laugh.

Ragnar was excited, this would be the first time he travelled into the outer wilds of the north and he was glad it would be with his two brothers.

As they headed out Vilgrid turned to Ragnar and said, ‘Now little brother it is important you do just as we say ok? It is dangerous out here.’

Ragnar replied with his usual bravado, claiming to be fearless to which Vilgrid just grunted in response. However, Ragnar was far from fearless setting out. While Ragnar had hunted small rabbits and even attempted to stone the odd bird before, he always did this on the outskirts of the tribe camp. He had never entered the Great Forest and was more than a little apprehensive due to the stories he had heard around the fires about the many dangers that lurked between the trees.

After many hours of trudging through mud and thorny bushes they had acquired nought but filth, scratches and foul tempers. Finding decent sized game was always a challenge but even the little cotton tails that normally inhabited the roots of the thick bushes appeared to have vacated the area. The only reason that could be behind it was that something... or someone had disturbed them. Vilgrid’s keen hunting senses gave him a hunch of what that might be. However, he held his tongue until they stumbled upon some tracks which washed away all doubt from his mind, boar, and a large one at that. It had thundered through the area sending all the rabbits bolting into their underground burrows and terrifying the skittish dear. Even the tougher mountain goats, that would be their usual game where nowhere to be seen.

It was good news and bad, the good news was that if they could kill this beast, they would be hailed as heroes when they returned to camp. Such a fine kill would feed many of the tribe at the feast. The bad news was that no man of sound mind would set out to hunt a boar in a hunting party of less than five well seasoned men. There were only three of them and this was to be Ragnar’s first hunt, the odds were very much againt them. Vilgrid quickly shared what he had found with his brothers and but were both quick to agree that they should push on and hunt the beast.

‘North’smen do not run from animals’ Olaf exclaimed boldly. Vilgrid could only relucantly agree.

Now that they knew what to look for their progress went a little easier and they soon found some fresh tracks before promptly scouting out the boar. It was a huge mottled brown beast, easily as tall as Ragnar with beady black eyes and long gouging tusks. Their plan was simple, startle the beast and give chase until it stumbles or falters. To begin with their plan went relatively well, they startled the animal, yelling and shouting until it took flight and then they gave chase. They chased it down for what seemed like an age until they got to a clearing of the trees. The boar disappeared into the densely packed underbrush in the centre of the opening. This was not part of their plan, and this was dangerous. The boar could easily gain the upper hand here, rush them and gore them. They decided to split up momentarily. Vilgrid and Olaf would take the approach which the boar was most likely to emerge from, while Ragnar was to sneak over to the far side and attempt to startle the boar into flight once more, which they hoped would also keep him out of danger.

‘Where is it?’ whispered Vilgrid cautiously to Olaf.

‘I’m not sure little brother, though it’s still close, I can still smell the shit off its arse.’ replied Olaf with a smirk.

Vilgrid couldn’t help letting out a snigger at his brother’s remark. He looked over to Ragnar who was on his way to the far side of the opening in front of them and nodded to him before he disappeared behind the underbrush. Despite this being his first time out hunting with his brothers he was doing quite well. Better than Vilgrid had one on his first time out with Olaf and their father.

‘Look out! It’s coming!’ shouted Ragnar from behind the bush as the massive boar charged Olaf and Vilgrid.

It startled them despite the fact they were expecting it. Olaf managed to jump out of the way in time despite his large frame however; scrawny Vilgrid was not as fast. The boar smashed into him knocking him over and trampling him, causing what seemed to be a fair amount of injury.

Olaf meanwhile had accidently jumped into a Strangle Thorn bush and was busy trying to free himself from the already constricting vines. The boar came about and was preparing to gore the injured Vilgrid with it’s long and deadly tusks when Ragnar charged full speed into the animal’s side. He smashed into the boar like a horse would a man. Despite the boar being the same height as him, he was considerably stocky despite his young age of only twelve winters and he would definitely be more like Olaf when he came of age rather than Vilgrid.

He knocked the boar over and fell onto it himself. The boar flailed about on its side kicking and slashing wildly. One of the tusks caught Ragnar in his left cheek and tore open a terrible wound.

Screaming in pain Ragnar clutched at his face as blood gushed out through his fingers like crimson rivers. By now Olaf had freed himself from the barbed vines his spear however was still entangled so looking around him he spotted his chopping axe and quickly picked it up. The boar was starting to get back up too.

Olaf knew he would be in terrible trouble if he did not act fast. He also realised he would not be able to cross the distance between himself and the beast before it got back to its feet.

With this realisation he quickly gripped the axe in both his hands, drew it behind his head and with a massive roar he catapulted it through the air towards the boar. The axe seemed to take an age to travel the distance flipping end over end. If the gamble did not pay off, Olaf would soon find himself unarmed against a raging seven hundred pound male boar. The axe smashed into the boar’s skull, burying itself with a sickening thunk and Olaf let out a breath he did not realise he was holding. The boar stumbled slightly, before letting out a low whine and collapsing onto its side. It twitched for a moment, before finally laying still.

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