The cold mountain air bit at the faces of two men as they crept silently toward a young, unsuspecting buck nibbling on some roots. Without any sound, they inched their way closer to the animal. Durbar, a young man of fifteen, watched his father, Adar, very carefully, and mimicked his movements; ever striving to be the great woodsman his father was.
The large man stopped suddenly and so did his son. He slowly reached for his giant long bow and gently pulled out an arrow from the quiver on his back. The woodsman quickly inspected the arrow to ensure there was no damage to the fletching, notched it and stood up slowly and carefully. His black cloak concealed him in the dark, dense forest. The hunter drew back the string of his mighty bow until it touched his bearded cheek. Holding absolutely steady, he loosed the arrow. The missile twisted slightly as it sailed through the still air, flying past massive trees until finding the unsuspecting buck. The arrow struck the animal’s side, piercing his heart. Stunned and now struggling to cling to life, the buck tried to stumble away, but did not get far.
Adar leapt to his feet as the arrow struck its mark. He raced toward the animal and pulled a dagger from his belt. The powerful man jumped upon the terrified buck and dragged his dagger across its throat. The animal collapsed, kicked one last time and then was still. The woodsman rose and stood over his kill, smiling at his son who was admiring his father’s prowess from a distance.
“Great shot, Father. You hit him right in the heart,” the young man beamed.
“Of course, Son, you don’t want to hit him just anywhere and let him run off. That only makes more work for yourself.”
“I know, Father,” smiled Durbar, having heard that lesson at least a hundred times before. “Still, I think I lead four to three.”
“Aye, but if it wasn’t for that lucky shot you had on that last one, it would still be even.”
Three days earlier, Durbar downed a deer that was galloping away at fifty yards. His father was both amazed and immensely proud at the same time. It was truly an amazing shot. Adar knew it wasn’t luck, but he found it hard to admit that Durbar was better with a bow than him.
“If it wasn’t for that bow I made you, you would have missed completely.”
“Yes, Father, it was the bow,” Durbar replied, grinning.
“And this buck is a larger one. Much larger than any you have downed,” Adar argued, winking. “Better go find a long straight branch. We’ll both carry him back to the cabin.”
“Yes, Father. I’ll be back as soon as I find one strong enough.” With that Durbar set off to find a branch thick and long enough on which to tie the buck’s legs and carry it back to their cabin. Sunlight streamed through the tall trees blessing Durbar with its rays. The air was heavy with the scent of pine and life. It was cold with the approaching winter, and it chilled his flesh but, too, Durbar enjoyed. It was home. It was familiar.
He treasured the times he spent hunting with his father, although he sometimes dreamed about what the rest of the world was like. Durbar was at his best in the forest with a bow in his hand and deer tracks to follow. That was where he felt alive.
For as long as the young man could remember, he knew the forest. His father had raised him in the woods from the time he was born as far as he knew. The trees were like family, and the animals were his neighbors. He easily navigated through the woods and comfortably endured long winters. He had no other life besides that one, no other experiences besides those he had in the forest. At that time, he thought that he would simply live there forever. Just he and his father living off the bounty of the forest. Never did he consider anything else.
Durbar casually searched for the branch Adar required. He skipped over a fallen tree, kicked a lifeless stick, and stepped over some worms that were feasting on a dead squirrel. His attention was drawn away from his task when he heard a rustle in some nearby bushes. He crept forward and spread some brush away to gaze into a small clearing. He discovered three young bear cubs wrestling in some grass. They pawed at each other’s faces and tumbled on the ground as one pounced on the other two. Durbar smiled at them for a moment, and it suddenly struck him that their mother was not present but must be nearby. His heart sank, sweat broke out on his face and the palms of his hands. A knot filled his throat and his knees became weak. Durbar snapped out of the momentary dread, turned and sprinted toward his father and the dead buck some hundred yards away through the thick wood.
“Father!” he called voice high and cracking. Just then he heard a shout. Durbar ran as quickly as he could toward the woodsman. As he came into view of his father, still thirty yards away, the man was underneath a giant bear, struggling to rise to his feet. As he tried to get up, the bear struck his side, tearing open his flesh. Durbar quickly raised his bow and without hesitation notched an arrow and loosed it. The arrow pierced the shoulder of the beast, and twice more he loosed arrows. The next struck the bears side, but the last landed in its neck. Finally, the bear quit its attack on Adar when he quit struggling.
The animal was largely unaware of Durbar because he was still some distance away, and turned instead to the deer carcass. Durbar, blinded by fear and anger, dropped his bow, drew his dagger and ran toward the bear. He leapt on the animal’s back as it was dragging away the dead buck, and stabbed his weapon into the beast’s neck. The bear rose, roaring in pain, and Durbar was thrown from its back. He thudded against a tree while the bear lumbered off, leaving the men and carrying the buck in its jaws. Durbar crawled to his father who lay on the ground curled up.
The bear had wounded him very badly. His back was cut deeply and blood oozed from the wounds. His chest too was slashed, along with his throat. He was covered in blood, and it stained the ground crimson.
Durbar rolled his father over, as dying man still moaned in pain. “Father!” he exclaimed. “Father, answer me!” But he could not. His breath was shallow and blood was drooling from his mouth. Durbar continued to shake his father and began to weep. He clenched the man close to his chest and held him, tears washing the blood from his father’s face. Durbar sobbed deeply, eyes clenched tightly, fists gripping his father as if he could keep him from passing beyond this world with his shear will and strength. The boy’s head was spinning from the knock against the tree however, and soon he too, lost consciousness.