Hunting is all that the people of Boarwood know. Most children will have had their first kill by the time they’re old enough to throw a stone. Nearly every death in the settlement occurs during hunts, for the people will let no illness or injury withhold them from it. Even the oldest among them still take part. Most of the people hunt the boars for which their settlement is known.
But Byrna hunts the mad, frothing hounds of the Thornhall poachers. She prides herself on being set apart from the crowd in this way. Even if it means rising before the sun to hunt so that the woods will be clearer by the time the rest venture forth. The Thornhall hounds never slept, continuing to prowl and howl day and night, ever ready to attack any who venture near. Some would underestimate them, thinking that some sick, dirty, malnourished dog could do them no harm. But they will come to regret it when those dogs infect their own hunting hounds with sickness, and drive away their boars, and harry their parties.
So Byrna carries bow and arrows instead of a boarspear, and takes no dog of her own. She is alone as she crouches down near a thicket, having already found one of the hounds. She hasn’t spotted it, since the sun still hasn’t risen high enough to keep through the dense forest, but she can hear it. The howling, the panting, the padding of paws. The low growl that constantly emanates from a Thornhall hound.
Byrna took care not to be so loud. Keen as her ears were after the years of hunting, the mad dog’s ears were just as sharp. She had been following the trail of sounds for some time now, ensuring that she would not lose her kill. But as good of a shot as she is, even Byrna wouldn’t make one in the dark. The time is near for when the sun will rise and breach the treetops, and its light will reach the forest floor. Byrna draws her bow, nocks her arrow, and waits.
She doesn’t wait for long. Soon, cool light begins to trickle down to the Hinterlands forest floor. Once Byrna can see her fingers, she turns back toward the Thornhall hound. Perfect. She can see the matted fur and frothing mouth now, and to make things even better, it has not spotted her.
But as well as things are going, Byrna knows better than to be careless. She wastes no time as she raises her bow, taking aim for the dog’s head. She could afford nothing less than a quick kill.
[Secure an Advantage. Challenge Dice: 10,5. Action Die: 5 (+3 Edge +1 Wildblood +1 Archer ) = 10. Weak hit.]
Her shot lines up perfectly, but the window of them that she has to make it is short. Once she can see the hound, the hound could see her. And as everyone in Boarwood knows, an injured and enraged Thornhall Hound is nothing short of the vilest, most brutal killer.
Byrna looses her arrow.
[Strike. Challenge Dice: 1, 6. Action Die: 4 (+3 Edge) = 7. Strong Hit.]
And it flies down the path she has chosen for it, piercing the hound’s skull and ending its miserable life. Thornhall Hounds are silent only when killed, going down with not even a whine. She always took the corpses back to the Houndmaster, Tristran, since he knows the proper ways to dispose of them. But one hound was not the pack, and the day had only just begun. This was routine for her, after all these years, and she didn’t mind dragging the filthy carcasses around. After all, it was her job now to keep her family fed and clothed.
Her mother had died some years past. Her sister Bastra was still too small and young to hunt anything more than birds. Her father did nothing but stand guard for wyverns, even if people were sure the Beltran had already killed them all. And speaking of her brother Beltran, he did nothing for them. Byrna wished to forget him, honestly, but she just could not let go of her resentment.
The best she could do was set it aside for the time being, and focus on her task. A distracted hunter is a dead one.
Byrna emerges from the woods alive by mid-morning. With Thornhall hound carcasses in tow, she passes by the creek that runs nearby, expecting to find her sister searching for smooth stones for her sling. Bastra does so every morning, since she does little except strike down birds and make a sour face.
Which is why Byrna is so surprised when her sister is nowhere near the creek. Everyone else is doing their laundry, or washing skins, or cleaning their pots. The banks of the creek are filled with people but Bastra does not number among them.
Byrna decides to go home immediately after meeting with Tristran. Actually, she reconsiders, perhaps she doesn’t need to see him. She can just leave the carcasses and go straight home. As ill-tempered and sour-faced as she is, Bastra is still Byrna’s sister and charge.
And so, after dropping off the hound carcasses at Tristran’s place, Byrna heads home. It’s larger than the others in Boarwood, and somewhat set apart. It was emptier that it ought to be though. Made for a larger family than the one it held. One with a mother and a brother.
But if that’s the case, then why doesn’t it feel fuller after she enters, and sees her brother at the table?