Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Foundchild Catches the Huntress
Editor's note: This myth was collected by an unknown scholar and entered into the Lhankor Mhy temple in Boldhome .
This story took place in the past back when the nuts and berries would roll into your lazy hand all by themselves and the fattened grouse would fling themselves into a fire to roast themselves for you, even going so far as to stuff and baste themselves.1 It was nearing the end of the Great Hunt and Foundchild was very pleased with himself.2 He had tracked and slain a Thunder Beast. Not just any Thunder Beast mind you but one of the kind that loves to eat meat. A Big Eater in fact.3 Never one to lounge around being idle Foundchild had worked as hard as he ever does to track and kill the Big Eater. So he was rightly feeling pleased with himself as he neared the clearing where all the hunters gather to compare kills for the Great Hunt. He stalked into the clearing carrying the Big Eater slung over one shoulder. He saw many of the greatest hunters of the Votanki gathered there and even some of the daughters of the Wild Mother.4. He flung the Big Eater down in the honour place before the fire and looked around the clearing. He kept his public face emotionless and stern as he looked at the catches. Snakenose, saber cats, plant eating Thunder Beasts, even a young giant. Nothing to challenge his prize. He was sure to win the honours again. He sat down with the other hunters swapping stories of this season's hunt as well as stories of hunts past. As the time passed and the end of the hunt came closer he stretched, cracking his joints and stood. "Well, it looks like I am to be First Hunter this year." He left the word "again" unspoken though his secret face beamed.5 This started a round of good natured grumbling and Foundchild let a smile start to wash over his face. But then one of the vily spoke. "But Naveera has not returned yet." The smile died stillborn on Foundchild's face as his quick eyes scanned the crowd around the fire. It was true what her sister had said, Naveera, first among the Wild Mother's daughters wasn't present in the group gathered around the fire. Where was she? Had an accident befallen her? Unthinkable. Naveera was the greatest of the vily. In fact Foundchild had often suspected that she was, if not his superior, never that, perhaps, just perhaps she may be his equal. Mayhaps she had run into some enemy of the people and had been delayed, or perhaps she had failed to find a big enough prey and decided to avoid the gathering. Though that didn't really sound like Naveera. Her pride never got in the way of her duty.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Well there is no sign of Naveera so we may as well get this over with.." he began. But he stopped speaking as they all heard the noise. It sounded like a huge creature pushing its way through the bushes towards the fire. In an instance all the hunters had armed themselves and prepared to defend themselves. They waited ready to attack until a scaled snout started pushing its way through the bushes. The sheer size of the creature stunned them for a moment. It was huge! Much bigger than the Big Eater Foundchild had brought back. And then a second head pushed its way into the clearing next to the first one. There was the sound of muttered spells and spirits being released as arms reached back with javelin loaded atlatls. "Wait", cried one of the vily. "They're dead." And then someone called out, "It's Naveera!" And so it was. She had returned, just in time with a truly monstrous Big Eater. It was half again as big as the one Foundchild had slain and to add insult to injury it had two heads instead of one! Foundchild was dumbfounded. He had been bested? He had been bested! A cheer went up from the hunters for Naveera and she was quickly declared to be the First Hunter. Foundchild's voice rose in equal praise along with the others. Anyone who could bring such a monster back was truly worthy of being First Hunter. There was no shame in this defeat. But then three unforgivens were spoken.6
The first unforgiven was this. Many voices rang out praising this as the greatest hunt ever. Foundchild stiffened at this. The second unforgiven was that multiple voices claimed this was the greatest beast anyone had ever caught. Foundchild's started to speak but caught himself in time. And then the third unforgiven was spoken. "How could anyone ever catch a greater beast?"
This was too much for Foundchild and anger filled his breast. "The greatest? Who has been the First Hunter more times? Naveera or I?" The hunters protested that while Foundchild had been First Hunter the most he had never brought back such a monster. "So Naveera is now the greatest hunter?" Foundchild then let his secret face speak freely. "If Naveera is the greatest hunter ever then I shall prove myself to be greater still and the hunter shall become the hunted." Silence greeted this. No one had ever caught one of the vily. They had been bested in combat and pursued but no one had ever caught one.
Naveera broke the silence by laughing. "I would never deny your skill as a hunter Foundchild for you are truly gifted. But I am a daughter of the Wild Mother and no man, spirit or god ever has or ever will capture me." "Then I will be the first," replied Foundchild. No one could believe this was really going to happen but arrangements were quickly made. The next day Foundchild would start his hunt and Naveera swore an oath that she would stay within the Votanki lands. Other than that any tool or tactic that wasn't proscribed7 was usable.
Despite his proud words Foundchild wasn't sure how exactly he was going to catch Naveera. The Daughters of the Wild Mother were a fleet, elusive group, with Naveera long the foremost among them. He had some time to plan his strategy but even with his honour at stake he could not think of any way he could ever overcome Naveera. He had wandered far in his funk and finding himself at the base of the Grandfather Oak he sat down to think some more. As he sat wracking his brain, lost deep in thought, he started to feel something hitting him on his head. Paying attention finally he grabbed one of the things that had just bounced off his head. It was an acorn. He looked up and saw clinging to the trunk of the tree high overhead, his sometime nemesis, sometime friend, Trickster Squirrel.
"Why do you bother me Squirrel? I have more
important things to do than play with you," he said grumpily.
Well no one who paid any attention whatsoever would ever accept help from Trickster Squirrel since there was always a cost associated and it was a rare time indeed that the cost didn't make you regretful. That's why Foundchild responded slowly.
"Why would you want to help me? What would be
in it for you?
This was not a response that could be believed from the Trickster so Foundchild snorted disbelievingly.
"Nothing? Nothing at all?
Squirrel looked away, uncharacteristically shy. Foundchild suddenly noticed that Squirrel had a leather bag attached to his rump and he suspected he knew why Squirrel was hiding his pride.
"Did she do something to your tail?"
Squirrel bristled and whipped the bag off his tail. All the fur had been plucked off leaving him with a naked tail like a water rat. Foundchild stifled a laugh as Squirrel angrily tucked his tail back in the bag.
"What did you do?"
Squirrel bristled angrily again and descended down the tree to whisper into Foundchild's ear.
"I want revenge on Naveera and here's how you will catch her."
The next morning before dawn Naveera arose to begin the chase. Nude, she stretched languidly in her nest before turning to her swan's cloak8. As soon as she touched the cloak she realized something was wrong. It was the wrong size and felt too light. She swung the cloak over her shoulders and was horrified to discover she wasn't wearing the guise of a hunting swan but that of a bumble dove9. She angrily tossed the cloak down deciding that she would have to rely on her weapons, her wits and her swift feet. She reached for her weapons only to discover that they had been replaced with reed copies of the sort used by the tiniest of children to play at being hunters. Well then she thought grimly, I will have to use my wits and swift feet instead. She leapt up on the edge of the nest and struck her head on a branch, Hard. After the stars had gone away she shook her head which was still ringing. Where did that branch come from? she thought. It wasn't there last night. Try as she might she couldn't clear her thoughts. All right then she thought woozily my swift feet. I can outrun Foundchild any day of the year. She leapt down off the nest and landed in a deep hole that hadn't been there the night before. "Squirrel!" she yelled. Naveera tried to climb out but the hole was too wide and the walls too soft for any purchase. She sat down dejectedly to await Foundchild.
After a long while she heard footsteps. She looked up and saw Foundchild and Squirrel looking down at her.
"Yield?", asked Foundchild.
Foundchild nodded his agreement and Squirrel started to chitter angrily about his tail but decided he needed to be elsewhere rather urgently seeing the expression on Naveera's face.
"Give me a head start before you let her
Foundchild sat down dangling his legs over the edge of the hole until he decided Squirrel was far enough away. Then he looked down at Naveera who had ignored him the whole time.
"As you can tell I have, with the help of Squirrel, caught you. Some would say that I only caught you through trickery." A pause. "And they'd be right. No one but the three of us need ever know about this though.. So now let us contest this matter properly."
And saying so he tossed Naveera's cloak and weapons down to her. She uttered a happy sound and a second later a winged form burst from the hold and the true chase was on.
9. While white and winged the bumble dove is certainly not a bird of prey. It's called a bumble dove because of the odd, clumsy manner in which it flies. While tasty no Balazaring worth his or her salt as a hunter would hunt them as they are far too easy to catch. They're normally left as prey to invalids and small children.
June 02, 2016
Last updated September 26, 2016
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