Story for the Day: Paudrig's Hunt --Part 2
Standing on its hind legs, glaring down at the boy who entered his den, the bear let out a horrible roar. The ground shook under the strength of the sound, the dripstones broke and shattered as they fell, the humid stench of festering fish filled the air, the breath billowing out from between the bear’s jaws, and in a fulmination of teeth and claws, the bear leapt out of the darkness and toward the child.
The immense grizzled beast emerged, and Paudrig’s vision grew measured. A surge of gallantry assailed him as the bear lunged at a slowed pace, and though he felt all the magnificence and enormity of such a creature as it barreled toward him, he returned the attack with all the ferocity that Tearlaidh himself could do. With spear held high and spirits seething, Paudrig launched himself into the air. He thrust his arm forward, pulling his spear ahead of himself, his feet lifting off the ground, his blade careening forward, his body following the force of his exertion. The scene prolonged, the bear’s features growing ever more gruesome as they emerged from the den, the equal attack on both sides making Paudrig acquainted with his own subconscious sensations: Ahm a hunter, bear, an’ tha’s ye speared, and the moment his spear was about to connect, Paudrig closed his eyes, feeling the fluidity and grace of the movement-- the suspension, the elevation, the weightlessness of wistful flight-- and opened them again to find himself in his room, his heart racing, his brow misted over with perspiration, his fingers wrapped around his spear. He righted, panting and searching for for the bear that was leaping toward him not a moment before, but the cave was gone, the mountain gorge vanished, the stream and wood dissipated in the confusion of first wakefulness. His eye darted about, his vision returning as he marked the dresser and the door, but suddenly, there at the end of his bed, was the bear, seemingly in wait of his waking, its wooden body suspended frm the bed frame and hovering over his legs, its eyes red and voracious, its teeth sharp and perilous. He lifted his spear from the side of his bed, and with a howling cry, he threw his spear at the bear’s paper mouth, his blade struck and penetrated, and the bear’s head fell from its stand and back on his bed, its spring suspension broken from the force of his throw, its paper head removed from its body.
“Ah got ye, bear!” Paudrig shouted, jumping up from his bed and dancing on his mattress.
It was here that Brother Ciran, making his morning rounds to ring lauds, stopped outside Paudrig’s room. He had heard the cries of triumph, and turning the lock and opening the door, he peered inside to find Paudrig was in raptures, ululating his success over the vicious bear which Ciran had carved and hung for him the night before. He smiled to himself, and not wishing to detract from the child’s private exposition, returned to the hall and continued in his way, congratulating himself on so successful a venture. He had relied upon the child’s imagination to summon the bear again, he had speculated, and he had won. Paudrig was the king of hunters, he was satisfied with wood and paper, and Ciran’s secret would go undescried and undiscovered for another day.
The bells pealed throughout the church, summoning children out of their beds for the morning session, and while many rubbed their eyes, made their languid pandiculations, and davered to the latrine, Paudrig burst forth from his room, in full command of his success, his spear in his hands, the paper iteration of the bear’s head attached to the end of his blade.
“Ah got hem!” he hollered, dashing out of his room and hopping down the hall, his feet tapping the various colours along the ground marked and notched by the stained glass window. “Ah got Mharac!” He waved his prize about, exhibiting his kill to every child who came stumbling out of their rooms. “Look! Ah got the bear! Look, see? Ah got hem.” Few looked, however, for no one could be asked to give Paudrig any attention when the latrine was full and the mellifluous scent of honeyed oats and cream was wafting in from the dining hall. Paudrig, however, did not care if they looked; he sincerely hoped they all surrendered to self-micturation and cried all the way to Mithe for their suillied clothes and impending embrassament. No more did he require their favour or even their recognition; his dream had settled all his lingering uncertainties: he was a Brennan, for who else could merit so agreeable a dream? None of these insipid and odious children had bears visit them in their sleep, nor did they have dreadfully exciting hunts to profess or kills to announce; they had all spend their evenings crying over their various insignificant woes, or having dreams of no consequence, their visions inundated with rainbows and sunshine and nothing at all that could mark them as the determined clansmen he deserved. He would let them be, however, and admit to having clansmen who neither cared about swordsmanship nor accepted him as an second in command. They were free to disregard him as they were to deride him; he cared not how they perceived him now. He marched up and down the hall, his spear posting away, pronouncing his greatness, and though Fionntra told him he was very silly boy and Sias said there was no such thing as a bear in a child’s room, Paudrig had forbearance for all their little deficiencies of temper and mind.
A moment later Gaumhin emerged from his room to find Paudrig parading through the hall. “Wyn Amhaille,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head out of slumber, “Ah thought someone was hurt.” He observed Mithe coming into the hall momentarily, entreating all the children to change and wash themselves, before fluttering toward the kitchen again, and at the opposing end of the hall stood Brother Ciran, his round face lighted by the rising sun pervading the coloured window, his smiles complacent, his expression gratified, his stature canted and easy. Gaumhin fumbled toward him and succumbed to a slight yawn, and Ciran leaned against the post, folded his arms, and watched Paudrig pageant his kill and stomp about in doting admiration.
“Yur no’ a-yin tae be tired, lad,” said he, spying Gaumhin’s deplorable look, his complexion pale, his light blue eyes dimmed, his aspect dismal.
A groan and a long pandiculation, and Gaumhin sunk against the post. “Ah stayed up thenkin’ Paudrig would call for meh, that he wouldnae be able tae sleep.”
“Ah thenk Aghus helped hem with tha’, Gaumhin-lad.”
Ciran nodded toward Paudrig, and the child came blurring into Gaumhin’s view as he began to awaken from his prevailing somnolence.
“Gaumhin—look!” Paudrig cried.
The face of a vicious bear suddenly entered Gaumhin’s view, well-contrived and exquisitely coloured, garnished with a few tufts of hair made from foxtail rushes, the image drawn remarkably like the bear in the garden, and Gaumhin effected to smile. “Aye,” he said, with half a sigh, the corners of his mouth curling, “Ah see.”
“Ah got Mharac!”
“Aye, ye did,” said Ciran, nodding proudly. “Now ye got tae find a good place tae mount yur kill.”
Paudrig was in a glow of exaltation. “Can Ah mount it in mah room?”
“Aye, tha’s a grand place for it. We’ll set it up there in the evenin’. We’ll maek a few wall mounts with the wood we have and ye can put all yur kills up there when ye liek, aye?”
“Aye!” Paudrig gave a gleeful leap, and then glanced at the bear’s head with some confusion. “Where’ll Ah put it now?”
“Ye can put it over the mantelpiece in the common room, lad. Tis a good place for it, where it’ll be displayed till we maek our wall mounts. Awae ye go, an’ put it up there, that everyin can see it.”
Paudrig hastened to the common room to place his prize above the hearth, and Gaumhin, with all the strength that his fatigued mind could collect at present, called all of the children into the dining hall, where placed were bowls of steaming honeyed oats and warmed cream at every seat. Never was Gaumhin so pleased to sit down, and once the children cluttered into the room and took their chairs, he sat in his seat, his expression doleful, his shoulders wilted, his features planted firmly at the rim of his bowl, his chief consolation in his exhaustion being to pore over his oats and inhale the mellifluous scent and delight in all its minutiae of cinnamon and nutmeg, whilst the children stirred and scrambled their oats about, content to leave Gaumhin to himself at present, Gaumhin was endeavouring not to lose himself in the mesmerizing flow of the pleasant swirl of the cream and fall asleep in his breakfast.