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Fragile

Fragments of a cindered branch blew sparkling past the charcoal-burner's grimy eyes as he carefully stoked the glowing embers. He was life and death in the forest, a gamekeeper of trees, taking those that were ready and nurturing others for future use.

A closing thunder heralded a welter of horses and dogs that broke through the edge of the clearing and were upon him even as he ran for cover. Baying and whooping they crashed through and were gone as quickly as they arrived. The young prince's passion for hunting had caught on with others in the 'idle classes' and this was the third time in recent weeks that the quiet birdsong in the clearing had been assaulted by a riotous fray.

The charcoal-burner dusted himself down, brushing away the indignity of the mindless disruption to his quiet day and set about rebuilding his fractured kiln. A tamer boar that came to root in his clearing had not appeared for several days and he wondered if it was still alive. This was the last great forest in which they lived, although few but the traveling woodsmen knew this sombre fact.

As the boar grew less so also did the hunting. Perhaps they were tiring of the sport or maybe missing the easy kills of the early days. Nevertheless, a few stalwarts, including the prince, doggedly stuck to the game, and as each boar got harder to catch, the eventual triumph was greater still.

The last boar was killed in the clearing by the prince himself, with the charcoal-burner looking on from within cloaking bushes, silent tears of grief streaking his stricken face. It was a fierce and terrible battle and the boar would have easily won were it not for the prince's advantage in arms and the surrounding men with their distracting cries and spears.

The charcoal burner covered his face and prayed as the proud light in the eyes of the beast dulled and died. Bloodied and victorious, the prince looked up and sniffed the air, feral in the moment after the kill.

And so the great boars that had once ruled and roamed the land were gone forever, their ancient ease in a forested landscape riven from them by an enemy they could neither outsmart nor ever defeat through raw and primitive aggression. And perhaps it was for the better as they would have wept as their forests were hewn and dwindled and cruel man spread to the furthest lands, blindly possessing or destroying all in his path.

And perhaps the great boar would one day find satisfaction from their place in the heavens when the earth turns and destroyer is destroyed and the fragile land at last sleeps the long sleep of healing to be reborn into sustainable and natural harmony.

 

***

 

~by David Straker~

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