Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
By Josh Johnson
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The lanky boy ran across the field just outside the village, just as he had for the previous seven summers, Onchu, his dog nipping lightly at his heels, the two of them fleet footed in the freshly harvested barley. Earc stopped at the edge of the field looking back at the small dun where his father was the smith panting heavily and leaning his hands placed firmly on his knees. “Would that I could run like ya, Onchu. I would not stop till I had found the end of da earth.”
The dog jumped at the boy and both crashed to the ground in a heap of laughter and playful growls, neither having a care in the world.
“We should’na leave the dun with just two men, what if a raid should come?”
“There has no raid come for three years, Dunsta, why should one come on the morrow?”
Ailean, the towns smith, sets his mug down on the table with a loud thump, the rest of the men turning to look at him. “You will go, and come back, the dun will be ‘ere, as will I. Trade what ya grew or half the harvest will go to waste.”
The rest of the men including Dunsta nodded at the proclamation and turned to look about at the dancing children and huge bonfires of the homecoming feast. A smile played at the corners of Ailean’s mouth, after all the harvest was great this year and there had not been any word of raids along the coast this year.
Earc woke up quickly as Onchu shot towards the door. Earc was startled to hear him growling and see his teeth barred and the fur on his neck standing out. As Earc gently opened the door Onchu bounded out a bark tearing from his muzzle his teeth snapping furiously. It was then that Earc saw the torches and heard the first scream. The raiders had come and there were no men left in the dun.
Earc stood transfixed his feet refusing to move as he saw his father wielding the giant claymore that hung above his forge. His hair pulled back and his face set in a mask of anger and hate. Both Ailean and Onchu ran towards the side of the dun closest the sea and the attacking raiders, his father loosing a ferocious battle cry and Onchu snarling and barking like some sort of demon.
The two of them launched themselves into the raiders, sword and teeth lashing out like lightning, stabbing and tearing, slicing and ripping. A haze of blood flew wherever the two went. What once seemed like a hundred raiders quickly became a scattered dozen and then a fleeing handful, then a full route. The raiders ran away from the dun, as the last raider crested the hill everything seemed to stop and an eery silence settled over the village.
As Earc started towards his dad a single arrow flew from over the hill where the raiders had just disappeared. It flashed in the firelight high in its arc then turned and sank towards the ground hurling with deadly intent. A sickening thud was heard as the arrow crashed into Onchu’s throat. A startled yelp was quickly ended as the faithful dog staggered to the ground. Earc’s scream ended the silence and his sobs filled the night.
The whole of the dun gathered upon the hill over which the raiders had fled. Their heads down turned and their hearts weary. Ailean carried the body of the towns savior and his sons best friend slowly through the crowd. His large calloused hands gently stroking the soft fur at the back of Onchu’s head. His large eyes starting to tear up as he laid the body in the hole prepared for it. Tears ran down his face as he gently placed the first handful of sod atop the body of his fallen comrade.
Ceana stood of to one side her hand resting gently upon Earc’s shoulder. The loving caress of a mother for a son grieving. Earc’s face turned up towards his mother, “Is Father alright Mother?” he asked.
“He is, Earc, yes he is.” she replied the hint of withheld tears in her voice. “It’s no wonder he should ask,” she says to herself. “Just like me, He has never seen his father cry before.”
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