Levon yawned and rubbed his sleepy eyes, before turning to face the direction that his father Levorian was pointing to. All he could see around him was dark trees and a thin layer of frost on the ground. On this cold early winter morning, they were in the woods, a short walk away from their home. It was so early that Levon was still half asleep.
He had been looking forward to this day for weeks. His very first hunt. For years he had been asking his father when he can finally join him. His father kept saying that they will go as soon as he is old enough. So Levon waited patiently. Two months before his tenth birthday, their family suffered a terrible tragedy. Their mother Lidris had passed away whilst giving birth to their sister Kiia. Losing her had been a devastating blow to all them, especially their father, who grew distant and focused on his military career. He left Levon and his three brothers Leiron, Mahos and Aeon in the care of nannies, while their infant sister was spent to live with their grandmother Elora. Even when home, Levorian rarely played with them. Levon longed for an opportunity to spend time with his father. That’s why he took an interest in hunting, one Levorian’s favorite pastimes. That autumn Levon turned ten and his father finally agreed to take him along. His younger brothers were jealous, having heard so many stories of their father’s hunting expeditions and admired the animal bones, deer antlers and various pelts that decorated their home.
Levon turned his head away from the dark trees, towards where his father was pointing. There in the distance, he saw the sky light up in delicate shades of pink, yellow, orange and gold. The small crescent shape of the sun was rising over the clouds.
“Lord Nir is awake,” the boy thought to himself, remembering a story his mother used to tell him and his brothers before bed.
Of all of the stories about the Erai gods, this one was his favorite. It told of the sky god Lord Ifir’s children, the sun god Lord Nir and his twin sister Vea. According to the story, Lord Ifir invented a game for his children by creating a massive ball of light for them to play with. Nir and Vea positioned themselves on opposite ends of the sky and threw the ball of light to each other. The ball was so large and so heavy that it took a very long time for the gods to lift it. At night it was the moon goddess Lady Vea who lifted the ball and throw it across the sky to her brother. By the time that she threw it, Lady Vea would be exhausted and lay down to rest on a bed of clouds. Then it was Lord Nir who would wake up and lift the ball marking the start of a new day. Levon always imagined a tall, muscular man with long golden hair, lifting a massive ball of fire across the sky towards a sleeping woman lying on a bed of clouds.
The memory of his mother nearly brought a tear to his eye. He missed her so much. His nanny told stories too but it wasn’t the same. There was something special about Lidris’ melodic voice and the way she was able to lull all four of them, even the hyperactive Aeon to sleep with her stories.
“It’s time to make the offering,” his father Levorian announced, interrupting his thoughts.
“Do you mean an offering to Lord Nir?” asked Levon still staring at the sunrise.
His father shook his head.
“No, not Lord Nir. We praise Lord Nir every day and we thank him for his light, but now we have entered the realm of Lord Nir’s brother, Lord Silyan. He is the Erai of the woods and Lord of all animals. Lord Silyan is the greatest of all hunters,” Levorian explained as they turned back towards the trees.
They stopped in front of a large tree. There his father grabbed his bag and took out some fruit which he placed into a wooden bowl. Next he took ceramic jug filled with red wine and planted it next to the bowl before kneeling down on the ground. Levon did the same.
“Lord Silyan, blessed Erai of the forest, Lord of all animals and hunter of wild beasts. Please accept this offering in exchange for safe passage into your realm. We pray that these gifts are to your liking and that you would bring us good fortune for our hunt. We pray that you and your servants will protect our family from wild beasts,” Levorian and his son prayed.
A few minutes later they got up. With their dogs, they began to follow some tracks in the ground leading towards a small bush by the lake. Levon soon spotted a hare sitting by the bush and quickly he grabbed his bow aiming at the animal.
The arrow darted in the air, before hitting the hare in one of its hind legs. Levon watched, as the animal let out a yelp before swiftly hopping past the bush in a desperate attempt to flee. Their tracker dogs leapt in pursuit, following the trail of blood left by the wounded animal. They followed it all the way to the edge of the lake. The boy was convinced that the dogs would snatch it, when suddenly the hare jumped into the water.
The dogs kept barking as Levon and his father ran towards the water. Levorian reached into his bag and took out of long piece of string. He then tied it to an arrow and told Levon to hold on to the other end of the string. He shot the arrow at the hare, hitting it before helping his son to pull it out of the water.
Soon his father was clutching on to the dripping wet hare. Levon soon realized that the animal was still alive but heavily bleeding and struggling to move. Still firmly grasping the animal with one arm in order to restrict its movement, Levorian pulled out a knife from his bag.
“Levon, this one is your kill. I want you to take the knife and put this animal out of its misery,” his father said as he passed the knife over.
Levon took the knife ready to finish what he had started. Yet as he stared at the bleeding, defenseless hare his hands began to shake.
Seeing this his father responded:
“Levon, this hare will die anyway. The quicker you do this, the less it will have to suffer,” Levorian encouraged him.
The boy took a few deep breaths before his hands finally steadied a little. He then plunged the knife into the hare’s throat. Overcome with emotion Levon burst into tears.
His father put a hand over his shoulder before uttering:
“Well done my boy. You did very well. I am proud of you,” he said.
His father gutted the dead hare and hung it from a tree before giving a Levon a hug.
As they moved on in search for more prey, Levon wiped the tears from his face. Soon he was smiling again. This was indeed a special day and one that he would remember for many years to come. His first ever hunt.
They roamed through the woods throughout the day and by the time they arrived home it was dark. Levorian managed to catch a hazel grouse and a few more hares, all of which he gutted and left to hang from a tree near their home. As soon as they arrived, Levorian boasted to his other sons about how brave Levon during the hunt. He also mentioned during their evening meal, that this was a useful skill they would all need to learn before starting their military training in a few years time. Levon was already scheduled to begin his training at the Atarai academy in two years. The trainees were only given one meal a day and they were encouraged to hunt, fish or forage for the rest of their food.
“Now that you have been on a hunt, I guess it’s time for me to teach you how to fight too. I have a few more days free so we can start tomorrow. You showed a lot of courage today and with enough practice you will become a good fighter. If all goes well, you will make a fine soldier one day,” Levorian stated as he placed his hand on Levon’s shoulder.
“Yes, father,” the boy replied with a massive grin on his face.
The battle training began the following morning. Levon struggled to co-ordinate his footwork with the wooden sword, suffering a few minor cuts but he relished in the challenge. Just watching his father fight and having the opportunity to learn from him was worth it. Levorian was so swift, he also able to anticipate and parry each of Levon’s attacks with ease. Yet Levon knew that his skills were the result of decades of rigorous training and discipline. In addition to this, Levorian was had also taught others and over time earned his reputation as the leader of a entire legion. This was what Levon admired the most about him.
From that day onward, he was determined to follow in Levorian’s footsteps and join the army. They continued to practice every day, until Levorian had return to Ifirium to resume his duties. Before leaving, he hired an instructor who would ensure that Levon continued his training. Levon was determined to keep practicing in preparation for the Atarai academy. He wanted to make Levorian proud.