Life in Alphor (The world of Silent Skies) isn't easy. Food is scarce, especially in winter, and it's up to the Gatra - the soldier caste of Alphor - to make sure their villages stay safe and get fed.
The Gatra protect the village from raiders and predators, but they also hunt the larger wildlife of the continent to feed their communities.
Depending on where they live on the continent, they might hunt Snowgoats, Giant Boar, Desert Deer or other Alphorian wildlife.
In the village of Sand's End, there is a forest to the south, which is managed by the Gatra. There are no flowers in this forest, only plants that can grow through wind pollination. But there are Giant Boar living amongst the trees. They provide plenty of meat, but they're also wild, violent and very dangerous.
Few people in the village of Sand's End can read or write, but Olive Dri Gatra, a fierce soldier (and important character in the trilogy!) can, and she keeps a hunting journal during winter to track the habits and behaviour of the boar.
Here are three days of Olive's hunting journal, so you can get a feel for what it's like to be out among those trees, stalking these dangerous animals!
Day One: Dawn, overcast
Went out alone. Maxen wanted to send a new recruit with me but the kid looked so scared I reckoned he'd be more of a problem than a help, so I said no.
Slight wind in the air. Isn't always great when it's like that, 'cos if the wind's in the wrong direction, the boar can smell you.
Always gotta stay downwind of them, which is easy when you know where they are. But I didn't.
Found fresh signs near the edge of the forest, which is worrying. They're getting bolder. If there ain't enough food for them in the forest, would they come into the village? Maybe. Need to report that. It looked like a small herd, maybe six or seven adult pigs at the most, but one of the sows had obviously thrown a litter recently.
Could see tiny trotter-prints in the dust, and packed earth where the sow had lain on her side to let them suckle. Always hate scaring piglets.
Killing them's a waste - no meat on 'em, might as well wait 'til they're grown.
Anyway, I tracked the herd round the outskirts of the forest 'til I found them by a watering hole. There's a few underground rivers running through here and sometimes the boar manage to dig down enough that the water pools. There were six. Four sows, two boars. One of the sows had a torn ear and four little ones were scuttling about under her feet.
They're alert when they got young and I could already see them getting agitated. Ears up, making angry noises. The wind picked up behind me. Didn't fancy on them catching my smell. Those things move fast. So I left quietly. Headed home. 'Least I know where they are now. We can find them again later.
I'll make sure Maxen knows not to shoot the sow with the torn ear.
Day Two: Early Morning, Bright Sun
Whole squad came out today, including that frightened kid. Aldo, I think his name is. He's full of allergies. Feel a bit sorry for him, but his sneezing everywhere ain't exactly helping our stealth.
Solma was quiet. She's always quiet on hunts.
I tried talking to her but I ain't no good at saying the right thing and we just ended up annoyed at each other. Whatever. I left her with Aldo at the back and took the front so I could lead everyone to the boar.
We went in single file. Quiet. Kept downwind. Stopped away from tthe boar to check out ammo and go over the plan again. Solma was pale. I gave her a look. Hoped it was sympathetic but apparently not 'cos she swore at me. I swore back.
We split into two groups, made a wide circle round the boar. Got ourselves into position.
Maxen took Aldo so they could herd the boar towards us. Didn't wanna scare them, though. Just move upwind a bit so the boar smell them and move on. Towards us. Me'n Solma headed in the other direction, got ourselves ready to take a shot. We want two boar today. We agreed we'd take a female and one of the males but leave the sow with the litter. We waited.
No idea what Maxen and Aldo were doing, but suddenly the boar charged towards us. So much for gently herding them! They kicked up this huge cloud of dust and we could barely see. I heard Solma swearing. Really didn't wanna have to pull her out from under another wild boar.
Could hear Aldo yelling at the boar. "Come back!" as if that was ever gonna help.
I nudged Solma's arm and pointed through the dust. "That one."
It was the smaller of the males. Solma fired. She's a good shot, but there was so much dust. We heard the boar grunt and falter but it kept running. She must have hit it awkward.
They barrelled towards us in this massive wall of muscle and we dove to either side just as they rumbled past.
When the dust settled and the boar had gone, we got to our feet. Solma knelt and checked the ground, but I'd already seen there was a trail of blood. She'd hit the boar, alright. I groaned. That amount of blood loss would kill it eventually. Now we had to track the wretched thing through the forest to find where it was gonna die.
I helped Solma to her feet.
We tracked the thing most of the afternoon, but the boar were clever. They kept downwind of us, always smelled us coming.
If the boar Solma shot died today, he did it somewhere well hidden. We headed back to the village for patrol and on the way back, I gave Aldo a piece of my mind. We're headed back out tomorrow to look for that damn boar.
Day Three: Dawn, Clear Skies
We went back out early this morning. Aldo was sulky. I'd told him off again before we left. Solma was quiet. That kind of quiet she gets when she's punishing herself. She does that a lot. It don't help. I told her to snap out of it but she swore at me again and that was that. Pointless.
We found the boar near the centre of the forest. The trees are dropping seeds this time of year and the pigs were snuffling about for acorns. We hunkered behind some tall ferns downwind of them, but there weren't no sign of the boar Solma shot.
"Reckon it died in the night," Solma muttered. I shrugged.
"Where is it, then?"
We snuck around the herd to see if we could pick up signs of the wounded boar. It was Aldo that eventually found it. Guess the kid's useful for something after all. Blood trail, some damage to nearby plants and trees. It was obivously limping, losing stability. Kept crashing into things.
We followed the tracks right to tthe southern edge of the forest, and that's where we found the boar.
It was dead alright. Died some time in the night. And by the looks of it, a redbear found it. A big one. There was a great big crater in its side where the redbear tore it open. Most of its head was gone. Weren't barely any meat left on it, and what remained was likely spoiled. We stared at it for a long time. Solma muttered something under her breath.
All that energy, that ammo, wasted.
We trudged back towards the village. Maxen said we'd get something to eat, then it was back out to the forest to try again.
I hope you enjoyed Olive's journal! If you want to know more about Silent Skies, head here to read some of the lore and look at some maps.
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