By Emma Glanville, TIWP Student
As a slight wind ran through the forest, the autumn leaves broke from their branches and hit the ground, soon to be stepped on by a wandering huntsman. The crunches below his feet did not interfere with what he was doing, for he was a committed young man and a hungry one, too. While he walked around searching for food, he was also checking the traps he had set the previous night in case he had already caught something. A very good hunter he was. Back home at his village, he was known for having a variety of skins and trophies hung along his walls. Everyone depended on him for food, and he always bragged and boasted about how no one could compare to him. He was the ultimate winner, as he liked to say. So he decided to explore new woods to bring back different pelts and meat. Very full of himself he was, but he never came to realize it.
The hunter approached another trap, only this time, it wasn’t empty. An eagle sitting awkwardly in a net became darkened by the shadow of the hunter towering over it.
“My village will be very happy to see the size of you when I bring you back with me. We’ve never seen eagles quite as big as you. You’ll make a lovely dinner,” he grinned.
“Please! Don’t hurt me! For when you are in grave danger, I will be by your side with my assistance!” the eagle pleaded.
“Hmmm,” said the huntsman. “That would be quite helpful. I will take this offer, I am feeling generous today.”
“Thank you so much! You will not regret this! Safe travels!”
The hunter nodded and headed on his way. By now, his hunger had grown and he heard the sound of water. “Maybe I can get myself a fish or two. That would be nice,” he thought to himself. As he approached the stream, a small fish flipped and flopped not a few feet away from the banks of the shore. “Well, this will be an easy catch. You are quite little but you will do.” As he reached for the fish, a small voice cried out.
“Wait! Please don’t eat me! For when you are in a state of peril, I will be by your side with my assistance!” The fish gave a look of misery.
“Hmmm,” said the hunter. “This might possibly be a sign. Alright little fish, I will accept this chance. I believe you.”
“Thank you! Thank you!” it gasped. “You will not doubt me!”
“Farewell fish! Till we meet again!” and the hunter went on his merry way with a light heart. “Strange,” thought the hunter. “I have never felt like this before, but I am quite fond of it. I will keep it up.” And so he did.
The huntsman looked around for what it could’ve been.
“Help! Down here!”
Looking down, he saw a fox, curled up into a ball with its lush fur blending in with the crimson leaves. “What is wrong with you, fox?”
“I am in pain, for there is a thorn cutting deep into my paw!” It teared up.
“Let me help you! I am feeling kind today and I have a motivation to aid you,” said the hunter. He bent down and gingerly pulled out the thorn.
“Thank you! In return for your kindness, in your darkest hour, I will be by your side with my assistance,” the fox smiled.
“I gladly approve of this gesture, fox. I’ll see you next when fate brings us back together,” chuckled the hunter as he walked into the distance.
“Oy! You there! Halt!” The hunter froze and slowly turned around. Five guards dressed in fancy apparel approached him and held spears to his chest. “What do you think you’re doing?” Before he could say a word, the huntsman took a hard swing to the face and his vision went black.
The cold, stone floor sent shivers down the hunter’s spine as he began to regain his consciousness. Opening his eyes, he looked up to a young maiden sitting on a throne. “Wh- who are you? Where am I?” Confusion buzzed through his mind.
“I am the Princess of Refaela. My refis found you trespassing on my land and now I will have you killed!” The princess grew an evil smile.
“Please! I’m begging you! Please don’t kill me! I didn’t know that was your land!” The hunter pleaded with nervousness.
“The Refaelen Forest is the most sacred forest in all the land,” she howled. “Now you will be killed for trespassing and for being ignorant! My refis! Take him to the slaughtering.”
“No, please! Spare me! Give me a second chance! I have so much life left to live, I cannot die this soon!” he cried.
This princess looked at her refis and then sighed. “Alright, hunter. Let’s play a game, shall we?” She hopped off her throne and the clicking of her shoes on the floor echoed throughout the room. “I have an all-seeing eye which lets me look anywhere to my liking. I will give you three chances to hide from me. If I am unable to find you, then you may go free. However, if I find you every time, then you will indeed be killed.”
The huntsman knew he was an all-time winner so he politely agreed to her challenge. He was excited to be let free. He ran outside and decided he needed help. “Eagle! I call for you!” he shouted and the eagle came and perched on his forearm. “I must hide from an evil princess! Help me hide where she cannot see!”
“I know a place. Hold on tight,” and the eagle grabbed his shoulders with its sharp talons and soared into the clouds. It wasn’t long before a colossal mountain came into view.
“There! There I am taking you!” The eagle dropped off the huntsman at the very top of the mountain. “Hide here and you will not be found! I am glad to have been of assistance, hunter!” The eagle wished him well and flew away.
Hiding on the mountain, the huntsman was certain that the princess could not find him, but that changed when a voice shrieked through the air, sounding like guns in his skull. “I’VE GOT YOU!” she cackled followed by a maniacal laugh. “You thought you could hide, but a single hair poking out from behind the peak of the mountain gave you away! Try again! You will never escape me!”
He quickly became startled at how good the princess was. “Oh well, how I do love a good rival,” he thought. “I must pick a better spot next time. I will go to…the fish!” The hunter hurriedly returned to the stream in the Refaelen Forest and bellowed, “Little fish! I need your help! Please come to me!” Wasting no time, a small head emerged from the surface.
“Hello again, Hunter. What will you ask of me?” it questioned.
“I must hide from an evil princess! Help me hide where she cannot see!” he exclaimed.
“I know a place, follow me!” and the fish, followed by the hunter, dove deep into the depths of the sea. They swam and swam until they reached the very bottom. The fish gestured that he could hide there. The hunter nodded and waved the little fish goodbye. It winked and swam back to its home.
Time had gone by and the hunter was confident that he was unable to be found. He giggled slightly and in doing so, a single air bubble was released from his mouth. Not even a split-second later he heard that awful screech that penetrated through the water. “THERE YOU ARE, HUNTER!”
Shock took him by surprise and he let himself float to the surface. “Alright, I really need to do well this time. It’s my last chance, I won’t mess it up again.” He swam to shore and what he didn’t expect was that the fox was already waiting for him there.
“You need my help, don’t you? Well, I know a place. It’s quite foolproof and it’s your ticket out of here. Would you like it?” the fox sneered.
The hunter had a look of rage. “Yes I would and it better be good, fox. The eagle and the fish didn’t give me good spots. Are they trying to get me killed? What useless animals I trusted. Nevertheless, take me there now, and I expect it to work,” he glared.
“Fine, follow me then,” and they started towards the castle.
“What are you doing? Are you turning me in? How mad could you possibly be to go closer to the princess, fox?” The hunter boiled with anger.
“If you want to live, you must believe in me. I have a well-thought-out plan here if you’d care to listen, hunter.” The fox grew annoyed with him but remembered its promise. As the huntsman reluctantly agreed, the fox led them both into the castle. With quiet steps, they entered a dark room filled with nothing but emptiness and faint voices.
“Where are those voices coming from, fox?” he whispered.
“At this moment, we are directly underneath the princess. She is unable to see us when we are in this spot. I told you to trust me,” it said boldly. “Now hush, let’s listen.”
Up above, the fox and the hunter could hear the princess become infuriated that she could not find him. She wailed and cried and screamed and stomped so loud that both of them had to cover their ears to prevent hearing damage. “I can’t see him! It’s so unfair! How could he do this?” sobbed the princess while she kicked the floor.
“Ha! I knew it! I knew it! I’ve won! I’ve beaten at her own game! I’ll live free once again! I knew you wouldn’t get me killed, fox!” boasted the hunter.
“Oh, it’s not me who’s going to get you killed, it’s you.”
At that moment, the sound of the princess pounding the floor got louder and louder and crack! Her heel had gone straight through the floorboards. As she removed her shoe from the hole, a single beam of light shone down and she became eye-to-eye with the man she was looking for. “I FOUND YOU!”