The great hunter

Many, many years ago, before man learned to twist iron into steel and struck the earth to produce crops, there was a peaceful village, at the foot of a great mountain chain. Their land was surrounded by great forests and plains, where the strongest of the villagers hunted and gathered to thrive.

Amongst them lived a great hunter. Of all the men in the village, he towered over them, his shoulders as broad as a bull, his arms as thick as trunks. In spite of his great strength, he was neither chieftain nor captain of the village, instead content with a life of hunting, reveling and caring for his family and friends. The many villages of the mountain had heard the tale of this great hunter and respected him greatly, some even fearing him, except one. A small hardy village, on the side of the mountain, surrounded by rock and barren wastes, was led by a spiteful and sly chieftain, known for his wisdom and tricks. He desperately wanted to take the hunting ground of the peaceful village for himself, but knew in his heart that his warriors stood no chance against the great hunter – and so he came up with a ruse so great it would allow his warriors to overcome even the great hunter. 

The peaceful village was visited one day by traders clad in foreign robes and led by a chivalrous leader. The traders told tales of a far away land, where grapes grow all year round and wine was as sweet as honey. The leader of the traders offered to give the peaceful village their wine and meat, so as to mark the first day of a new friendship between these two lands. The village held a great celebration, building a great fire in the middle of their home and cooking up their finest meat to celebrate. The great hunter joined in, drinking cup after cup of the sweetened wine, not tasting the bitter poison within. As the fire roared and the revelries continued, the great hunter grew hazy and drunk. Each cup he drank seemed to confuse him further, and he did not notice his fellow hunters and friends, falling one by one by the fire. Eventually he sat alone, surrounded by the trader and his men, swaying back and forth. He finally closed his eyes, and fell into the roaring fire, setting alight his many furs and hair. The burning coals seared his skin, but a deathly sleep had already taken him, and the traders assumed him dead. Shedding his disguise, the sly chieftain revealed himself, and ordered his men to raze the village, leaving none alive, not even women and children. The fires burned long into the night, until naught was left but darkness.

The great hunter woke, when the first rays of sunlight hit him, buried under a mound of ash. His skin was cracked and bleeding, his many furs still smoldering from the fire. Rising from his feigned grave, he saw the waste that had been laid to his village, and his pain became fury and rage. From within he shook the earth with a roar that could be heard from many miles away, waking babes in their cribs and inspiring dread in the hearts of even the greatest warriors.

A single warrior of the hardy village, left behind to pick through the ashes, came to investigate, and saw the great hunter, his skin like cracked earth, with smoke flowing forth from the cracks. Before he could flee the great hunter was upon him, tearing him limb from limb with his bare hands. The lone warrior screamed and begged for the sly chief to save him, uttering his name in his final agonizing moments. The great hunter started towards the mountain, each step rupturing his burnt skin, sending waves of pain and fury through his body. As his rage grew, his pace quickened, fanning the embers in his garb, until they burst into flame. As wrath consumed him, he soon went mad with lust for revenge.

In the mountains, he lost himself between rocks and trees, each new step leading to things unfamiliar and unknown. Every step he took would crack his skin anew, deepening and widening his wounds. Each empty clearing and barren waste only further fueled his rage, making the flames grow brighter and hotter, until it would seem they came from within the burnt skin itself. 

Finally, he came upon a village in a clearing, where he was met by warriors and hunters, ready to defend their village from the flaming monstrosity they saw before him. The great hunter tore through their ranks with ease, his flames turning their bows and sword handles to ash. Tearing through the village, he saw no sign of the sly chieftain, and his thirst for revenge remained unsatisfied. As the great hunter continued his mad pursuit across the mountain, many villages were lost to the lumbering beast of flame. 

Finally, the great hunter found himself upon the shores of this strange land. In the depths of these mountain caves he resides now, amongst smoldering rock and scalding steam. Many warriors have confronted him through the ages, each seeming to bear the face and demeanor of the sly chieftain in the eyes of the great hunter. Perhaps, had he not lost his mind to fire and wrath, he would realise the chieftain surely died centuries ago.