The Barbarian Trials
By Jordan Hill
In the year 6150 Farlandish Reckoning, Kale was a land of wild grapes, iron ore, and freedom, inhabited by many barbarian tribes. They were mostly hunters, trappers, and woodsmen.
One such tribe, the tribe of the Stag-Hunters, or as they referred to themselves the Dencier, had been preparing for the trials that the young males would soon face. In this culture, every year when a barbarian male was deemed ready, he was sent off into the wilderness of the western forest where he was to bring back meat for the tribe, and then he was deemed a man. Enter Larin, a male barbarian who was readying himself for the trials that he would soon face. He sat around a campfire thinking of what to expect in the trials. He had grown up hearing the tales of the forest from the other men who came back bearing meat for the tribe when they finished their trials. Larin felt his stomach give a long, slow lurch as he contemplated what might lie ahead.
"Larin, are you well?" It was Larin's mother, Lina.
"What? Oh yes, I'm fine. Just thinking; that's all."
"Well, just making certain you weren't ill," said the dark and statuesque woman that was his mother, as she started off back to the other barbarian women who were making blankets. Larin just stared at the blazing fire, thinking again. He would be required to go unarmed with fifteen other males his age into the deadliest forest around, and hunt. Everyone usually came back, some with or without meat, and the ones who didn't come back usually showed up within a week or two. Therefore it wasn't that dangerous, right? Then why did Larin's stomach refuse to settle?
After staring at the fire and trying to prepare his mind for the task that would face him the next day, Larin went into his longhouse and soon fell asleep on the bench with a soft deerskin fur blanket. He was awakened in the morning by a loud blast from an oxen horn. It signaled the day of reckoning for the males of the tribe. With trepidation, Larin slowly got out of one of the portable cots of the type that everyone slept in and put on a pair of cloth trousers and a sleeved jerkin. He strapped on his leather boots with iron buckles. His mother had made him these clothes especially for this day, and he wore them with pride.
Larin and all the other males that would perform in the trials today stood in a circle around the chief and the shaman of the tribe. The grizzled old man, clad in animal pelts and bones, opened his toothless mouth and whispered, "Today is a great day for all of you. You will have fourteen days to complete the task at hand." The leader, Tougre, looked from face to face, recognizing the fear that gripped the young men.
"You are to bring back enough meat for five people of the tribe. You will have fourteen days to complete the task alone. If we find out that you were helped or gave help then you will be punished by order of the elders. The punishment will be banishment from the tribe."
"You will be able to use anything you can find in the forest to make your kill with. Rocks, sticks, crafted spears, anything you can think of you may use. You have one hour to pack up a water skin, a fur to sleep upon, and some rations," Tougre finished with a grunt.
When the shaman and the leader of the Dencier dismissed the young men, Larin started back to his longhouse to retrieve his items. "Barehanded or whatever we can make in the woods-may the great spirits protect us," Larin said to himself as he packed his leather pack. Everyone from the Tribe of the Stag-Hunters had shown up to watch the young men travel off into the vast wood, traveling along the unnamed River.
It took the troop of barbarians several hours to get to the edges of the forest where tall evergreens towered above them. "Good luck," said Larin's friend Alfen, a jet black haired barbarian, as he wandered towards the northern part of the forest. Larin had no idea which way he should go, and so he just decided to go deeper into the woods. Everyone else was going to the north or south, but Larin had a hunch something was to the west. "Well, if I am going to kill something, I should make a weapon of some sort," Larin told himself. He soon came upon a small clearing where he found some saplings; he broke one off and found some rocks which he used to chip another rock into a point. He then fastened the point to the wooden shaft. "Crude but it should work to take down something." Larin, like the rest of the boys of his tribe, had been taught to hurl a spear at a young age. Javelin was a game that the barbarian boys played whenever they were not performing chores.
By the time Larin was finished making his spear it was already dark. He tried sparking a fire with some dry grass and twigs and a piece of flint he had found but was unsuccessful. "Bah!" he shouted into the sky. "Why won't this fire flare?" In disgust, he pulled out some of his rations and took a bite. It was quite late, and he wanted an early start in the morning, so he unrolled his deerskin bedroll and stared up at the sky. He gazed at the various constellations, like The Dwarven Hammer and the Hawk. He drifted off to sleep contemplating the mystery and the beauty of the stars.
By the time Larin woke up the next morning, it was still very early and he could hear nothing but the soft breeze whispering through the trees. He collected his belongings and gripped the crude spear in his arm, ready to throw it at anything that moved. He wasn't as nervous about being in the forest as he was the day before, and so far he hadn't even seen anything except several birds and some rabbits. He knew if he would join others in the ceremony that he would need something bigger than rabbits.
Larin traveled a bit deeper into the woods when suddenly he heard shuffling feet. Instinctively he ducked down behind a fallen pine tree and listened intently, trying to discern whose footfalls they were. He heard some grunting, and his heart raced with fear. "Judging by the voices, it is either goblins or orcs, although they are speaking my language," Larin told himself quietly. Then through the trees he caught a glimpse of sickly yellow skin-goblins, filthy little goblins! He didn't know what besides his spear he could use to defend himself if he got caught up in the heat of battle. He looked around the site of the fallen pine for some kind of other means of taking out the beasts. From the sound of it there were at least four of them, maybe more. "I wish I had my longsword right now." He told himself. Larin had purchased a longsword from a traveling merchant, one of the brave few who dared travel into the wild west lands. The weapon had been forged in the east and was better crafted than any Larin's people produced.
He crawled away from the goblin party and looked over into the forest. Larin readied his spear and started walking away, trying to be stealthy, but it was hard for the big barbarian teenager. He crept backwards through the pine trees, but suddenly-crack! He stepped on a branch. He immediately dove down on his stomach to be inconspicuous, but that caused even more noise. The goblins heard this and moved to examine the area, scuttling over like dirty beetles.
"It was probably nothing but an animal," one grunted. The group was standing ten feet away from Larin. "I've got one chance to get out of this. If they catch me, I am a goner, and they are moving this way." His body tensing for action, he crouched and threw his spear, which went through one goblin's armor with a loud thock. The shocked goblins shook away their awe-struck expressions and drew their crude weapons. Larin, not knowing what to do next, just stood there, back against a tree, waiting for them to strike. Three goblins against one human, the odds were stacked against Larin. Mustering his nerve, Larin charged at one of the goblins. Seeing the creature flinch, he took advantage of his vulnerability and lifted him above his head, his sinewy arms rippling, and threw him against the trunk of a huge pine tree. In rage, the other two goblins charged and swung their crude clubs at the barbarian. One the barbarian managed to dodge, but one struck him in the kidney. "You filthy dog!" Larin shouted and rushed at the goblin who struck him. The goblin swung again, but Larin was ready, his fear entirely gone in the heat of battle. He caught the club and overpowered the goblin, throwing him to the ground. Now, equipped with a weapon, Larin swung like a madman at anything that moved. The goblins shrieked in fear at the sight of the battle-mad human and thought better of their attack; they hastily disappeared into the shadows of the forest. "That settles that problem," thought the youth, marveling at his success in his first real battle. He retrieved his spear and saw with surprise that the goblin who got hit with it also carried one that was finely crafted, much better even than the sword he had bought from the trader. He saw the inscriptions on it. It was that of the Stag-Hunter tribe, and inscribed on it was the name of Larin's father who had been killed in a goblin raid four years before. Larin stared at the spear, feeling confused...