It was hours before the feast was ready, and in the meantime the elves could be seen dancing, sharing songs, and showing off their skills. The girls who were not helping cook sat together to sing as they sewed, and some of the men carried furs from the butcher’s shed to the tanner’s and got to work on scraping the hides. Those with thick fur would have it cleaned and combed, so that it would provide extra warmth when the colder weather came. The deer skin would have been shaved clean, but that particular one had such a lovely pattern of spots on it that they kept the fur on. It was only enough to make pants for a child, so they agreed that it would be just right for Shiir’s younger brother, who was starting to outgrow what he wore. They could give the boy’s old pants to a younger child, just as he had received them nearly a year prior, and they would probably last through another child after that.
Nothing in Norhill was ever wasted, and nothing horded. Anything in the stores was to be shared openly, and it did not matter if one family needed more than others now and again, for everyone worked together towards making sure the village thrived. It was like that in the other elvan villages that had been visited from time to time, and word had spread that it was the same even in very far villages; everyone looked after one another. The blacksmith was not superior to the farmer just for his skills, for who could eat iron? The farmer was no better than the tanner, for how could one survive the winter without layers of fur to stay warm? The tanner would have no skins to work without the hunter to bring in kills and the butcher to cut it, and all of them needed the leadership of the elders to guide them through their days.
Shiir could not have been happier with his life. He had his own family, as well as a village family, and they had everything they needed. Together, they were about to prepare a feast from the animals that he believed Fah’Iira had granted to them. He could not tell anyone about the goddess or her elemental, but as his mother handed him a bowl of rabbit stew, think with vegetables and a savory broth, he felt proud that he had helped make such a large dinner possible. Before the stew there had been grilled corn and bowls of berries, and afterwards the grilled meat from the deer and lav’he were passed around. The villagers were smoking the quails to preserve their meat and store them for the winter, and the smoke that rose up from the smokehouse was rich and mouth-watering. He, like everyone else in the village, slept soundly that evening, with a full belly to make him sleepy.
For the next few days, Norhill was a quiet place. They ate the remains of the deer and lav’he, supplementing it with fish and stews of grains and vegetables. Shiir work up early every morning to help stoke some of the fires, expectantly looking towards the edges of the village. He sometimes strolled around the outer ring of buildings to see if anyone was coming, and when that disappointed him, he would sit pensively in front of the elders’ hut until someone called him over to help with some work. He saw no sign of the goddess, and began to wonder whether it had all been nothing more than a dream.
Theron would not talk to him about Jenh, and Shiir did not bother the other hunters about it at all, knowing that it would be pointless. When the day came that the elders called for the team of hunters to come to their hut, Shiir dashed between the house to sit at the feet of the aged men and women whom the village looked up to. Once the others arrived– far too slowly for the newest hunter’s taste– the elders explained that it was time for another hunt. Shiir felt his heart began to pound and he wondered whether they should be going back to the forest with a visit from the goddess. Does she want us hunting in her woods? He asked himself. Still, he could not explain his reluctance, so he had no reason to show any, and he walked with his brother back to their home to gather up their weapons.
“You suppose we will see her again?” Shiir asked he pulled his hunting belt around his waist.
Theron’s eyes widened, and he glanced towards the other room to make sure that nobody was listening. Their mother was nursing her baby girl, but was still groggy from being roused to early. He refused to risk it, and only shook his head. With their spears in hand, the older brother led Shiir outside and whispered to him before the others came along.
“Whether we see her or not, we still have a village to feed. Unlike you, Shiir, I do not like fish stew.” Theron led his brother towards the path that would take them out of the village and towards the woodlands. “We have to stay focused on the hunt.”
“As you say, brother,” Shiir sighed as he walked along the well-worn path.
The other hunters walked towards them while he nudged a clump of trampled grass with the toe of his boot. There were the archers, the scout with his agile legs and quick knives, another two spearmen, and an axeman, who also carried a short sword at his hip. They each pat Shiir on the back, their words expressing their certainty that he would be able to help them bring in another bountiful hunt. Then they walked together over the hills towards the woods, just as the dawn began to glow a bright, vivid shade of yellow.