Taltâl Rabbit and the Hunter’s Bow

 

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Forword

Taltâl Rabbit and the Hunter’s Bow

Written by the brothers Whynslô and Fenrîn Kôrmacholv

Found and Published by Ôbek Unified, a Strâdsburg Collective

 

 

Forward

We never dared hope to find anything within the burned ruins of Westvádol, its walls still standing high, as they had in the days of kings. But to our incredible fortune, we have found a few volumes among a series of books, The Chronicles of Taltâl Rabbit (that is what we have named it here at Ôbek Unified).

    We very much hope you enjoy these volumes, this window into another time, as much as we enjoyed finding and printing them. From what we gather, these children's tales were not very popular at the time of their release, perhaps because of inferior printing methods or issues of exposure, we do not know for sure. But we were delighted to salvage these old tomes from the wreckage at Westvádol.

    Presently, we are missing, at least, seven volumes from the prolific writings of the Kôrmacholv brothers, but we hope to recover those as well. It will be a challenge, for King Rhordân Vîkenwold, the second of his name, and the last of kings, was thorough in his burning of the port city of Westvádol during those dread months of foreign invasion. But we are working day and night to find these lost books.

    Ôbek Unified is incredibly excited to share these found tales with you, and we hope they give unique illumination to the time of kings.

    We believe we found the very house the Kôrmacholv family grew up in, and within it, though much was burned from that fire, we found many untouched letters and articles written by the Kôrmacholv brothers. We would like to present one such letter to the reader now, a letter we believe was written a short time after the book, Taltâl Rabbit and the Hunter’s Bow, was written.

 

Brother, I worry for you. Your last letter tore my heart to read. And over these petty differences? Gods be good. What has happened to you? No, don’t write me again about it — I’ve heard enough. I want you back, my little brother, but I fear I’ve lost you forever.

    Would it be so hard to put aside this new idea of yours to work on simple writings? Why can’t our books be for children? Right… I remember, but it’s a sick thought, that’s what I think. If you want the truth, don’t bloody look for it in children’s tales! By the Gods! You’re so stubborn!

    A story for children doesn’t need to be as you believe it should!

    Please, reconsider.

    I still want to write with you, but I can’t work on a children’s book with hidden messages and grandiose scales and deeper meaning — these aren’t things for children.

    I ask again, for the sake of the memories, please, will you write with me?

    You are everything in this world to me.

    As always, your loving brother,

    Whynslô

 

We believe the Kôrmacholv brothers wrote one more book at some point after this letter was written.

May the Gods give fortune to the hands of our patron,

Viktôv Alvîg, Lead Editor at Ôbek Unified

 

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Dedication 

Taltâl Rabbit is a character both I, Whynslô Kôrmacholv, and my brother, Fenrîn, came up with to memorialize the youngest of our family. The Kôrmacholv family lost little Tâvian when he was barely thirteen, and he suffered greatly before his death  — Ebon Plague. This is known to readers of our first book.

What is not known is that our mother also died to the same sickness, two years later.

While the first Taltâl book was dedicated to Tâvian, this book will be dedicated to both Tâvian and Merîar Kôrmacholv-Lichîn.

May the Gods smile on their spirits.

So with their memory in mind, and without further interruption:

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Taltâl Rabbit and the Hunter’s Bow

There once was a rabbit named Taltâl who lived in a hole beneath a wyr tree with his father, three brothers, and five sisters. His family name was Rabbit, and Pa Rabbit once said, you would have many more brothers and sisters if your ma didn’t get taken by Hunter’s hound.

You see, Ma Rabbit had went to the market that day, but upon her journey home, she was pierced through the side with an arrow shot from Mr. Hunter’s bow. Mr. Hunter was a cruel man, a man who killed in the Wood for fun, and he sent his hound, Drôdl (a beastly creature, more wolf than dog), to snatch up the prone body of Ma Rabbit — the hound did the dreadful deed. And the Rabbit family never saw Ma again.

Pa Rabbit had said to Taltâl, Ma is likely rabbit stew now. And you’ll be just that too if you’re not careful in the Wood.

This death would come as a surprise to you if you’ve read Taltâl Rabbit’s first tale (if you haven’t read it, stretch those legs and walk to your nearest tome store — look for Taltâl Rabbit and the Elder’s Tunnel), though Ma Rabbit was never mentioned. But we are saddened to assure you of these happenings.

But despite this warning, Taltâl Rabbit will soon wander the Wood, and he will come face-to-face with Ma’s killer.

Before that, Taltâl Rabbit went to his brothers, Flôr, Heltâl, and Korpî to ask if any among them wanted to play outside the hole. Not too far out — within the boundaries of the fence around their wyr tree.

Flôr said: “I have better things to do, little brother.”

“Like what?” Taltâl said, one ear touching the ground.

“Like… other things,” Flôr said, struggling to think of something to do that didn’t involve Taltâl — he couldn’t come up with anything. “Things that aren’t your business to know.” And he left.

Taltâl’s brown eyes looked to Heltâl.

Heltâl dropped his head, saying: “Playing outside is for baby rabbits, Taltâl. You don’t want to be known as a baby. What if a neighbor sees you? You need to grow up, before you embarrass yourself — or worse, us.” And he left, too.

Taltâl looked to the last of his brothers.

Kôrpi wore a wide smile. “I’ll go,” he said. “But must we stay inside the fence?”

Great, Taltâl Rabbit thought. “We must,” he said, and the little rabbits put on their jackets and rabbit-trousers and went outside their hole, passing Pa’s many shelves of books and sneaking past his sleeping body on the high-backed chair before the hearth, book hanging from one paw.

Pa has been reading, To Kill a Hawk: Seven Easy Steps to Mock, Bait, and Eliminate Your Pest. He was always reading strange and useless books.

But Taltâl and Kôrpi successfully snuck past Pa Rabbit, and they left the hole, passing roots and popping out from beneath the wyr tree. The garden was before them, and Kôrpi hopped over to chew on a piece of cabbage.

“Not now!” Taltâl said.

Kôrpi stopped and the two of them chased each other around the garden, making sure to stay within the borders of the fence. They ran and ran until they were drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. They plopped down, the backs of their jackets against separate spikes of the fence.

Kôrpi turned his head, looking through the gap. “What do you think is out there?” he said, dark-blue eyes wide and searching.

Taltâl took a deep breath, one paw on his unbuttoned jacket. “Nothing good,” he said.

“I wanna go,” Kôrpi said, enchanted by the unknown. “Like you went, Taltâl! Do you think there’s hawks out there? Or dragons? Or fairies? Like in Pa’s books. Maybe bugbears, drindlekins, and biltcalts.”

“I don’t know,” Taltâl said, as Kôrpi spoke of other things from Pa’s books, ghosts and manticores and sphinxes and other such creatures of darkness and horror. “But hounds are out there — and Mr. Hunter.”

Kôrpi stopped at that, ending with drumpkilgs and gillyswarps. “Who’s that?” he said, curiosity written on his face.

Taltâl looked at his brother and sighed. “You’re too young to know,” he said, not wanting to know, himself.

“I wanna know,” Kôrpi said. “Taltâl, tell me! I wanna know!” He got on his hind legs and began to jump up and down. “I wanna know, Taltâl. Please, tell me. Is this a joke you have with Flôr and Heltâl? If so, I wanna know! And if not, tell me anyway!”

“It’s not a joke,” Taltâl said, arms crossed and annoyed. He scowled at his younger brother. “Just sit down.”

“Will ya tell me if I do?” Kôrpi said, hopeful.

“Yes, I’ll tell you,” Taltâl said, eyes to the ground.

Kôrpi squealed in delight and sat down. His smile disappeared and tears streamed down his furry cheeks when Taltâl told him how their mother had died. “What a mean man,” he said when it all ended.

Taltâl nodded, the light-brown fur of his cheeks wet as well.

The two rabbits sat in silence for a long passing of time, but Kôrpi finally jumped to his feet.

“Let’s go!” Kôrpi said, as if he had forgotten everything he had just learned. He pointed to the fence. “Let’s go out there!” His eyes were bursting with excitement.

“No!” Taltâl said. “We’re good rabbits — we can’t go out there. What if Mr. Hunter is waiting for us?”

“Come on, Taltâl,” Kôrpi said in a whine, his little arms dropping to the ground. “Let’s have some fun.”

“No, Kôrpi!” Taltâl said, not willing to budge.

“Fine,” Kôrpi said, simply, crossing his arms. “Don’t come.”

And before Taltâl could stop him, Kôrpi slipped through the gap between two posts, for he was small and slender.

“No, wait!” Taltâl said, watching his brother hop away into the greatness of the Wood.

But Kôrpi did not turn back.

Taltâl climbed over the fence, complaining to himself all the while. And when he was over and on the other side, he looked back to the hole under the great wyr tree. He then hopped after his younger brother, thinking about everything he would say to Kôrpi when he caught up to him.

But Kôrpi was fast, and Taltâl could not find where his brother had gone off to. He looked back, and he could barely see the large trunk of the wyr tree behind him. I’m in trouble now, he thought, but he kept hopping on, searching the Wood for his brother. He thought of shouting the little rabbit’s name, but he decided against it. Too risky. I don’t want Mr. Hunter to hear me — or his hound. He shuddered.

And as if his thoughts had been words of power, a wild howl bellowed through the Wood — the unmistakable howl of Drôdl, the hound.

Taltâl’s long ears were pointed to the sky, his eyes wide, alert and fearful.

The sound rang in the rabbit’s ears again, coming from deep within the Wood. That was a relief — at least the hound was not near. Then he remembered the why to his visit so far away from home: Kôrpi. He hopped as fast as his little legs would take him, his paws clamoring over grass and dirt and protruding roots, hope for his brother in mind. He hopped under the watch of the great trees, his eyes darting left and right, as he searched for any sign of where his brother had gone.

And then he came upon it — something he had never thought to find.

It was a clearing with a large house of stone and wood.

Taltâl Rabbit looked at the queer sight from the edge of the Wood.

A giantess-of-a-girl sat in the grass — she was more than four times bigger than the onlooker — and she played with a doll the size of the rabbit, though it was fashioned after a human. She made the doll go up and down, into the air and back to the ground again, thick, black hair bouncing — hair as black as the holder of the idol.

Taltâl buttoned up his jacket with small paws. He then licked his paws and ran them over his head, matting down his rogue hairs — he did the same to his long ears. And when he had finished making himself presentable, he wiggled his whiskers and stepped into the clearing. He glanced at his paw — dirty! He shook it, hoping the dirt would go away — it didn’t. Carrots, he thought, angrily.

And as Taltâl clumsily waddled to the girl, she turned her head to him, and he almost drowned in her yellow-rimmed eyes, her pale face nearly as green as the night’s eye. He was instantly take into a world of wonder at the sight of her. He would forsake his family just for one pat from her hand on his fur. She would fashion a collar for him, and he would gladly wear it.

The girl dropped her doll and stood, a sudden wind picking up and blowing the grass at her bare feet, though the rabbit only saw her hair flying away from her skalp, liberated by the breeze.

“Come, little one,” the girl said, stretching out her arm to the animal before her, her fingers hanging lazily.

And just as Taltâl was about to touch that perfect hand, a voice came from the unknown behind the girl.

“Sandân, you get away from that there beast, you hear?! Your father will be mad if he hears of this!”

Taltâl Rabbit leaned to peer around the girl — he saw the woman, an even bigger giantess than the girl! And her eyes! They glowed blue. Terror struck his mind, the spell of the girl instantly broken, and a primal instinct made him run away from girl and woman alike. He hopped through the grass, darting back into the great trees of the Wood.

“Rabbit, wait!” Sandân said, but it was too late.

Taltâl ran, crazed. Some would call him a turn-tail, a craven, but he didn’t care — they didn’t see the woman. He had heard her lumbering after him, her lanky legs sending her monstrous body toward him with hideous acceleration. He had smelled her offensive breath as she called out to her daughter — so atrocious, like decaying onions and rotting flesh. He had seen her pallid skin, pale-yellow and practically bursting with sores. And worst of all, he had tasted in the air the stink that came from within the house — rabbit meat. A boiling stew, perhaps.

How could that hag-to-be spawn such a child? Taltâl wondered, his paws working fast, not wanting to look back to discover whether or not the woman was still on his trail. He ran and ran, under tree and bush, and his trousers were briefly snagged by a thorn, but he pulled them free, tearing them in the attempt. And he ran some more.

He finally summoned enough courage to look and see if the queer woman was behind him, and his head turned around — nothing but the Wood. “Oof,” he let out as the air was drawn from his lungs, forced out when his body collided with something. Presently, he was on the ground, the white fur of the underside of his tail likely getting dirty — Pa won’t like that.

Taltâl Rabbit shook his head, regained his sight, and searched for whatever he had hit — his eyes went wide as he saw the black, canine snout, the glowing, yellow eyes, and the snarling abyss-of-a-mouth, complete with fangs longer than a rabbit’s leg. He smelled the sulfur on the breath of the beast, Drôdl, gray smoke coming out with each exhale.

Drôdl growled.

“Hello, doggy,” Taltâl said, cautiously, ears perked to the sky as he slowly got off his bum.

Drôdl’s eyes cut through flesh and bone, drool dripping to the grass — the green turning black with a hiss as the grass died. He hulked over the rabbit, muscle-wrapped legs ready to lunge at a moment’s notice.

Taltâl took a step back —

The hound barked, crouching, body lowering toward the ground.

Taltâl froze, not daring to move.

“Drôdl, oh Drôdl!” an almost mocking voice said from somewhere in the Wood. “Where thee be, beasty?”

Taltâl’s eyes looked to the direction of the caller, then back at the beasty.

Drôdl growled, low and cruel.

Taltâl shook his head, as if to beg of the hound not to give away their location — but it was a futile effort.

Drôdl barked, loudly, daemonically. He barked and barked, and then he howled, his head to the darkening sky.

Taltâl’s misadventure had lasted longer than he would have liked, and as he hound’s glowing eyes were to the heavens, he played the part of a turn-tail once again. But he didn’t mind what he’d be called — they hadn’t seen the dog. He ran, mad out of his mind, head erratically turning left to right, eyes darting all over. It was a relief when he realized the hound had not yet seen the folly in his indulgence — not the smartest pup in the kennel. But he soon heard the massive paws beating against the ground, beasty’s horrid barks calling to the master.

And just when Taltâl thought he would outrun the dog, a large boot planted itself in his path, a boot connected to a lanky giant — he bumped into the man, falling on his bum again. Carrots, he thought, rubbing his head. He then looked up at the face of the man.

Mr. Hunter looked down at his prey with eyes glowing crimson. A wide grin was plastered to his face, with large and pointed teeth as yellow as corn (the very same color as the corn from the field of Taltâl’s cousin, Grâgar). His skin was a queer shade of green, and he stood over the rabbit with fisted hands on his hips, a quiver of arrows strapped on his back next to a bow, etched with runes of power and stringed with silver. He sniffed the air, eyes locked on his prize.

Taltâl brought a paw up to his mouth, not wanting to believe his eyes.

“‘Ello, little one,” Mr. Hunter said through his grin, and a hand went to and tipped his wide-brimmed, tall-crowned, black hat, giving his prey a polite gesture of greeting.

Taltâl thought he saw a pale-white maggot squirming around behind those large yellows — it was gone, if it was ever there. He looked on in horror.

“Now, what’s a little one like yourself doin’ all the way out here?” Mr. Hunter said.

“Ma-ma-ma… Mr. Hunter!” Taltâl Rabbit said.

The hunter cocked his head, like a dog would if he heard something not quite right. “Some know me by that name, little one,” Mr. Hunter said. “But those close to me call me Bân — you may call me, devourer. You know why?”

Taltâl didn’t want to know, and all he could do was stare at the man, dumbly.

“Heh-heh, can’t talk now, eh?” Bân Hunter said. “Got somewhere else to hop off to? That’s alright —” his eyes glanced just beyond where the rabbit stood, and his smile somehow became more — “I’m sure whoever’s waitin’ on you will excuse your late arrival. You see, we’ve got you.”

Taltâl looked behind him, but he didn’t need to, for he had already heard the hound’s low growl.

“You’ll be quite late, little one,” Bân said, and he reached behind his back, grabbed his bow, nocked an arrow, and drew — he burst out in a daemonic laughing-fit. “Sic him, beasty!”

Just then, as the hound leapt to wrap his jaws around Taltâl’s neck, a high-pitched scream came from behind the human. And before Mr. Hunter could react, a ravid beast was bearing its claws into the flesh of his back, striking low but ever driving up. He began to turn, but he then noticed the animalcritter? — hopping down his arm.

It was Kôrpi! He had followed Drôdl’s barking and howling, and he had waited in the bushes until he could wait no more. And though his left hind-leg had been injured, still bleeding from many punctures, the youngest Rabbit leapt on Mr. Hunter’s back, digging his little claws into the man as he climbed. He ran down the man’s arm — Bân had noticed him then — and before the man could shake him off, he bit down on the man’s hand, boring his teeth as deep as they’d go. He tasted, and the liquid was not to his liking.

Bân cried out, and he shook his hand, violently, the action causing him to let go of his bow, its already nocked arrow flying free. And drops of crimson — colored like his glowing eyes — spilled from his open hand. And a queer, black smoke rose from the wound. He screamed all the louder.

Kôrpi snatched the hunter’s bow, midair, as he fell to the ground.

The arrow flew and hit Drôdl in the neck, the hound making a terrible whine as he hit the ground, struggling to breathe as he choked on his own blood.

“Come on, Taltâl!” Kôrpi said, his voice muffled by the bow in his mouth. “Let’s get out of here!”

Taltâl had no reply, but he ran like the flames of a wildfire were at his tail.

“This way!” Kôrpi said, darting headfirst into thick bushes.

Taltâl followed, hearing the man lumbering after them, his head coming out the other side.

“Curses!” Bân Hunter said, as he trampled over the ground. “Curse you! Curse both of you! You rabbits! You thieves! I’ll kill the lot of you!”

He’s gotta catch us first, Taltâl thought, as he followed his younger brother.

“We’ve gotta destroy it!” Kôrpi said.

“What?” Taltâl said, and the both of them heard the distance put between them and Mr. Hunter.

“Hunter’s bow!” Kôrpi said, the curved wood still in his mouth. “We’ve gotta destroy the hunter’s bow!”

The runes of power which marked the bow began to give a light glow, as if in response to the rabbit’s statement.

“Do it!” Taltâl said. “What are you waiting for?!”

“We’ve gotta destroy it together,” Kôrpi said, and the two of them risked a stop, for they no longer heard Mr. Hunter. He set the bow down — its runes glowed brighter, a pale light, and the silver string shone. “Bite into it!”

Taltâl and Kôrpi both nawed on the strong, thick wood of the bow — the runes glowed brighter and brighter, becoming a blinding light as the wood dwindled. They kept on biting away at the hunter’s bow, and they had to close their eyes, for the light was like utter darkness. And the burning light shone through the lids of their eyes, violating their inner sanctuaries, but they at last chewed through the bow.

Taltâl opened his eyes, and he saw the two halves of the bow lying on the ground — the runes no longer glowed, and the silver string was presently a string of black ooze. And it was then he noticed his brother’s bleeding leg. “Kôrpi, what happened?!” he said, eyes large.

Kôrpi told Taltâl everything that had happened after he had ran through the gap in the gate, including the part that exposed his foolishness. You see, as he explored the Wood, he came across a queer contraption (though he didn’t know it, it was a hunter’s jaw), and in a fit of mad curiosity, he touched one of the iron teeth — it was pointy, but nothing happened. He had been thrilled! And he had thought of bringing the thing home with him. He had hopped around in his joy, and that was when his hind-leg sprung the device into life, its jaws closing around his leg. He had been stuck there for a long time, he knew not how long, and it was only with the help of a friendly animal that he was able to break free.

Taltâl’s eyes went even wider when his brother told him of the friendly hawk that had helped in his escape. “You saw a hawk!” he said. “And he let you go?”

“Yes,” Kôrpi said, simply. “I confess, I was scared for my life at the first sight of her, but she was a nice hawk. And she sent me off, telling me to, be careful next time. There won’t be a next time.”

“You might want to listen to her,” Taltâl said.

Kôrpi smiled. “Let’s go home,” he said, wearily. “I never want to go out again.”

Taltâl agreed.

But the wills that desired such were fickle, and they would be pulled into another adventure just as easily as this one.

 

We are glad to assure you that both Taltâl and Kôrpi safely found their way home, though once they arrived, Pa Rabbit gave them a swatting. And their bums were hurting with a feeling of fire, colored as purple as boiled beets. The other seven siblings all laughed at the two rabbits’ sore bums, and they laughed even harder when they heard the tale of their adventure, especially the part with the hawk.

None of the Rabbits believed Taltâl and Kôrpi’s story. But that was fine with them.

And Taltâl lived happily… until his next adventure at least.

 

Ah, and what of Mr. Hunter? You may be curious, like Kôrpi was with the hunter’s jaw, but you might not want to know. And the youngest of readers should avert their eyes, for a wicked man he was, and rotten men often find the vilest ends. Do not say we did not warn you, for we must tell the conclusion of his story, but it is for those of you with better judgement than ours to look away.

 

Bân Hunter returned to his home that night, holding his open wound the whole way. His hound, his precious beasty, had perished by the arrow to his neck. And so, he returned alone, his hand still smoking as it poured his life out. His woman and little girl were home, and they both expected him to have meat from his hunt — he disappointed them. However, they did eat what the woman had cooked earlier that day — rabbit stew.

These were, after all, the very same girl and woman Taltâl had come across earlier that day.

The woman was infuriated that Bân had lost his bow, a bow that she had made him, and she hit him with an iron pan many times that night. His face was black, purple, and bloody when he saw his reflection in the morning.

And with his bow and hound gone, Bân Hunter could no longer hunt — his woman called him Bân the Craven from that day until his last.

There was no more food for the Hunter family to eat. And they began to thin — they began to starve. All the while, Bân’s woman beat him with her pan, desperate for him to hunt. Every night she would beat him if he had not gone out for food during the day — his face was unrecognizable before the end.

But when their situation became most bitterly desperate, Bân and his woman ate their little girl, Sandân. They slit her throat and boiled her before the blood had time to fully drain. The Hunter family became two as father and mother ate daughter. They conserved her meat, making what little there was last for a week. And they used her bones to boil into a broth, and they drank it for meals the following three weeks.

And ever did Bân’s woman beat him.

But one day, when starvation threatened to take them both, she did not beat his face with an iron pan. Instead, she took a knife to his throat, giving him a crimson grin. She brought her face to his open neck, lapping up the red as he gurgled and died.

And she ate the man.

 

The End

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Afterword 

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