The next few days passed by quickly. The boys spent most of their time in the local schoolhouse undertaking the different classes on offer. Both boys enjoyed the learning about the world. Geography taught the boys about the landscape; how to read the conditions of the surrounding country side and to judge the weather patterns for incoming rain or wind storms. They also learnt the basics for looking after animals such as horses and maintaining their living conditions as well as others that you'd expect to see on the well-traveled highways, in the form of sheep and cattle being the focus.
Mathematical Arithmetic was a skill few practiced whole-heartedly. Sam was adamant, however, on its importance, "what if you want to buy a list of items from the market?” he asked one day, “You'd look a might silly if you paid three silver and twenty bronze when two and fifty would suffice". It was something that Sam was fond of saying. As Wildwood was a large town, it had the people necessary to offer formal education for children and of course the time on hand to aid them in their early development. The system spanned across five years, with the students attending three times a week. Sam and Eamonn were two of the younger people in their year and often were cast out by the others, even more so since Nel had been around.
It was a hard school with high expectations for those who lived in Wildwood; those from other towns were given a certain amount of leeway in some matters given their position as outsiders. Regardless, it was common knowledge that those born in the winter had an advantage, they would be older, stronger and better developed than those born in the summer or autumn, as Sam and Eamonn had been. Things continued as normal for a few days, the pair doing their best to avoid the bully when, a week after their altercation with Nel, they realised that he was nowhere to be seen.
When they asked about it, one of their teachers had said simply “He left last night, he was called to meet with the Baron today”. It didn’t take long for Sam and Eamonn to notice the hole that Nel had left behind. The power he and his friends had accumulated evaporated when he left, with no one left to lead them the others went into their shell, their ill treatment of Eamonn and Sam was little more than a distant memory. Many simply ignored them and as the boys waited for the usual shift of power that often took place, they set about completing their studies. A month passed and it became apparent that the power shift would never eventuate, easing the load from Eamonn and Sam’s minds. They spared a thought momentarily as to why he was called to Faraday so early, though they didn’t dwell on it for much time.
The boys were now looking forward to their final assessments in a month eagerly, knowing that without the added stress that Nel’s attention placed on them, there was nothing more to distract them from what they had to do, for the first time in a long while they felt they could venture out whenever they wanted with no fear of coming across Nel in a bad mood.
It was the final week before their assessments and both boys had studied hard. As was usual for him on the festive day, Eamonn slept late. He was woken softly by the warmth of the sun as it penetrated through the corner window in his room. He rose reluctantly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and pulled the covers back. Unsurprisingly, he could hear movement out in the main room of the house. He dressed and went out to fix himself some breakfast of fried bacon and toast covered with the delicately delicious relish that Darcey had bought the previous morning in one of the market stalls.
Even as he was taking his seat at the table his stomach grumbled at the expectation of the tasty meal before him, he ate in quick bites, smirking as Darcey joked about him letting the food hit his sides every once in a while. He was rinsing his plate in the sink just as Sam came through the door.
“Eamonn, good to see you’re up. I just finished filling the water mill. Did you want to do some hunting?” Eamonn nodded in agreement, “Sounds like a plan” he replied. He grabbed his things from his room, a hunting knife, a few of the traps they used to catch game and the caster he’d learnt to use from a young age. The caster was a small tool, whereby four small rounded stones were interconnected by thick string or cord to a central device he held onto to throw. It was an effective tool for catching the legs of deer and other large animals as well as for stunning small, faster moving animals.
Any time they were out hunting, that was the one thing he always had on hand, the moment the cord became to fray, the central grip lost some of its stability or the stones began to come loose from the sticky and foul smelling glue from the deer hooves, he was at it again repairing and making amendments to it. At first Sam had been critical of Eamonn for being so meticulous with it, until of course the day he’d left it behind where they had three opportunities for catching a large and fleet-footed hare, as Eamonn had expected they had failed miserably and ever since it was constantly with him.
It was Eamonn’s job, after all, to track and take down the animals while Sam took care of skinning, cleaning and carry them, so Eamonn felt the time spent on the caster was well worth it.
It was late morning by the time they made the trek through town and up the hill to the edge of the wood where, together, they entered the forest. It was a slightly overcast day and that would be all to the good for the boys. In the darker confines of the trees they would go unnoticed by the wildlife and so increase their chances of a good catch.
Eamonn scouted the forest floor for well-travelled areas. Once he found a good position, he gestured Sam forward hand him a snare and move on, leaving Sam to set up the snare and follow up behind him again. It was early in the season and Eamonn knew that any wildlife that was around would have no thoughts of getting caught along any of the small paths it had made over the cold months. Eamonn checked for any signs of earlier hunters, he doubted that any men from the town would be foolish enough to leave their tracks behind this early in the season, that didn’t stop animal hunters from crossing these paths and they wouldn’t be so careful to disguise their tracks.
They split up for a few minutes, Eamonn sending Sam on ahead to check for dead ends or forks in the path, when they came together again it was agreed they could afford to place the snares in the most worn tracks.
For now, strategies like this would work but later on in the season, they’d have to be more subtle about where they were placed, as more of the hunters arrived in the lead up to the hunting season, more and more snares would be out and the animals would no longer haphazardly wonder along, they’d be wise to the slightest hint of the threat they were could under.
All the more reason for Eamonn and Sam to take advantage of the slow start to the season and do what they could while the going was good as the fauna slowly woke from its wintery slumber. Over the past few weeks, they’d brought in a good supply for their evening meals, and whatever they didn’t use Darcey had been able sell for a good price to the town butchers and others that wanted it. That was the advantage of being a local; they knew when things were quiet, when they could slip in for a quick hunt and make something out of it. As the season progressed, the organised hunts would begin and the numbers of the larger wildlife would diminish and the smaller ones would begin to scatter, making them harder to find.
Eamonn kept his head down, searching for spots to place their snares while Sam kept on the lookout for movement, each time Eamonn stopped to set up another trap, Sam would circle around the area, his soft hide boots making little noise on the forest floor. As was their custom, they retained one of the snares in case they spotted any additional movement. They kept on for another fifty meters or so before moving off the path, heading for a small grove of some trees. Eamonn chose the smallest of the group and maneuvered himself underneath. It afforded him a good view of the forest around him while the larger trees kept his flanks and back protected. Sam checked on the last snare, ensuring that it was covered well, threw an extra handful of the grains and seeds they carried over the top and pushed his way through to sit beside Eamonn. “Now we wait?” Sam asked and Eamonn repeated his words in confirmation, “Now we wait.”