Day 18

I have not written for a few days as I have been away. I was invited to observe a hunt and thought it too good an opportunity to miss. Being urged to travel light, I did not take my diary with me, but I shall endeavour now to give as much detail as I can from memory.

Before we left, the hunting party leader, Potok, insisted that I be dressed in the same manner as the rest of the hunters. This was in no part easy as I stand a good head taller than the tallest Arrakeshi man in the village. Nevertheless, leather trousers and tunic were found for me, as well as a hooded fur cape, for which I was very grateful at night. They even managed to adapt a pair of shoes for my large feet. This was no whim on the part of Potok. The hunters need to blend into the forest and my Carlikan clothing would not have done that. Nor would it have been as waterproof or hard-wearing as the leather clothing. The shoes, with their soft leather soles, allow the hunters to tread their way through the trees without a sound and give them greater grip for climbing trees, which they do with astonishing agility.

The ten in the party, including myself and two young boys of ten or eleven, left at dawn. The hunters carried bows, about five feet in length, slung over their shoulders. They carried an assortment of arrows in fur-lined quivers on their backs, mostly heavier weighted ones made for the red deer they hunted. The first day, though we saw plenty of wildlife, we did not hunt except to feed ourselves that night, but walked in silence, all communication done through hand signals. The Arrakeshi are informed each Spring and Autumn, through communication between their Treespeaker and Arrakesh, the spirit of the forest, what they may and may not hunt. They believe this advice without question, so though ducks seemed plentiful to me, I was told they were not to be eaten this season nor their eggs harvested.

In the evening of that first day, we camped in a glade by a stream and ate, the men having shot five rabbits during the late afternoon. These were skinned, cleaned and stuffed with herbs found by the stream, before being roasted on makeshift spits over the fires. Quick shelters were built using branches and leaves and the men took turns to keep watch during the night. They kindly allowed me to share first watch so that I could sleep through the rest of the night, though I have to admit that sleeping on the forest floor was not conducive to that, at least in my own case. By the time we rose at the first hint of sunlight, I was stiff and sore and wishing Jakan was amongst the party so that he could have eased my muscles with his healing skills.