Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 57

Welikro felt he was going crazy. He never imagined turkeys and hares could be caught that way. He made more than a hundred snares with Claude the day before and split them into 14 groups, each had ten interconnected snares. They spread them across the shrubs and grass growths and tied each 'chain' to a large tree. Claude even dropped seeds on top of them.

It had to be a fool's errand, he'd thought. He couldn't not help when he saw how serious Claude was, however. The two worked on the snares for two hours and Welikro lay in his bed that night, wondering how he should comfort his friend when they got there the next afternoon to find empty snares.

He just knew it was going to be a touchy subject, so he didn't say anything about it the whole day. He promised himself he'd help the boy catch a few things when they found the snares empty so he wouldn't have to go home empty handed.

Borkal asked Claude about his hunt, and he answered that they only got one hare. Claude did, however, bring up the snares of his own accord.

The other two boys were intrigued and insisted on going along when they heard Claude boast about how wonderful the snares were. He didn't notice Welikro's 'how-can-you-lie-with-a-straight-face' expression.

Welikro was proven wrong that afternoon. The snares weren't just useful, they were mind boggling. Almost every one was snapped around a leg or a neck. They found five hares and four turkeys still struggling -- only recently caught.

Of the 14 groups, two were untouched and three damaged. They must have caught something larger or stronger than the average turkey or hare, and the catchings broke free. The remaining nine groups each had a catch.

Welikro stared at his musket, lost.

"I wouldn't have brought my musket if I knew this was how it was going to turn out. I'd have just learnt how to make snares."

Borkal and Eriksson helped undo the snares around the dead animals and tie them up for transport.

"Where did you learn to make these?" Eriksson asked, dangling the snare he'd just undid.

Claude snickered.

"Reading. I read one traveller's journal which talked about how the native people of an island north of the continent hunted. He described the snares they used very carefully. I just remade them according to his descriptions.

"There's this one trap that's very interesting. The people put a large net on the beach and bait it with fish or innards. The seagulls catch whiff of the meat and swoop down for lunch. The net has a tricky design, however, that quickly snares the bird's feet and the people would just come back a few hours later and kill the trapped birds.

"I read about this somewhere else as well. Apparently a couple people decided to try it out on the mainland. They tried catching birds of prey, however, and their talons always ruined the nets. The birds of prey were also much smarter than the seagulls, and quickly learnt to avoid the nets.

"Another method a few have tried before is chain snares. That was much more successful than the net attempts."

Hah! He didn't look like he was experimenting the day before! Welikro almost shouted. He felt his balls itch. It was a very strange saying he'd learnt from Claude, but he felt it was very appropriate for him to feel this way since it concerned Claude himself.

"Gonna use the snares again?" he asked.

"Hmm… Yeah. Let's do a few more as well since the sun's still up. We should move them, though. Leave only the untouched snares where they are."

The group moved to the neighbouring hill and started looking for vines to make more snares.

"Why aren't you making them using the rope you brought? They it's tougher than vines, right?" Eriksson asked.

"The ropes smell very different to anything else in the forest, so animals will avoid them," Claude explained, "Don't think they're are that stupid. They aren't as smart as us, but they have razor sharp instincts. Rope snares won't work. This snare is made from vine. Even if we put a bunch of it together in the shrubs, the animals won't find it odd all. They'll think the vines just fell from the shrubs or were growing on the ground to begin with and walk over them without a thought."

The four working together allowed them to deploy more than 40 groups of snares in the area. Most of them were in shrubs. Claude checked every one before scattering feed and earth over them. The feed was used as bait and the earth was used to cover up any traces of human scent.

"Alright, let's head back. We'll know how big our haul is when we come back tomorrow," said Claude with his hands on his waist. He had to kneel down to check so many traps that he was incredibly worn out.

Claude pointed at the animals on the ground and said, "Take some for yourselves. One turkey and hare each, how's that?"

Borkal shook his head. "Claude, this is the result of your and Wero's hard work yesterday. You should be splitting this with him. We'll get our own share tomorrow if we manage to catch some."

Claude rolled his eyes.

"Come on, we're friends. We'll split what we have now and tomorrow is another matter. I can't eat them all anyway if I bring them back home. What do you say, Wero?"

Welikro replied, "You decide. I have a few of these smoked at home and I'm already sick of eating them. I don't mind giving some away."

Borkal laughed and said, "No, Claude, don't you know that the owner of the old tavern, Pjard, is buying turkeys at a high price? He wants live ones and you can sell these four to him."

"What is he paying for each?" asked Claude.

"One riyas. Maybe two more sunars, it depends."

"He only wants turkey? Does he want hares?"

"Probably," Borkal said uncertainly, "Last I checked, he was paying some mountain folk at the back of the tavern for a hare and a turkey caught by hunting dogs. As the turkey was still alive, he bought it for one riyas, but he didn't want the dead hare. The mountain folk said that he would even sell it for three sunars, but Pjard insisted on live ones rather than dead ones."

Three sunars for a hare was more or less three bucks. A turkey on the other hand could be sold for ten bucks. That price disparity was almost too much.

Claude looked at Welikro, who understandingly said, "Then let's sell it. Borkal's right, we'll split our catch tomorrow."

So, the four of them spent an hour leaving the forest and happened to bump into a carriage heading into town. Borkal used a rabbit to pay for the ride to the old tavern.

Pjard was acquainted with Claude. Even though they didn't talk much, they had met each other a few times before.

What made Pjard wonder was how Claude managed to catch those animals. They didn't seem to be caught by hunting dogs. Even though Claude and Welikro wore their guns on their backs, the animals didn't seem to have gunshot wounds. They looked fine, if not a little fatigued.

"How about this, one riyas for each turkey and four sunars for each hare," said Pjard.

This time, it was Borkal's turn. He called the offer insincere and dishonest when he told Pjard about the time he saw him buy the turkey from a mountain folk. Pjard later admitted that he had made an honest mistake in conflating perfectly fine animals with those caught and injured by hunting dogs, so he raised his offer by one sunar for each animal as an apology.

Claude agreed to the deal and kept one hare to bring home. He resolved himself to let Morssen have hare meat every day until he got sick of it and puked.

What Pjard didn't expect was that Claude and the others would return the next day with 17 turkeys and 11 hares, unharmed and living like before, only seeming worn out. Pjard wondered if the four youths chased the animals down with their own two feet across the hill until they ran out of energy before catching them.

However, he didn't comment on it and bought them all at the same price he offered. Claude also brought a hare home that day.

The next day, the four returned with eleven turkeys and seven hares.

Next, they came with six turkeys and eight hares.

On the fifth day, they came a little later than usual. They looked much more tired than before and seemed like they had traveled far. However, they brought 14 turkeys and 9 hares with them.

Pjard finally spoke out. He expressed troubedly that he had too many live turkeys and hares in his tavern and feeding them alone took up two workers. So, Pjard said that he hoped that after that day's purchase, Claude and the rest would temporarily stop bringing him more turkeys and hares.

The four of them breathed a sigh of relief. They were finding it harder and harder to find turkeys and hares in the forest and hills south of town and had to go further and further to catch more. They spent two hours alone leaving the hills that day.

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