There's not a lot going on in this scene, but I included it simply because I wanted to have some small bit of exposition on the constellations of Aerde's night sky. Personally, I've always been fascinated with our own night sky, and the constellations and other objects in the heavens. So when I was working out certain details of the ancient world, I naturally included a set of constellations which not only decorated the sky, but served to demarcate one month from the next. Even though the common calendar of Aerde is based on the lunar cycle of thirteen months in a year, the month names are taken from the constellations. And the constellations are arranged in the sky such that in a given month, one constellation is ascendant and gives its name to that month.
* * *
Balfrith’s mood improved noticeably over the next few days, as if the simple decision to put off his choice could lift its burden from his shoulders. He knew in his mind that this was not the case, and yet he allowed himself the illusion, if only for a few days, of freedom from making a choice.
He and Eldamir alternated walking and jogging, loping along at an easy pace for an hour, then walking for a while to cool off. Even in the shade of the trees, the spring season was already warming toward summer, and the afternoons were warm enough that they had to take frequent breaks for water and rest. But in the end, they made good time and arrived at the edge of the forest late on the seventh day of their departure from Fanyamar.
They made camp that night on the edge of the woods, still taking cover in the trees but in an area that was open enough to view the stars in a wide arc from east to west. It was the seventh day of the Wyrm, and its undulating constellation of stars hovered over the eastern horizon that night as the sun set in the west. The Hunter (or Guardian, as the Elefdar called him), which preceded the Wyrm, sat higher in the sky, and it was to that formation of stars that Balfrith’s eyes were drawn.
“What is he shooting, do you think?” he asked, gesturing upward with his nose.
Eldamir missed the movement, but he instinctively looked up and found the Guardian, poised for the kill. “A troll, of course.”
Balfrith glanced at his friend. “I don’t remember ever hearing it was anything at all - do you know the story?”
Eldamir said, “The Guardians were established early in the Long War, as our first line of defense against the darkness. But before that, we used to call him the Hunter too. I suppose that’s where Men got the name, though we changed it later. In those days, in the second Aeon, he was renamed after our Guardians, and ever after his prey has been a troll.”
Balfrith thought on that story for a while, then said, “Perhaps he was once truly a hunter, and his prey was a deer, or a bear.”
“Perhaps,” Eldamir replied, doubtful, but he had no better answer. Then, changing the topic, he said, “Tomorrow is the day.”
“Aye.” Balfrith didn’t need to be reminded, and the comment spoiled his mood for the night. Rolling over on his side, he said, “I’m going to sleep. See you in the morning.”
“Good night.” Eldamir remained awake for some time, watching the Hunter wheel across the sky, looking for some sign of a troll in the stars, but finding nothing.