There was silence as the four Damu-Sarmi hunters his within the foliage of the woods. Together, those who were still learning were observing a green skinned deer eat the sweet grass, it had not noticed the group who lay down wind of its position.
Though all four individuals watched their kill with an intensity, one of the hunters was more eager, his mouth watered as he could almost taste the deer’s sweet meat in his mouth. The stupid animal wasn’t even looking his way, it would be so easy just to…
The one called Elder-Sister felt her apprentice’s thirst and through an disapproving expression to wait, but he did not obey. The young tribesman feared his stomach would alarm the beast. His hunger for both food and acknowledgement conspired together to make him recklessly move forward, with his claws extending.
As if sensing the murderous air, the deer raised its head and became tense. The beast scanned the area, it was no longer hungry as self-preservation became its focus. Its deep black eyes searched, its instincts screaming to bolt in any random direction.
A trained hunter like Elder-Sister would have position the other hunters to ambush the prey, all it would take would be a leaf to fall and the deer would run. But her young and reckless apprentice had other plans.
Fearing the creature would dash, the one they called Scratch-Ear pounced out from the bush and caught the deer with a wild swipe of his claws. Inexpensive further disadvantage as Scratch-Ear avoided the throat and instead lunched himself on the deer’s rear end, using his young claws and fangs, the young hunter tried to bring down the deer through a continuous furry of bites and swipes on the hind quartets.
A creature with a bigger brain and more nerve would have noticed its attacker was smaller and its claws were doing less damage than a bee sting and so would have felt sitting on the junior Damu-Sarmi hunter would teach the little bugger to not be a literal pain in the ass. But sadly deer have the brain the size of a walnut and have only enough thought capacity to screw each other, eat, and run from anything but another deer. Half mad with fear, the deer ran in a direction its tiny mind said was as good as any with a gnawing hunter trying to chew it to death with kitten teeth.
Feeling each bump as the deer sprinted Scratch-Ear got the feeling that this was a bad idea but stubbornness forbid him from letting go, with his claws hitting into the deer’s flanks and fangs to anchor him in, Scratch-Ear clung on.
Through the forest the terrified deer and his passenger traversed the wilds, for a moment or two the doe thought about stopping or turning direction, but one more scratch from Scratch-Ear changed her mind. Slowly, the doe felt exhaustion set in but wanted to give one more try to shake the thing that interrupted her feeding.
With a great leap, the deer jumped over a fallen tree and Scratch-Ear could hold on no longer. Taking a mouthful of green fur and drop of blood or two from his prey, Scratch-Ear fell back and landed in the mud, at least he hoped it was mud as the deer had been scared shitless.
There was a deep anger building itself within the Damu-Sarmi, all that deer had to do was die and the glory would be all his. A need to howl and scream wormed his way in but he denied it, there was still a chance the food could be hunted and brought back. With the power of youth on his side the small hunter scrambled over the fallen tree and began to sniff out for any sign of pursuit.
“Cursed kit.” Spat Elder-Sister having finally found Scratch-Ear. The deer was not hard to track as it had torn through the forest as through it was a storm with hooves. Behind the teacher were the other two apprentices who looked equally annoyed with Scratch-Ear.
A young female with a family to feed growled at the fool, while another male displayed a fanged grin at Scratch-Ear’s failure, “Why did we bring this useless cur with us?” he asked. “I am the only one of these sorry excuses of fur and bone that was born for the hunt.”
Elder-Sister held her brow. It was her job to train and teach the next generation of hunters and she was regretting it fiercely. These kits were not yet ready to be named adults and already she could tell what the elder would name them and they would not be flattering names.
The one named Elder-Sister watched as Scratch-Ear was dancing on all fours trying to find a trace of the spooked creature that was most likely at the other side of the territory by now. The grey kitten had all the speed and enthusiasm necessary to make him a superb hunter, perhaps one capable enough to bring down a goonseng, but he lacked the discipline and patience to catch vermin.
The female kit called Free-Fang gave Scratch-Ear a swipe across his side which caused him to howl in surprise.
“What was that for?” Scratch-Ear asked reading himself to run. Free-Fang was perhaps the most ruthless little girl the tribe had in a long time, and was given her name because she loved to draw blood. Not even the older boys wanted to get on her bad side and neither did Scratch-Ear who liked his throat and eyes where they were.
“You have berries for brains, that’s why.” The intimidating kitten snarled and was deciding to take her frustrations out on the fool. “Don’t you listen? We ambush deer or spook them into snares and cut their throats. We don’t bite them on the but.”
The one his parents nicknamed Black-Paw snorted. “It was funny.”
“Don’t encourage him.” Elder-Sister warned. It was actions like those that caused deaths and it was a terrible tragedy to lose a kit, no matter how much a reckless fool they were.
Seeing Free-Fang ease her desire to chew out his heart, Scratch-Ear continued his search for the deer’s tracks. A deer would have been a fine first kill but Free-Fang was right and they had not been prepared to take down the doe. With luck they could scrounge up a few smaller morsels.
“There’s no tracks.” Scratch-Ear said as he sat where had thought the deer should have landed. “I swear. She was right here.”
“Well were did she go?” Black-Paw let out a dry laugh. “Did you eat her all up without sharing with the rest of us.”
Elder-Sister wanted to punish both boys. “We are wasting sun light.” It was dangerous to be this far into the forest, the other tribes and clans were known for cannibalism and sacrificing their neighbours to their dark gods. There were also other predators to think about.
Scratch-Ear stomped the ground with his hand paw in defiance. “She was right…”
Above Scratch-Ear’s head the deer slipped through what appeared to be an invisible hole in space, its eyes still carrying the mad and terrified look of an animal that was trying to find safety and didn’t care what got in its way. Unfortunately, Scratch-Ear was one of those somethings as he was sitting in its landing area.
The junior hunter jumped forward and missed the crazed deer’s hooves by the hairs on his tail. It was a narrow miss but it appeared his quick reflexes and lack of thought had worked in his favour, this time.
Her own instincts kicking in, Elder-Sister let out a feral cry as she used the fallen tree as a spring board and flew up to meet the deer’s neck. While Scratch-Ear and the other Damu-Sarmi hunters in training were lucky to break the deer’s tough hide, Elder-Sister’s fangs and claws were adult sized and sharp.
Sinking her teeth into the deer’s neck, the experienced hunter felt warm and sticky blood pour down her throat. Using her weight as an anchor the doe was pinned to the ground, it bucked and screamed but Elder-Sister’s claws fused the two into a morbid embrace, and as time went on Elder-Sister sensed the life slowly drain out of her kill.
After what felt like an eternity for both abuser and victim,the deer gave out its lasts kicks of resistance as it lowly left this world. Knowing there might be a second wind in the girl, Elder-Sister kept her grip not having any plans of relinquishing her kill. Satisfied and slightly excited by the act of death and the taste of foreign blood on her tongue, the predator let go and admired her trophy.
It was a fine beast. A young doe with a magnificent green hide and powerful legs, it was almost a shame to kill such a work of the Goddess’s art but the tribe needed to eat. For the young hunter’s first hunt, Elder sister had thought they would go home with nothing as she had when they began. It was an odd feeling, acceptance that not every day would end with a kill was a valuable lesson in itself, perhaps the Goddess though best to intervene.
With the danger now passed, the junior hunters hesitantly came out from cover. The only one that had not gotten the sense to hide after the deer’s appearance had been Scratch-Ear as he was too busy watching the show. As the kit looked up and saw Elder-Sister blood soaked skin and the graceful beauty that was her body, his lower regions started to act funny.
This had happened a number of time from before and he was worried their might be something wrong for him. Elder-Sister had a mate, she was older than he was, and she was far outside his status, but as he watched the deer’s blood drip down to his teacher’s breast, he could not help but feel frustrated and angry with a boundless energy burning inside of him. Perhaps he was sick and needed the shaman to have a look at him.
“Is it dead?” Free-Fang asked before giving the deer a nervous swipe of her hand paw.
Elder-Sister let out an exhaustive sigh, the adrenaline was starting to settle down and now she felt the need to relax, “Yes.” she breathed but she knew better than to lower her guard. The deer had crossed into Cali territory. This was a great crime and if they were caught in pouching then she and the young hunters would pray for a death as merciful as the deer had received. “We need to leave, now.”
“Not without her we don’t.” Black-Paw was not about to let a couple of Cali vermin take his prise. The kit attempted to lift the beast but it was easily ten times his size and double that in weight. He had a better chance of pulling a tree stump out of the ground.
Free-Claw looked up at the space the deer had appeared from. Had the deer been magic? Had the Goddess decided to look kindly on their first hunt? “How did it do that?”
Curtsey to his name, Scratch-Ear scathed his ear and looked up at the canopy of the forest, he knew his senses were not as honed as Elder-Sister’s but he could not see how this tricked worked.
Curious and trying to get his mind off his teacher’s body, Scratch-Ear threw a twig at the spot the deer had appeared from. There were gasps as the stick vanished from thin air, but what caught Scratch-Ear’s attention was that when the stick disappeared there was a ripple, as if it had just hit a puddle of water. “I think there’s a hole in the sky.”
Free-Fang was about to lecture him not to be a fool, but it was difficult not to as she had seen the proof with her own eyes. Wanting to see the ripples again, the young girl threw a handful of dirt at the space and watched as a good set of ripples echoed out. Judging from the radius the ripples spread out from it looked as if there was room enough for a deer to jump its way threw.
“No time for games.” Elder-Sister whispered harshly and viewed every tree and bush as a potential hiding spot for a Cali. The hairs on the huntress’s neck stood on end and for a moment she realised that she had become the hunted one.
Instinct, common sense, self-preservation. In those moments when you are surrounded by friends and family, enemies and predators, you show your real soul. Elder-Sister leaped and collided with Black-paw and Free-Fang pushing all of them to the ground as the darts hit her back.
Elder-Sister didn’t regret the action. She had stayed true to her name and protected her charges when an animal or lesser individual would have fled to save their own skin. When the Goddess came to claim her soul, she will give her answer fairly. While she hung on to consciousness Elder-Sister whispered to the charges she was currently on top of. “Cali. Run.”
This would have been great advise, thought the children who were scared out of their small and innocent minds, if Elder-Sister wasn’t laying on two out of three of them and currently trying to not swallow her own tongue.
Both Black-Paw and Free-Fang attempted to wedge themselves free while the hunters were trying to hit Scratch-Ear with their blow pipes. The small hunter was not making it easy for his attackers, as if possessed by the spirit of a frog in a frying pan, the small Damu-Sarmi hunter in training was avoiding the incoming missiles as if they were swipes from Free-Fang.
The moment Black-Paw got free he was aiding his teacher up, still clinging to hope that she could be saved and that somehow they could all make it past the territory line. However, he forgot that he was not just a getting shot at b experienced marksmen, but that he could barely lift his teacher’s arm over his shoulder. The small, brave, kit ultimately failed and had been shot with enough paralysing venom to make his tail stand on end.
Using her teacher as a shield Free-Fang hated herself and cursed the Cali cowards. The marksmen were using the trees and bushes and had numbers on their side. She had no desire to run and did not want to be thought of as a coward, but there was little point in all of them getting caught. “Let us out of here you bastards. Blame him for hiding that stupid deer.”
A thought came to Scratch-Ear. A reckless, highly dangerous thought that was insane to even conciser trying. But what choice did he have? The Cali would hunt them down, his guardian was swimming in a puddle of her own drool, and Free-Fang was tough but would fall to a single dart.
With options limited, Scratch-Ear leapt into the invisible hole in the sky.