The Hunt
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blood between my fingers
the eyes of the prey, closing in death
the sisters moons taking the colors

skekMal slowly slid the edge of the knife over the stone. He liked the sound of sharpening, it was raw and similar to the blade severing the bone. His fingers slowly pressed over the verge, trying it. Good. He fastened the last knife over his belt and standing from the rock, he waved with his tail, smelling in the morning air. She hid somewhere, yet he was sensing her scent, couldn’t be too far. “Ariya!” his low and deep voice pierced the air, as he sat again to check the belts and straps over his body. The animal he pursued was maybe two days before him, chased by its mating instincts but he could bet his own reputation that it won’t take him too long to cut the distance and add its skull to his collection of trophies.

Ariya’s ears pricked when she heard her name being called. She shifted herself so that she was leaning over the tree branch she was hiding behind to find where Hunter’s voice had come from. She was too cautious to go at once.

His eyes followed the place where her scent was more prominent. “If you won’t come here, I will go after you and you won’t like that” he growled impatiently. “You won’t hide, I sense you.”

Ariya gulped nervously, and after a moment of hesitation, climbed down the tree toward him. “S-sorry,” she mumbled.

His eyes glistened. She was perfect like that, fearing him. He liked that. That was one of the reasons why he kept her, after all. He pointed at the round bowl, filled with fresh spring water. “It’s time to make the use of typical gelfling skills.”

Ariya’s eyes flickered from the bowl then back to him. “What would you like me to do?” She asked. She already knew there were only a few uses for a bowl full of water but she didn’t want to make him angry so she figured she would ask.

He pulled the strange-looking herbs, red and seeming surrounded by fury coat. “Boil this.”

He handed her the herbs, looking just in her eyes. Then, he broke the eye contact and pulled another blade, much bigger than the previous one, and started to move the stone against the edge.

“As you wish,” Ariya dipped her head, taking the herbs and the bowl. She made a small fire, then put the contents in the bowl and placed it over the fire, heating it up.

skekMal was observing the gelfling girl from under a brow. She was useful, he had given that to her. From fear mostly, but it was also good.

After boiling the herbs, Ariya looked to skekMal and asked, “What would you like me to do with these?” She stirred the herbs with a stick.

“It’s against the inflammation. Used when someone is wounded, best cooked. I am going to a hunt” he stood up. “And you are going with me. It’s time to start training you. I am tired of supplying you.”

Ariya stood up, ears twitching. “T-take me with you?” She was a little… no, very nervous now. What if she messed something up? “I-I understand…” After the herbs cooled off she quickly put them inside a wooden flask for travel.

“Prepare yourself. We depart soon. Don’t twitch, I won’t take you against wild beasts without preparation” his hand landed against her chin and pulled up a bit. “I know you will learn fast, so far you were doing more than well.”

“Th-thank you,” she managed to say. “I hope I will be of good use.” Ariya was naturally clumsy after all, so she prayed it wouldn’t get in her way this time.

“Yes, useful, that is what I need from you” his eyes squinted. He took the flask from her and suddenly pushed a knife in her hand. “Now, you will learn how to skin the prey. I hunted this when you slept” he pointed at the dead flesh near the stone he was sitting on. “Tear the fur from it, I will watch. The first step to understanding life here.”

Ariya nodded and picked up the flesh. She tried to hold back a gag, not liking the sight or texture of the meat. She set it down on a hard surface and stuck the knife under the fur, saw a little bit off at an odd angle.

skekMal violently took her by the hand, gnarling in anger. “What’s that?? You even held a knife in your life?” he forced her back against his stomach and pressing her fingers around the blade, he growled. “Now. Cut it right, you won’t even be able to make a coat for yourself if you keep doing it that way” grunting, he pressed her hand harder against the handle.

“F-forgive me,” Ariya stuttered, wincing at the pressure on her hand. “I h-haven’t ever had to do something like this before, I’m sorry.” She cut it again, and this time managed to slice the fur cleanly off the flesh.

“Yes, that’s good… you please me” his hand closed harder against her smaller one. He huffed hot air against her neck. “Maybe you won’t be a complete failure at the hunt.”

Ariya shivered when he breathed on her neck. “I will not fail you, I promise,” she said, ears pinned back against her head.

“You have no choice. I will get rid of you, if you do” he snarled, his beak touching her neck now. Suddenly, he broke the contact and taking the meat she skinned, he took a raw bite. He tore a small portion from the slice and pushed before her mouth. “Eat. We have no time to prepare it, the animal I pursue is too far and I know it will be one of the best challenges of the last trine. I won’t lose it, because of you.”

Ariya took the meat and took a bite, wanting to hurl at the taste but managed to get it down. Gelfling didn’t eat meat but she had to, her stomach already protesting.

“I… understand.”

“Good, if you will be obedient, maybe some things won’t be that rough for you. The life here is hard but has merits” he patted her over the face, and grabbing her suddenly by the waist and pinning to his body, he pressed her bottom and taking all his weapon with him, he jumped high, not waiting until she prepares.

Ariya held onto him for dear life when he leaped. She still had the meat in her hand.

He growled loud, feeling as he takes a hold on him, his moves fast, and restless. “You like it don’t you” he managed to say between the jumps and curling his tail around her waist, acting more like an amused child than a dangerous predator he was, he placed her on his back. “Hold on tight, right there” and then, before she could scream, he jumped into the green void before them, catching the branch just in the right time to not fall into the gap.

Ariya held tightly onto the bones on his shoulders and back, letting out a peep of a scream. Whenever he carried her around like this it made her nauseous, but she had to admit… it was a little fun.

Leaping through the forest, after good two hours of run, he eventually slowed down, sniffing in the air and sensing it. The animal. Close. It may be a good way to teach that Vapra his ways, he was more and more amused by her willing denial. She liked it. “Get off me, I will teach you how to track.” he barked.

Ariya slid off his back like a ragdoll and had to catch herself on her feet, wobbling a little. Her arms and hands were sore from holding on so much.

“Maybe you want a bed and a servant to massage your feet?” he poked her with a finger, seeing her wobble. “Go clean yourself, you are all sweating.”

“I don’t like massages,” she mumbled. “I do just fine without a bed…” She wiped the sweat off her forehead and steadied herself so she didn’t swinged on her feet. She walked to a nearby pond and quickly splashed water over her face before returning to him.

“Very cautious” he pointed at her dirty shirt. “I like that. You will have to bath, though” he sniffed once more, locating the animal, he suspected it being simply a rakka. Even better. “Watch your feet. Look under them. You may destroy an animal’s path. Even the smallest sign can show you where it went. You have no sense like me, so you need to track to hunt it down.”

Ariya lifted her feet up and looked at the dirt below her. Then she looked around the ground around them. “There,” she said, pointing to some footprints several feet ahead of them.

skekMal looked that way “That is fargn. Not worthy of your blade,. Too little meat and sharp fur. Look more, go further, try to be one with the surroundings. FEEL IT.”

Ariya walked ahead of him, looking for larger footprints in the dirt. It wasn’t like she could smell the creature like skekMal said. She continued walking, eyeing the ground carefully. Then she spotted larger footprints. “Here.”

He walked to her, his eyes shining. “Good eye, gelfling. This is what we are looking for. Be silent and observant, be a huntress” He really liked all of this. She was smarter than he thought and was catching everything rather fast.

Ariya hid a small smile, feeling a sense of pride in finding the prints. “They lead this way,” she said, trekking off in the direction the prints went in. But then the prints stopped in front of a tree, and there were claw marks etched into the bark. “I think it went up here.”

skekMal grinned, his ear holes adjusting to the sound of the forest, hearing the movement in the three crowns. As usual, he stepped behind her, but this time, he didn’t hiss into her neck but closed her eyes with his hand and spoke “HEAR it. It won’t attack us, we are bigger and more armed, it hides before us. It will be an easy hunt, I will kill it eye blink.”

Ariya’s ears twitched to the sounds of the forest around them. Birds chirping, animals… and erratic breathing coming from above. “It’s somewhere in the trees,” she said quietly.

“Oh yes, it is” and he leaped fast, his claws outstretching, even his feet talons catching the trunk with full force. He didn’t need even his blades, fastly attacked the animal and sinking his teeth in its artery, he tore a flesh, making it yell in pain. Then, he took a knife and sank it in the meat, to tear it violently, the rakka made the last wail, the Hunter kicked its dead body, it fell just under Ariya’s feet.

Ariya gasped when the dead animal hit the floor just in front of her. She stood frozen at the sight.

skekMal landed on his fours before her, just over the dead rakka. He looked at her from under his mask and then, he growled deeply and his throat bubbled with gurgling laughter.

“That was… stunning,” Ariya spoke quietly. She had to admit it. How he moved so quickly and how he killed was amazing to one’s eye.

He stood slowly, his eyes glistening with amusement. “If you follow me everywhere when I say, you will see much more of it. It makes me HUNGRY. Let’s eat.”

“Would you like me to skin it for you?” The gelfling asked.

He laughed “You want to?” he closed his face to hers. “It will be much more bloody than previously, but I like the thought of your hands bathed in it.”

Ariya’s face heated up at how close he was. “If it pleases you,” she said. “I don’t mind getting my hands messy.”

He lifted the animal and tossed it on a rock, then gave her one of his skinning knives. “Do it, I will watch. Messy gelfling, heh.” and he sat on the grass, his eyes fixed on her in badly repressed curiosity.

Ariya began slicing the skin off of the meat, placing it to the side when she was done. It took a while because of the size of the rakka. Her hands and arms were caked in blood.

“I really like you like this” he huffed behind her back. “Pretty little Vapra, all stained in blood. I should give you such tasks more often.”

“Would you like me to cut it up as well?” She asked, looking back at him.

“Yes” his eyes were fixed on her, now showing much more than curiosity. “Do it.” the small lights in his pupils were flickering as he slowly started to stand up.

Ariya cut off the limbs of the rakka. She was getting used to this. She knew it was not usual, the meat, not the way of the gelfling kind, but this was how he lived. “I can start a fire to cook it over.”

She couldn’t fully decipher his expression. But she was almost sure she saw a pure desire in his eyes. He wanted to see her cutting the animal, he wanted her, in a wild animalistic way. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest when she was setting a bonfire. She didn’t know if to feel scared by that. Partially she knew he is violent, easy to anger, and dangerous. But at the same time, she felt a strange fascination for a creature that lived alone here, killed wildest animals, scarred, deadly. Even if that creature was unknown, a deep unknown sent with the wind to capture her to be his servant

They ate in silence, skekMal looking at her all the time, and despite eating, his expression showed the same hunger.

But he didn’t do anything. The fire dwindled and she wasn’t sure if it was even there. Maybe he just liked that she was obedient.

Foolish gelfling. He was a wild beast and you seek admiration in him? Your first meeting with someone outside vapran citadel and you already seek acceptance? Only because he teaches you and praises your speed, doesn’t mean he will not kill you. Scolding herself that way, she managed to calm down and again feel normal.

But the Hunter looked at her, still. Curiosity. Not hunger. Curiosity. He was testing her.

Test me, Hunter. Test me. You—-

She only heard a ragged breath he always emitting, a harsh breath of wilderness and her heart was beating like a hammer.

“I will not look at him now.”

I will not look.

But she was staring and she still didn’t know why he didn’t even react. Maybe there was something wrong with her. She felt it must be true. She was mad, delusional.

She hated him for that.

//   Article written by skekMal  //