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

Chapter 1: Mysteries

Glow in the cave, surrounding, luring me
Like pearls in the eyes of my beloved
The glow that enters my soul and sing
Unearthly light that knows the past
all the ancestors look down on me
when I pass the halls of Grot

“Oh!!” Sinre woke up with tremors as the dream hit her hard and left a delicate dew of sweat over her forehead. The gelfling maiden sat, still trembling, in her bed, trying to remind herself why the dream was so scary, but it already started to fade, shooed by her consciousness like a cauldron smoke waved away by the hand of her mother.


All she could remember were fangs. Long, sharp, and attached to something huge. Even if Sinre was just as scared a few seconds ago as was curious now, she would gladly repeat the dream, to find out what it was. Her mother always was saying that her dreams are prophetic. What if that could help her somehow in the future? Maybe a warning?


Though her “skills” seemed a bit off. She assumed that all divinings were a bit… chaotic. But her dreams were especially blurry and barely decipherable.


But this time, it was something more solid! She has to tell her mother! She probably was feeding Nurlocs, like every morning. 


Stretching her wings with half-content and half-annoyance, the gelflings started to brush her hair with numb moves, trying to remind herself what scared her that much she flinched in her sleep. The dream almost faded, leaving her confused. Was it as solid as she thought just a moment ago? Dreams can be deceiving and funny remarks of her mother about her skills may be as misleading as the sight of fangs seen through the eyes shut close.


Deciding she with meet with her mother, none the less, maybe just to reassure herself, she took a small wave with her wings, readying them for the upcoming day. The delicate air it brought to her face, made her smile.


Something hit her in the head. It was a delicate hit of a soft bag full of moss but made the girl sigh.


“Unin, you may come in,” she told, touching her brow delicately, to check if the bag indeed didn’t take any damage.


“Si!” the small lump of a child gelfling rushed through the veil and attacked her bed, trying to climb on it and reach her, stretching his small arms to her. Sinre laughed and lifting him, she placed him next to her – small brother immediately clutched at her sleeves, tugging.


“You and your moss bombs are very dangerous. Do not throw them recklessly, your opponents will know your secret weapon too early. You must keep them in secret until you grow up.”


“Mh. Hm.” Unin pulled her sleeve again and looked at her in awe and pride in his big, almost black eyes.


“Have you seen mother, little paladin?” Sinre smiled at him.


“In the field. Feeds the beasts.” Unin put a thumb in his mouth and started to suck.


“Do not do that, little brave brother mine, or I will need to put your hands into the mud” seeing how his eyes widen even more if that even possible, Sinre ruffled his thick mane. “You know mother doesn’t like when you do that.”


“Mmmmm mmmm…”


“Whimpering like a silly won’t help you too when Sarenja of the Grottan finds you with the thumb in your mouth,” Sinre said and stretching her wings after sleep, she stood up and fluttered from her bed with grace. Her wings were her pride, just as her braided hair, black as night and covered with beads, like a dark sky was sparkled by hundreds of stars. Grottans didn’t know well the Thra above them, but Kunjen, the Drenchen who lived in the caves of Grot for long enough, to paint the stars and sky and night at the walls of his habitation, taught her about the world. He was telling stories about Thra over their heads and even if other Grottan still didn’t get used to him, the old Drenchen knew many things which Sinre loved and was excited about. Like skeksis lords, or the Sifa traveling the seas. Other Grottan probably already learned about all of that, but for her, it was an adventure lived through in a small cave.


Unin didn’t try to toss more moss bombs so she flew again to her bed, lifting him and flying through the door, she left her room, holding her brother tightly and putting him again on the ground, into safety.


“I am going to find the mother. Guard our home well, little soldier.”


Sinre flew high, laughing delicately and dived down, feeling the air in her wings. Poor boys, who never felt that elation and happiness that flying was giving! If there was anything that the girl loved to do, it was diving between the rocks, choosing the most difficult paths. Her wings were carrying her where even older Grottan didn’t dare to fly or go. She was free, bold, and happy. What else than THIS could mean true life and joy?


She was known in the caves as the most impossible and difficult maiden to tame and she kept that in her heart, knowing that other Grottan don’t despise her for being reckless but rather are worried of her wellbeing. Though she always knew exactly what she was doing and her daring endeavors were more challenging herself rather than bothering and worrying the others. She liked risk. Maybe that was a flaw but the same feeling she had flying through the unknown passages, led her now, to tell about the dream she had just minutes ago.


The caves of Grot seemed to shine before her eyes. It was probably most beautiful place on Thra, she thought, as the moss glittered under her and wet rocks and passages were giving an unearthly light, allowing her to see in the deep halls of stone. 


It seemed that her family still slept. All besides Unin and her mother, who always was waking up early, making from feeding the animals a ritual. She was a loner, and no one knew why she always seemed sad and absent. At first, when Sinre was younger, she thought, that it’s because she didn’t behave well and she always was trying to comfort her, to no avail. Now she knew her mother simply didn’t enjoy the life here. She kept to reality by doing repeatable chores, but her mind was drifting in strange and wondrous places, where she REALLY wanted to be. Sinre tried to talk to her mother about it but Sarenja was shutting herself even before her own daughter. About what she dreamt about? What beautiful places she was passing in her mind? What was stinging her heart so bad and painfully that she always wore a dim and almost invisible smile of unknown longing on her face?


She was a  bit like Sinre, the girl thought suddenly. Not in her closure but she also dreamt a lot. Yet it didn’t make her sad, that was a thing that distinguished her from her mother.
Flying through the caves, the maid saw how life in the caves starts to wake up, slowly, like everything in Grot. She liked the peace but sometimes, just as her mother, she wanted to see something more than this. Something that will reflect her dreams and maybe put a meaning to them.


After a small search, she reached the group of Nurlocs. She saw she was right, her mother, Sarenja, was sitting on the small stone shelf and fed the big animals with the glow moss.


Fluttering wildly with her facet wings, Sinre moved there, announcing herself with a tiny and high pitched sound from her throat, which was specific to her.


“Mother… good morning. At the surface, three suns already raised their faces.”


And landing on the shelf, she sat next to Sarenja, moving with her feet above the group of Nurlocs.


As her mother didn’t say a word, Sinre kept waving her feet, observing the animals.


The lumps of glow moss were falling into their big mouths like into dark holes. It was somehow fascinating to track and soon the girl started to imagine all things the old Drenchen told her about life over their heads. The fauna and flora there seemed alien and dangerous but also beautiful, from what she could guess from the clumsy drawings the old gelfling was making. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad to just see them, at least once. Yet she knew she wasn’t allowed to leave the clan, even more, because of her need to see the world above.


“I saw yellow flowers catching their prey into the oval, toothed corollas…” the voice of her mother stirred her from her thoughts.

“Again a daydream, mom?”


“More than a daydream,” said Sarenja silently.


“Have you slept well?”


“No.”


That almost cut the talk yet Sinre was determined to tell her mother about the teeth in her dreams. Maybe Sarenja didn’t feel well today but only she could listen to her without prejudice about her odd imagination.


After all, they both dreamt.


“Mother, I saw something during sleep…”


Sarenja looked at her with an absent gaze.


“A monster. A monster with claws and fangs… it was attacking me and… there were also a few other gelflings… but not Grottan and not Drenchen… I don’t know what to think about it. It was a strange dream. Like everything was blurred but also clear and… ALIVE.”


Sarenja tossed a lump of glow moss to the Nurloc’s mouth. Sinre thought suddenly that they are so similar to Unin’s moss bombs.


“Talk to Kunjen. He knows. Much better than me.” she said after a few minutes of complete silence.


SInre scoffed. Like Suner wants to hear about her dreams. He was a gelfling so deeply rooted in a reality that one would need to pull him with a force to have just one tiny dream.


Sarenja didn’t tell anything more as she drowns in the vision of yellow carnivorous flowers. A bit annoyed, Sinre looked for a while at her mother, then, not having any signs she even sees her, she stretched her wings and flew down, making few circles, just to show off. If her mother thinks that the Drenchen may know something, why not to try?

Chapter 2: Dangerous Times

Stone, blood, wind, and bone
Forming a circle of existence
Prey runs and hunters hunt
The natural order in foundations
Primal strength in its roots

“Kin!” the middle-aged Gelfling was shouting, trying to find his son in the tangles of the woods, which were especially thick here. He wasn’t too far from the village but the danger always waited for those who felt too comfortable in this forest. The hunters could cope with several of them, but definitely not all, and Numran wasn’t a hunter but a tailor. All he needed, was getting too far from the village and being attacked by a wild animal. “Kin!”


He searched for his son for about an hour but it already felt like a whole day. Kinlan was reckless, to the verge of being stupid. He seemed to attract the troubles and no talks and guidance entered his hot head. Usually, when times were more stable, he was letting the boy run around the village like a crazy crawlie but now the days started to bring death and blood.


Where are you, you silly, insufferable boy?


He rather felt the presence than saw anyone. Something was moving in the corner of his eye. Numran wasn’t a good fighter but he could defend himself if that was necessary. Not that he hoped he would win with anything really deadly.


The bushes in the close sight on the left moved a little and the Gelfling reached slowly to his belt, to grab a dagger. It was a gift from his wife and he rarely used it. But he wouldn’t want to be easy prey.


It would be the best to run, of course, but some beasts were faster than an aged Gelfling, with a pain in his knees and anxiety for his son in his heart.


Slowly moving between the tree, the gelfling tried to find in which place the potential opponent may be. Was it a rakkida? It would be a hard battle if it was. And where on Thra is Kin?


Something jumped on the tree next to him and the leaves shook, a branch fell behind him. Numran turned fastly to the source of the sound, ready to fend himself.


An agile Gelfling boy made a somersault in the air and rolling on the ground, he sat just before the shocked elder.


“If you saw yourself right now, father. One could think you expected something hostile” grinned Kin, standing up and brushing his shirt and pants from the fallen leaves and dirt.


Numran couldn’t find words for a moment, not being able to just jump from total fright to peace, but as fast as he collected himself, he narrowed his brows in disapproval.


“You know you shouldn’t be there, jumping from tree to tree like a sanrak” he huffed. “We worried, it’s late and these woods are dangerous at night. Ugh, they are even dangerous by the day.”


“Don’t worry, father. I know this part of the forest like my own shirt. I grew up here, I was swinging on branches as a small child. I know when to run and when to charge.” smiled Kinlan and pointed at the dagger that Numran still held stretched and pointed at him. “Do you want to use it?”


“What… no. Eh, you only bring worry and dismay, boy” sighed his father and put a dagger in its place by the belt in the sheath. “Come home, your mother is terribly afraid. And made a soup, in case you wanted to eat something after you endangered us both.”


Kinlan giggled at that, knowing his father was indeed worried but not chastisement will await him after his endeavor. Numran and Vanya were probably the kindest people in Stone-in-the-Wood village.


The incoming night already was taking the woods under its wings. Nocturnal creatures were waking up, some eyes started to watch them as they were passing. Numran didn’t like it but Kinlan seemed to be in his element. The shine cones were guiding them home, the familiar sight which lightened their path and protected from small predators.


When they reached their destination, they saw lights of the village and Kin’s father grinned in relief.


“We weren’t as far as I thought… Thra blessed me, fear made me think we are much deeper in the woods ” he thought as the homely sight of the village welcomed them both. Kinlan started to walk faster and a big smile crept on his face “The boy loves the village, though is a bit wild… my fault that I wanted him to be carefree… now I pay its toll.”


Few Stonewood gelflings who enjoyed the company near the fountain, drinking beverage, waved to the pair, Kin wanted to join them but his father kept a hold on his arm and pulled after, making the gathered gelflings snort in repressed laughter.


Kin’s mother, Vanya, was waiting for them with hot soup, as promised. Kinlan jumped at the food like a savage rakkida. That made Vanya shake her head with slight amusement and dwindling worry.


“Where has he been, again?” she asked Numran when Kin ate. Her long dark hair fell on her face in thick tangles, making her look herself like a wildling.


“In the woods, nearby. Jumping around and making acrobatics. If you didn’t bear him, I would swear the boy is small sanrak or kuner.”


Vanya grimace became bitter.


“We need to stop his escapades. The animals started to be found near the village. DEAD animals and I don’t talk about peaceful mounders. Some were half eaten and some skinned. Some had their bones crushed into dust.”


Numran nodded.


“Maudra and the hunters have no reason to lie.”


‘We are scared that the madran may cross its territory. If yes, no one is safe. Please, talk to his common sense…”


“If he had one… I doubt he would listen. Madran is a legend among the young. They don’t remember attacks from when our elders were children. They don’t believe those beasts even exist. How can I  bring in our talks an animal that he doesn’t believe in?”


“At least keep an eye on him. At evenings. I will do it on my own when Kadrra won’t need me.”


“You must focus on her now” Numran’s gaze softened at the mention of their small toddler daughter. “But believe me, guarding Kinlan is like catching wind into an embrace.”

When they observed eating Kin, it dawned at them both that the danger is much greater than they suspected few moons ago. Madrans were rare and very brutal. They were basically cruel for simple cruelty. Fed on bones and flesh, nothing and no one really tried to battle those creatures, it was too risky and most of the olden days Stonewood gelflings were agreeing on not bothering the huge beasts. Yet sometimes the madrans were crossing their highly avoided territories out of lack of the meat to hunt. Then it was inevitable.


“I think I know what to do” Vanya rubbed her hands anxiously. “If he met Tarnal again, maybe he can turn his mind into the right track.”


“You don’t remember how he reacted at him ten trines ago” laughed her husband. His voice seemed amused yet his wrinkled face showed only worry. “He won’t enter that hut, even if you put a bowl full of niuk ale before him. And you know how he likes it.”


“Yet… it’s possibly the only way. Kin is the only one who goes that late and that far into the woods. Only talk with Tarnal may help here. He is the only one who fought madran and still lives. And the only one who managed to hunt it down.”


“And who paid a high price for his fame” Numran’s dark eyes were glowing in the dimly lit room.


“Yes. But how can a young learn about danger? Only by facing it or facing  the one who faced it for him.”


Vanya’s eyes were almost black in the light of the room. It looked slightly ominous, joined with her words. Her husband shook – from anxiety or cold – and nodded.


Kinlan finished his meal and now were cleaning after himself, he even started to sing an incoherent melody, which was recently popular among young gelflings. It may be shocking for him, but what to do where days get darker and the gelflings seem to start being a prey soon?

//   Article written by skekMal  //