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: The Promise of Fever

He knew that someone new entered the forest as soon as this happened. It was close, very close, while he prowled near the sifan coast, adding new bones to his collection. Later, polished, they will either adorn his cave or join the ones which were hanging by his belt, the parts of bones of most difficult prey.

The Sifan coast was not generous to him. Only smaller creatures crossed his path, which he considered as an insult to his skill. He hunted a few larger ones, for food. At least some of them tried to oppose it when he aimed them.

The scent of the new guest he would recognize even if the next three hundred trines passed and he had never seen her again during that time.

The seafarer.

His pupils dilated. He didn’t want any other skeksis near his hunting grounds and especially ON them. But as far as he knew the seafarer, she respected no bounds. Just like him.

They clashed, many times. They even hurt each other, in the past. Never considered her unworthy, though. She was fast, curious, deadly in battle, and with even deadlier clarity of mind.

And fascinating, even if their views on the world were totally different.

She was traveling the sea, cared for gelfling, protected sifan.

He hunted alone, and alone he was, never letting anyone pass through his walls of growls and unstretched talons and bared fangs.

He chuckled when he realized that she may search for him.

Why she would enter the forest, otherwise? Sifan should already know that he is among them, the particular blue-feathered arrows he used were found in one of them when he trespassed his hunting territory and disrupted the hunt.

She wanted revenge. Why not? Sifa were under her protection. If she tries to punish him… that idea was both funny and curious. And quite thrilling.
Her scent, the scent of the sea, dunkaman seagrass, and raw wood was near and she knew he knows. He would never allow anyone to come that close behind his back if he didn’t want to.

She was there. Her pierced snout, slightly reddish and her curled hair and feathers crowning her now bare head. How he missed this sight. Even if he usually was tearing a few of them from her back.

She didn’t speak, just stood there, one hand on the tree trunk, one leg bent. He slowly, almost animal-like, approached her, his minor arms outstretched dangerously.

“Sea is not enough for the likes of you, it seems,” he growled.

“The own hunting grounds not enough for you” she replied, her voice smooth like skekEkt’s velvet.

“Thra is my hunting ground.”

“As long as your arrows reach only animals, I agree.”

He came closer, now they were beak to beak, even if the Mariner was slightly higher.

“You knew I will sense you.”

“Yes, why I would come here if I didn’t know you will be at my will?”

“Heh.”

skekMal slightly leaned over her, she was not protesting.

“So. We fight over the gelfling? You fight over his dead body?”

“Ha. You know none of us would win. We are too similar, Hunter.”

He groaned in amusement.

“You are not changing. Not changing like the others, in the castle.”

“You too. The same unwashed wild child.”

Now his amused groan became laughter, his throat emitting a series of loud chuckles.

“I like that you don’t change, skekSa. How could I hunt on you again, if you would? No challenge if you weren’t a captain anymore.”

“So this is what you propose, skekMal?” her eyes were serious when she gazed at his face. “A challenge?”

“So you could avenge your Sifa. So you could punish me.”

skekSa seemed to mull over it only because he expected her to do so. She never refused a challenge. Not to him. He was only one who could give her any.

“Good. We will meet at the twilight of the dying sun. No weapons. Only me and you.”

“Obviously.” his eyes shone with eagerness at the upcoming battle of skills. skekSa. Always so ready to prove she is better than him. So eager to make him pay.

“Don’t back off. I will wait for you here.”

“I ever did?” his beak was now suddenly against hers and his tongue slid from his mouth and trailed a path over her tip. She didn’t move.

“Bold.”

He didn’t reply but parted fast and waved his tail like he was again two trines old and his first hunt was awaiting him.

“Bold.” he only said, his voice low.

She had to admit. He was. And she liked that in him. When he turned from her and disappeared among the trees, she couldn’t fathom how had come that she didn’t even think about the slain Sifa. Normally she would kill for that insult for her protected clan.

Maybe she will have a chance this night, she thought, knowing how untrue was her own mind.

When she was returning to the Sifan coastal village, he was observing her, her fluid moves, and her proudly worn crown of feathers.

How he missed that. How he missed her scent, her presence. Thra, how he missed having her.

So this very twilight. His senses already among the stars and stark naked night.

Chapter 2: The Smell of Blood

This very evening, when skekSa spread on her bed the most comfortable and dark clothing she ever had, her thoughts traveled around not only today’s meeting and chase of skills but also what led her to agree on that challenge.

When she first ventured on the sea, skekMal already left the castle. He was a free spirit and she never questioned his decision. She couldn’t find her place in the court, first choosing rivers, then moving into vast seas, where she felt home. The waves were like music and the coastal wind caressing her face was like the touch of a lover.

skekMal though was her weak point, so to speak.

They were too similar, too bound by differences from others, too FREE. They all were independent souls who wanted to go own path, not looking back, acting not reacting, always in motion.

And she remembers all too well his body pressed against her feathers, his weight and his wild hungry moves…

She eventually dressed in something far different from her captain’s clothing, an advantage that was maybe not giving her better chance but freedom that she needed in the forest she didn’t know as well as him.

She wasn’t sure, if what skekMal’s plans for her were matching what she planned for him. The doubt of unknown, giving her shivers, like the fresh breeze from the north. She indeed intended to punish him for killing the Sifa.

Yet she will make sure he will not end like this poor gelfling, who already returned to Thra, with her presence sending him into the embrace of peace.

skekMal can be sure she will give him a good punishment, as much as he will test her limits.

And…

… her beak opened in a sharp smile and she groaned, tasting already the sweet promise of victory…

… and sensing blood.

***

skekMal unfastened the weapons from his belt and his minor arms pulled out the smaller supporting blades off his back. His own weapon stock was limited only by his imagination and skill. He had skinning knives, rounded blades to fights with larger animals, dual swords, all sheathed in the leather concealments, ready to be freed and used.

He won’t be drawing them at her this night, though. This was only a showcase of strength, which she refused to give him. His best weapon was his claws, sharp talons, which brought death to many, and curved fangs. How many times did he bit through the throat of his dying prey, tasting the blood while it still kicked while the spirit was living its body?

He licked his beak as the memory of that.

Skeksis don’t dream. At least that was what the windbag of Ritual Master stated when he still listened to what he had to say. Alas, skekMal dreamed. Often, violently, waking up at night with fresh stinging on his tongue, like the blood still was on it and the dream prey wasn’t only a ghost or mirage.

But now, this was not a dream and if he draws blood from his prey, it will be only if she allows him.

skekMal knew no subtleties in daily life, living feral and oblivious on them, choosing to ignore the rules that were set by Aughra, skeksis, gelfling… all of them.

But deep in his stained heart, he wanted to impress the seafarer. He was respecting her by her choices and will to stay an individual.
He would not mind tearing a bit of feather that adorned her agile body, but only if she says delicious yes.

Leaving the armor and weapon stack in his camp, he leaped through the forest, weightless, like a blink of the gelfling eyes.

It was time the captain met the hunter. The sister moons slowly were creeping on the darkening sky while the dying sun was closing its crimson eyelids.

He breathed in the heavy and thick scent in, his breath raged from emotion…

… and sensed blood.

//   Article written by skekMal  //