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 eyed skekEkt as he entered his forest. He had given that to him, he was brave. This forest, aside from him, who of course couldn’t kill the Ornamentalist, was filled with beasts that by the scent of skeksis, would go insane.

And again, some because they simply liked meat. And some because they all smelled like him.

Hidden in the canopy of leaves, his pupils dilated, tail and secondary arms holding to a tree, as he looked as evidently unsure – scared, would be a better world – skekEkt roams through the forest.

Why?

He was looking for him, but why he left the safety of the castle, to meet him exactly here, where everything could be going against him?

And where he was the ruler of life and death?

Before skekEkt could go foolishly even deeper into the wilderness and lose head, he slowly, carefully, descended from the tree and landed just before the lost skeksis.

He muffled a chuckle, when Ornamentalist didn’t even hear him, that was he occupied by looking forth and avoiding danger, while the danger usually used to attack from behind.

“Casually visiting? Or invading my territory?” his voice smooth at one of the satin scarfs the castle artist used to wore.

skekEkt froze in the place, to slowly turn his head and eventually whole body to face him. He was already at his mercy, skekMal thought. Wise choice to not start talking.

skekMal stood at his full height, which could amuse anyone looking at them two, as skekEkt was taller than the Hunter. But everyone who knew the skeksis well, would not do that mistake.

“Invading my territory…?” he repeated. skekEkt sighed and then spoke, his voice assured and calm like he was doing such deals every night.

“You know that I would never,” he said. “Merely searching for you. It was a long time since you visited the castle and we all—“

“Stop idle chattering and get to the point” cut the Hunter, his masked beak getting closer to skekEkt’s neck as he sniffed him. “You smell of the kitchen.”

“Eh… pardon me?” skekEkt was evidently startled, not to say insulted. “I use only perfumes I make myself and never stain myself during eating. You are– ah.”

skekMal growled in approval.

“This forest never was a good place for the likes of you. Why you didn’t use the horn?”

“Couldn’t wait!” he got nervous. “And you could simply ignore it, like many times lately. Even when our Emperor…”

“Nah” skekMal started to circle skekEkt, his eyes always set on him.

“Hmmm?”

“I would certainly ignore it.”

“You see? But… why? skekMal, if you knew how the Emperor acts lately. He needs you. He needs your company, or we are just pawns in his more dangerous game!”

skekMal stood bhind the Ornamentalist, his breath hitching over the castle skeksis’ neck.

“You never mention me and skekSo again. I return when I want and how I want. You would not even know if I were visiting him, even if I was there three times at night. We are not young anymore, skekEkt.”

The skeksis deflated. skekMal definitely will refuse him, just as he refuses skekAyuk every time he asks. The Hunter got bitter and no one knew what happened between him and Emperor. IF anything happened.

“I– need… I have a request, Hunter” skekEkt decided to get straight down to business, that was better than going in circles, just as skekMal was doing a few seconds ago.

“Something you can’t get yourself… ” he still was after him and that was unnerving, but skekEkt decided to suffer it, only to get what he wanted.

“I need you… to hunt something for me.”

A growl, low, dangerous, behind him. But he didn’t turn back.

“I need something… eh… tasty. And rare. Something that will make the others think that there is no better taste in whole Thra.”

skekEkt heard a chuckle, amused one.

“For the… kitchen, Ornamentalist. It’s a wise and valid request. I never refuse to hunt to fill someone’s stomach. And you should remember, I was then, with you, when we were four trines old.”

skekEkt inhaled to thank the Hunter, that he agreed so easily, but then a sharp taloned hand turned him back and now he was looking just into masked face of skekMal.

“But you need to return the favor. In this forest, nothing goes for free, even life. Consider it a token… for the dead ones.”

“You want me to—“

“Sew. This is what you do. This is what you are good at and the only thing I would require from you, specifically.

The Ornamentalist huffed in relief. That he could do.

“You need new clothes, Hunter? That can be arranged. Working in bones, leather, and fur is not that easy but for me, nothing is impossible.”

skekMal’s expression couldn’t show what he thinks, as the mask concealed his face but his voice was filled with amusement when he spoke.

“Not for me.”

“Oh?”

“That would be easy, don’t you think? I want you to sew something for urVa.”

The Ornamentalist squeaked and his hands involuntarily closed around his beak, to not speak out something foolish. UrVa? skekMal’s counterpart? But… they, skeksis, hated the urRu! He would never want to see urUtt again in his life and he was sure that urUtt thinks the same about him, even if he would never admit it before anyone.

“F-o-r… urVa?”

“Did I stammer?”

skekEkt felt a rough rush of blood to his cheeks. How close was skekMal to his urRu if he went with such a request? What… they knew about each other? And… what urVa knew about them, the castle inhabitants?

“Eh… well, yes… I mean… yes… but… I have never sewed for an urRu! I don’t know their measures, their build! It would need days and days of research to delve into the library and start even thinking of sewing anything for someone who we barely know!”

skekMal growled in anger and turned back from him violently, but seeing that skekEkt managed to squeak again and stop him when he was about to leap into darkness.

“Wait! Wait… you probably know him better than me. Please, Hunter.”

skekMal stopped in the mid-jump.

“I will… I will do that.

A low growl.

“I will sew for the urRu.”

It was defiling, wrong. But wasn’t skekMal everything they feared now?

//   Article written by skekMal  //