By Scott, 2002
The hunter crept through the darkness, keen eyes cutting through the shadows of the forest, ears and nose strained to catch sign of prey. The hunter’s nose twitched as the night breeze brought it the scent of ravvit. Growling low in his throat, his head swiveled in the direction of the smell. Slowly, quietly, with thoughts of fresh meat and hot blood, the hunter closed on his target.
The scent brought the hunter to a large tree. Nestled in a fork of the tree’s exposed roots, the ravvit sat nervously gnawing on a leafy shoot. It knew there were hunters about but didn’t know how close one actually was. It was over in moments – the hunter slunk into position before coiling in on itself, then sprung, grasping the ravvit by the leg before tearing out its throat. The ravvit’s scream ended as a bloody gurgle.
A howling ripped through the air, bringing the hunter’s head up. A wolf pack. Faint memories stirred within the hunter’s mind but fear of being caught by the pack forced the memories down as unnecessary to survival. It was a stranger in this pack’s territory and knew it would be killed if found. Swiftly gathering the remains of its meal, the hunter fled.
The sun was rising when the hunter finally stopped running, is breath coming in ragged gasps as his lungs greedily drank in the cool morning air. It rested by a large rock outcropping and as his breathing slowed, the hunter caught new odors; he was at the edge of the wolfpack’s hunting grounds. The rock he rested under had been marked, but there was something else, something familiar. Slowly, carefully, the hunter stood knowing he risked being seen by exposing himself like this but the familiar smell would not allow him to rest. Quickly he scrambled to the top of the rock and breathed deep. There it was again! Faint, old. The hunter lowered his head, trying to find the scent and put to rest the question of its familiarity. He found the scent on a nearby bush, mingled in with the wolf-smell, a scent that brought memories of golden hair and grey eyes, eyes that went on for eternity.
The hunter growled aloud and shook his head. It had to follow this track, regardless of how old. There was something safe in that smell; a safety that outweighed the threat from a wolfpack. The hunter began loping off into the woods. There were other scents mingled with the wolf and the golden hair, but they were unimportant. The hunter ran following the trail until, exhausted, he fell asleep under a bush as the moons rose. As he slept, dreams came swimming from the fog of the hunter’s mind – dreams that quickly twisted to nightmarish memories……
The hunter, trapped in a cage as the cruel ones tormented him with fire, burning him as he tried to escape the heat and searing pain; cutting him with their weapons of bone and antler as limbs bled from being bound by pricker vines. Their faces leered at him as they kicked him until ribs broke and the blood filled his lungs, causing the hunter to choke and vomit. The hunter had no idea how long the cruel ones had him, sunrises came and went before blurring into a dark painting of pain and hunger. Then, at some point, even the sunrises became nothing; the hunter retreated further into himself to escape the pain until there was nothing left.
The hunter woke to the howling of the pack, his heart racing in fear of the dreams and the wolves. Frantically he scrabbled out from under the bush only to be stopped again by the golden hair scent.
He was torn. The pack was close, too close, their scent brought to him on the night wind. But the scent – golden hair and grey eyes – was a safe place, and the draw of it was too strong. Carefully the hunter started to follow the trail once more.
The smell of blood and fear reached his nose just as the sound of something large crashing through the brush reached his ears. A bleeding branchhorn, its haunches scored deep by fang and claw, broke through the trees, its eyes not seeing the hunter in its panic. Quickly the hunter twisted himself from the beast’s path as something small and impossibly fast went by the branchhorn to strike the hunter, knocking him off his feet and sending a flash of burning pain blossoming out from his stomach. Fighting against the encroaching darkness brought on by the pain, the hunter stumbled blindly to his feet.
Then through the pain and the smell of his own blood, the hunter once more could smell that familiar scent, impossibly close. Breathing the smell in calmed him a little, even the pain dulled. Closing his eyes, the hunter sank down and gave himself to the darkness as the smell of safety surrounded him, holding him tight as it whispered to him – a soothing sound that eased him into nothingness…
To be continued