Summer Growing, Stalker’s Day 19, Year of the Lion number 427; June 8, 1738 Agathon
A few days ago we left Blushik heading west toward a region known as Valleybluff. The road followed the river and passed through several small settlements. One night we stayed in a small roadside hostel, but the other nights were spent in the wagons on the road. The guards maintained watch through the night. Lena, Alani, myself, and the four others who traveled with us slept peacefully.
Alani had kept me busy practicing. While traveling, she would play music and we’d discuss what types of moves and maneuvers I’d use. It seemed she knew hundreds of different songs and wanted me to learn a different dance to go with each. When we stopped for meals, instead of helping with preparation and clean up, I was dancing. I needed a break! This was overwhelming!
It was on this day when Lena said, “I’d like a break from the music for just a couple hours when we stop for the evening meal. We are finally clear of civilization, so we’ll need to start hunting and foraging for food so that our supplies last longer. Tomorrow, we leave the riverside. In the morning, be sure all our water skins are full.”
“Perhaps I can hunt with the guards,” I suggested. Lena smiled at me. “Better yet, Kabize. The guard will hunt west, and you will go south. Even though there are six of them and one of you, something tells me you’ll do better.”
I don’t know if there was an implied challenge, but I took it that way. After we stopped, I collected only the bare minimum of supplies I needed for hunting: a knife, some rope, and my dragon card. There would still be another hour of daylight before the sun dipped behind the distant mountains. These rolling hills provided great cover with the brush and tall grass. Quietly, I slipped south from our camp and looked for the familiar traces of game animals. It didn’t take long, though I realized I had competition.
Staying low, I followed the other predator’s trail. While stealthy, it made no effort to hide its tracks. It’s just an animal, trying to live off the land as nature prescribed. I hold no animosity toward it, as we are kindred in a way. I will only kill it in self-defense.
Up ahead I saw it: a savanna cat. Light brown fur with black spots. Smaller than a tiger. This time of year it probably had kittens to feed somewhere. It was still unaware of me, or if it was, it gave no indication. Just a few yards ahead were several deer. A large, eight-point buck, a doe, and three fawns, were drinking from a small water hole. Yes. Take down the buck, leave the doe and the fawns, and there would be enough to share with the cat and plenty to bring back to the caravan.
I watched the cat circle the prey. He was good, no doubt. He stayed low and tread silently in the grass until he had a good vantage. Using his position to my advantage, I circled around the other side. My concern was the cat wouldn’t go after the buck. Rather, he’d go for one of the fawns – a much easier target. No. This wouldn’t do. Just as the cat crouched and readied, I sprung out of my hiding place, claws unsheathed, and pierced the buck through the neck. The other deer bolted.
The savanna cat hissed at me, knowing that there was no way it could catch the others. “Stay, friend. I will share,” I said in my own language. Quickly my knife was out as I cut away a strip of meat from the buck’s flank. The cat looked at me warily but accepted the gift and was swiftly gone. It only took me a few minutes to properly dress and truss the animal.
When I returned to camp, Lena and Alani smiled as I set my prize on the table. The guards hadn’t yet returned, but Lena said that not only would we have good, fresh meat to last several days, but the antlers and hide were worth a tidy sum of gold. My pay for a month had been earned, even if my dancing makes no money at all. Within the hour, the guards returned. They carried with them two giant river crabs and two jackrabbits. When they saw the buck carcass, they were obviously disappointed by their own efforts.
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