Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tonight, I Hunt

Note: Here's a new short story. I hope you like it. 

I am O-Bo. I am what the God made me. I am the largest and strongest of all those who dwell in the highlands. Tonight, I hunt.

Mother says to be careful when I hunt. She used to bring me my food, but now I must hunt, for her bones creak and her skin sags. Her fangs have fallen out. She will not hunt, but must lie upon her bed of bright stones. She will soon be gone and stand before the God and it will ask her if she has reaped a good harvest of flesh, and if she has not, she will be cast out of the Hunting Grounds, and be no more. So will it be with me, should I fail the hunger inside me—because the God put it there, and it is my entire purpose.

I creep into the darkness and it hides me, but the Night Face shines above, so that I may see by its dim light. The God put the Night Face there for such as I, who hate the Day Face and must go abroad by night. The God pushes aside the brambly hedges as I pass. I seek the lair of the monsters, who are fat and fleshy. I do not wish to enter their lair, only to spy upon it and catch one or two if they stray from their shelter. They will be good eating, and I will bring one to Mother, though she says her time has come to face the God and she will not eat it.

The lair of the monsters is far below the rocky land where Mother and I live. At the hedge-edge that rings the hill-country I see the hateful orange lights of the monsters' flames. They forge their bright claws in hot fires. These claws they hold in great esteem. I have hidden outside their flimsy wooden gates and watched. Silver water turns to sharp claws, and the monsters hammer the claws until they are long and terrible. Sometimes the monster with the red robe speaks foul words to the sword, while another punches queer signs into the still-shining claw as it cools. Mother says those claws are to be feared. The monsters put evil spirits into such claws. The spirits enter the monsters who wield the claws. The monsters are thus emboldened to hunt our kind, for they hate the God and everything it has made.

I smell the carcass just before I smell the wolves that surround it. I stomp heavily as I follow the scent, to frighten the wolves away. They too venerate the God and it has put fear of my kind into them. I hear them scatter through the brush, seeking prey closer to the monster lair in the valley below. There the monsters gather large pens of wild creatures, which they bend to their will to do their work, or which they fatten for the slaughter, spoiling the meat with their small flames.

The carcass lies twisted beneath an ancient oak. It is a monster, encased in hard gray skin. It is folded back upon itself. Did it climb the tree? Did the oak throw it out? It is easy to crack the skin and scoop out the meat inside. It has been here for days and the mung is suckable. I enjoy this before I grind through the pungent flesh and snap tiny bones with my teeth.

Then I notice the bright, hard claw that lies upright behind a clump of thick bushes. Its point pierces the ground. I do not think it was put here by design, but dropped by the monster when the oak ousted it from its perch. The handle catches a ray from the Night Face and for a moment, gleams like the bright stones of Mother's bed. I have fangs in my mouth. They are sharp. I have small black claws on my digits. They are sharper still. But the monster-claw, long and gleaming, bound by its handle of gold, is even sharper. This much is clear from the way the rays of the Night Face play across its surface. There, I see the monster-signs hammered into the claw. If its spirit makes a monster more powerful, if its spirit hates the God that made me, I will take this thing and break it upon my knee.

I reach and grasp it. It is small and awkward in my big hands. Perhaps I should not snap or shatter it. Perhaps I could use it. If the monsters make such things to slay such as I, then how much more so would it slay them? I can eat my fill, and Mother too, and perhaps she will rise from her bed of bright stones. Perhaps all will be as it once was, in the days when the God was pleased and all was right with the land, before the monsters came with their sun-flames and sharp claws, to rip up the trees, to tear the soil, and to fill the night with their blasphemies against all that the God has made.

Now, I can feel that the claw is less awkward in my hand, as if it has grown to fit it. Or does my hand shrink? Do I shrink? Do the rays of the Night Face grow darker? Mother? Where is O-Bo?

I am Varakian, slayer of monsters. I am what this blade makes me. Tonight, I hunt. It is my entire purpose. With this sword, forged under the auspices of the Priest of the New God, inscribed with the Words of Power, I seek out the lair of the ogre queen, who legend says lies upon a couch of jewels. I shall slay her, thus ridding the valley of her evil. Men say she is guarded by a hideous son, a repugnant thing, a monster. And yet, the New God speaks clearly to me, and I understand, without knowing or caring why, that as long as I hold this spirit-forged blade, I have nothing to fear from the ogre-queen's son.

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