Hubby vs. Wifey Post #2: A predator and its prey
Our contest writing inspiration yesterday came from Patrick's Pinterest board. It hooked me immediately, and I really wish I knew who the artist is so I could give them credit. We were only going to write a page each, and we both got around three pages.
Enjoy, and vote for whose you liked best in the comments!
Britney's Story Starter:
The sckracken clamped its claws around the deer and lifted off with its powerful back legs into the cloudy sky. Its black wings rustled, and a back-sweep of air hit Kaia in the face where she crouched, frozen, her fingers clenching the bow and arrow, nocked at the ready. She yearned to loose the arrow, but knew that if she did, her hiding place in the sturdy elm tree would be revealed to the winged monster, and then her life would be forfeit. Perhaps someday she could take that risk and pull a glaive from her back and fight the beast – maybe even best it – and bring home the glorious tale, but for now, she was just Kaia, middle daughter of Thranre, and her father was counting on her to bring dinner home.
She sighed and put down her bow, watching the sckracken disappear toward the horizon. Her dinner plan had just flown into the mountains. Now she would need to scrounge some small game on her way home. She shaded her eyes and squinted. The sun had about two hours left before dusk, and her journey home was an hour long. She had already been cutting it close by stalking the deer: she would have had to clean it very quickly to strip the meat she needed before running home before sundown.
Now that she thought about it, it was probably better that she hadn’t claimed the stag. Her father would have been furious if she had arrived that late.
Not that he was overbearing; no, Kaia was realistic about the dangers. She wasn’t like her brother, Strorn, who was now a cripple because of the gamble he had played with dusk. She shivered. The monsters who crawled out of the ground and flew down from the sky at nightfall had haunted her dreams ever since her mother…
But she still couldn’t think about her mother.
Wending her way downhill, she put an arrow at the ready and scanned the tall grass for little ripples and scuffles that would give away a varmint’s position. The evening breeze bent the grass and played with her long, black hair. She ignored the tickle of an errant strand on her nose and pulled back the bowstring and – thwack – hit the rabbit through the head, killing it instantly. She grunted in satisfaction. Two more like that and they’d have a very good dinner after all. As she removed the arrow and cleaned it off, inspecting it for reuse, she thought of her older sister, Dansk, who couldn’t shoot rabbits for compassion on the sweet-looking animals. Kaia had no such reservations. She’d separated Dansk’s pet rabbits who were brawling one time, and the scars across her hand still shone bright white. She bagged the rabbit and continued, her eyes narrowed in concentration. A sudden flurry of wings and grass made her fall back and gasp in surprise: no matter how many times a quail flew up in front of her, it still made her heart beat an unsteady rhythm. No doubt Strorn would laugh uproariously at her if he’d seen, as he’d done before many times, but she never could see the quail coming in time to stop from falling over. Frustrated with herself, she shot, but the arrow went wide. She was stomping over to retrieve it when her foot landed in the hole.
Rather, her whole lower body landed in the hole. When she stepped down, she fell in a crevice up to her thighs.
She looked down in consternation and set aside her bow so she could heave herself out. Freed, she limped around the odd hole, studying it. Too big for any of her varmints, it looked as if it were a…
But surely not. Not out here on the plains.
She found her arrow and jogged on, casting a worried glance at the sun. Maybe she could make a decent stew from the rabbit and her siblings wouldn’t complain too much. Her foot came down on a rock, and she winced. Originally she hadn’t thought herself hurt when she fell, but her ankle was beginning to throb. All the more reason to hurry home, she thought. Rabbit stew it would be.
Just as she topped the hill before her village, she nabbed a sprig of wild rosemary for the stewpot.
The sun was almost to the shadowy top of the mountains when she hobbled through the opening of her father’s hut.
“Hee Kaia! You’re looking like me!” Strorn grinned as he expertly maneuvered over to her using his crutch. “Got any dinner? Or were youdinner?” He chortled to himself as she handed over the rabbit.
“Enough for stew,” she grimaced. “Here’s some rosemary for flavor.”
“We already had stew this week,” whined Lislee, her youngest sister. “Why couldn’t you get venison?”
“Lislee,” reproved Arrthro, their eldest brother. “Get the bowls.” He turned to Kaia with a gentle frown. “Hurt, sister? Sit down. Dansk,” he called toward the back of the tanned skin wall, “Kaia’s back, and -” he eyed Kaia’s leg expertly, “her ankle is turned. Bring the yarrow, please.”
Kaia’s tall, graceful sister appeared, her calf-length black hair swaying around her.
“Oh Kaia,” she said, sighing. “What did you do now?”
Kaia scowled at her. “What do you mean, now? It’s not as if I get hurt every other week.”
Dansk shook her head and started making the poultice as Arrthro massaged her foot and ankle lightly, feeling for swelling and hardness. “Your injuries are more than any of the rest of ours...except maybe Strorn’s.” She made a face at him, and he returned it gleefully.
“Don’t worry, Kaia,” he grinned. “You’ll never overtake my record.” He puffed his chest and began counting on his fingers. “Collarbone, thigh bone, upper arm, lower arm, three toes, nose…”
Lislee sighed loudly. “Can we start the stew? I’m hungry.”
Strorn continued. “Jaw, finger – yes, Lislee, I’m starting the fire now – foot, ankle…”
Dansk rolled her eyes. “We remember, Strorn.”
“And let us not forget,” he waved his hand dramatically and pointed at his leg, which was missing from the knee down, “half my leg.”
Kaia rubbed her ankle. “We’re not likely to forget, Strorn. And Dansk, it’s just my ankle. It’ll be better tomorrow.”
Dansk clucked. “If you stay off it, it might. Be careful.” She pulled Kaia’s leather sandals off and began applying the poultice.
Kaia started to protest, but Arrthro waved her down. “Better to rest for a while than have a permanent injury, Kaia.”
“Like mine!” Strorn was not one to let a conversation continue without his input.
“Yes, missing a leg is quite permanent,” Kaia said waspishly. She immediately felt ashamed, but Strorn nodded enthusiastically.
“Don’t you forget it!”
“Strorn,” whined Lislee, “the stew is burning.”
Arrthro wound the leather strips around her foot, ankle, and calf and tied them. “There you are. Put that up, and keep it still tonight.”
“Where’s Father?” Dansk said, getting to her feet and wiping her hands clean.
“Here,” boomed a voice from the opening.
Lislee raced to the tall figure and embraced his legs. “Father! We’re having stew for dinner, and I’m helping!”
“Well done, young one,” he answered in a deep, tired voice and bent to stroke her head.
“Strorn would have burned it all up,” she said importantly, “but I saved it. I knew you needed dinner, Father.”
“I’m sure you saved it just for me,” he said. His kind, dark eyes smiled at each of them in turn and finally rested on Kaia where they frowned in concern. “And what happened to you, Little Stork?” he asked, using the nickname he’d given her when she had just begun toddling around on her skinny, long legs – the long, skinny legs she’d never outgrown, much to her chagrin.
“It’s fine, Father,” she said, drawing her leg back, but Arrthro captured her foot and held it still.
“It’s sprained,” he said, looking up anxiously at their father, “but not broken, I don’t think. I checked.”
“Thank you, son,” Thranre said. “Then I need not do so myself.”
Arrthro turned slightly red at the compliment.
“So I’ll be able to hunt tomorrow,” Kaia said. “Since it’s not broken.”
Thranre turned to her again. “Not so, daughter. But we’ll discuss that later. For now I see that Lislee and Strorn have prepared an excellent dinner for us, and we must not keep them waiting.”
Lislee’s stomach growled loudly, and Dansk and Strorn laughed.
“Come now,” Thranre said. “Let us be seated.” He gestured to the middle of the room, and they all lowered themselves to the ground in a circle on the soft bear hide that covered the ground. Thranre helped Kaia scooch to her spot and propped up her foot on a pillow. Lislee handed them bowls laden with sweet-smelling, thick stew.
Thranre nodded to Arrthro who gestured to them to take each other’s hands and then raised his face and said solemnly, “We give thanks to you, Great One, for the food You have provided for us this day. Please heal our sister and give us all another day to live in Your presence.”
“Thank You,” they all repeated and then took up their bowls and began eating.
Kaia debated for moment internally and then plunged in. “Father, I saw a sckracken today.”
He put down his bowl and regarded her gravely. “Where?”
She looked hastily down at her stew. “At the last meadow. It took a deer I was tracking.”
Thranre sighed. “That’s closer than I’d like.” He looked at her in concern. “And before dusk?”
“I don’t like that,” he murmured.
Lislee put down her empty bowl and stared at him. “Father, will the sckracken come get us?” she asked in her high voice.
He reached over and patted her reassuringly on the leg. “No, young one. Sckracken have not attacked a village in many hundreds of years. And even then, they were desperately hungry. No, they will not come here. And Kaia and Arrthro will be very, very careful when they hunt away from the village.” His eyes met both of theirs. They nodded silently.
Lislee looked satisfied. “Strorn,” she said plaintively, “I want more.” She held out her bowl.
“Then you shall have it,” he said gallantly, and crawled to the pot resting on embers to refill it.
Shall I continue this and make a novel out of it? I'm a bit tempted...let me know in the comments.
Skyrn Bloodbone waited patiently for his prey crouched in the tall, dying grass of the Allrune plains. Byron Gaelennson, the lord of Alderheim, had hired Skyrn to hunt down and destroy a ravenous beast that had been plaguing the local countryside for the past few months. Frostfall was coming early this year and the farmers outside the city gates were having trouble with their crops. Now cattle were disappearing daily and things were looking grim for the Lord’s subjects both in and outside of the city proper.
A thick man with dark, matted hair on his face and the top of his head crawled up wearily beside Skyrn. “Ain’t seen nothin’ but some field deer. ‘Bout you?” Skyrn continued scanning the grasslands and nearby tree line of Splinterwood forest in silence. The man sniffled, the end of his nose red from the early morning cold, and huffed a thick puff of warm air into his exposed hands. “We were sent ‘ere for a beast, yeah?” he continued cutting to the point, “there’s nothin’ out ‘ere an’ the men are wantin’ for a proper meal. What’s the plan then?”
Skyrn took a moment to compose himself and choose his words carefully for this dullard he had been forced into hiring. Bry and his men were of a local guild – of sorts – that lent their blades on odd jobs that were too menial for the crownsmen to handle, but too challenging for commoners. They would do the job as best they could, get paid, and use the coin on mead, women, and to mend their wounds, given they were serious enough for professional attention. When Skyrn had arrived at Castle Altwürd to accept the commission from Lord Gaelennson, he was rather displeased to discover Bry and his band of drunken misfits had already been hired to accompany him on the hunt. When Skyrn had been sent by the Elder Assembly three weeks ago to attend to this proposition, he had not been made aware he would be working with some of the local bruisers, so this had come as a bit of a surprise.
He did not like surprises.
Skyrn took a slow, deep breath but did not turn to Bry instead keeping his eyes level with the horizon. “This beast hunts cattle and is large enough to take its prey without leaving much, if any, remains or signs of a struggle. We can thereby assume it is a large predator. Cattle is becoming scarce and what is left is being kept indoors due to these attacks. We can now assume that the beast is going for secondary prey; not as large, but suitable in the circumstances. Besides the cattle, these herds of field deer are the next largest source of meat for a hundred miles. Also considering the beast has not been seen as of yet, we can assume it does not spend a great deal of time on the plains as that would provide ample opportunity for a beast large enough to hunt cattle to be seen. The field before us is the closest point between Alderheim and Splinterwood forests, the only location within severalhundred miles suitable to hide a creature of this assumed size.” Here Skyrn glanced sideways at Bry to see if anything he had said had made any impact. As expected, it hadn’t. Skyrn continued, “As such, this is the best point to wait for the creature to make its appearance. Cattle often stay together for warmth at night but begin to spread out as the sun rises early in the morning. I’m making an assumption that the beast uses the cover of the morning fog to keep itself hidden and picks off stragglers sometimes before the fourth hour of daylight.” Not hearing any response or movement from Bry, Skyrn added, “if we see nothing in an hour, we head back to Alderheim.”
“Right. Good.” Bry scooted back from Skyrn. “I’ll tell the men.” He wandered off behind Skyrn toward where the rest of the hired “help” was waiting at the base of a dried riverbed.
Skyrn gathered his thoughts and continued his watch of the plains and a small herd of field deer he had kept his eye on for the last few hours. Another fifteen minutes passed without any sound other than a few isolated bird cries when suddenly, Skyrn felt a tingle at the base of his skull. The hairs on his neck and arms raised and his pupils grew. He could feel it…
He was just about to turn and signal his men when just then, a giant, horrid creature burst from the treetops, streaked through the sky, and landed with incredible force in the middle of the herd of field deer instantly killing two of them under its powerful hind legs. Skyrn felt a grimace creep across his face as he recognized the identity of the beast that had been harassing the farms of Alderheim. He was hoping for a direwolf, even an owlbear would have been welcome. Instead, he had been called in, unknowingly, to deal with a terchryan.
In his studies, Skyrn had heard of chimeras, but he had never been unfortunate enough to cross one in the wild. Most chimeras had the head of a goat on the body of a lion with a serpent for a tail. These abominations were created as guard dogs by and for Asmodeus, Dark Lord of the Netherverse. Chimera primus, as they were designated by the Royal Academy of the Parasciences, were beasts that appeared naturally near void portals or places with residual corruption from the Daemon wars of the second age. A terchryan however, was a product of a dark sorcerer, usually on a quest to find the key to immortality or just created as a sick game or experiment. Terchryan were signs of powerful, taboo rituals that combined the bodies and souls of a wolf and crow with that of a young child. As such, the beast had the basic form of a wolf, sleek with powerful hind legs; the head, black wings, and feet of a crow with long, finger-like talons on all four feet; and the voice, intellect, and an extra pair of two arms like a child centered in the from behind the shoulders of the forelegs. The sight was as hideous as it was dangerous.
Having to work with unskilled and undisciplined fighters was upsetting, but not altogether unusual for Skyrn. Meeting a terchryan without warning or proper preparation was a surprise he had never hoped to come across.
Abandoning stealth in favor for aggression, Skyrn called out to the men behind him to take up arms and launch a volley of arrows at the creature before them. Some of the men instinctually took notched arrows and bolts into their longbows and crossbows, but some seemed to be stunned by the presence of such an unspeakable horror. Several of the arrows found their mark in the belly and side of the terchryan. However, catching sight of the men, the creature unfolded one of its wings and covered itself causing the next wave to bounce harmlessly off its unnatural feathered armor.
The terchryan gave out a disturbing scream somewhere between an angered child and dying bird and took up one of the deer carcasses in its human-like arms. Skyrn saw its hind legs flex and, instinctually knowing it was about to take flight, cast a quickening spell on himself and dashed toward the beast at a dizzying speed. The terchryan could not react in time before Skyrn drew his longsword from his back and put a deep gash into the shoulder joint of the beast’s right wing. Unable to retreat into the air, the terchryan took a swipe at Skyrn as he passed, but he was too quick diving over the creature’s claws and tumbling to a battle stance on its far side. Before the terchryan could prepare, Skyrn took another series of swipes and left deep, bleeding wounds in the beast’s hind legs and underbelly. The cuts were profound, but not nearly as effective as they should have been. Something was unnatural about the fortitude of this creature.
The men had gathered themselves and were now approaching Skyrn and the terchryan, but Skyrn knew that if they became involved, it would only slow him down, and they would be lost. Reaching to his belt, Skyrn drew a vial of holy water he normally carried for witches and the undead. It may not have the same effect as it would against those unholy horrors, but it couldn’t hurt. Skyrn shattered the vial against the side of his blade which burst into flame as he leapt for another attack.
In the rush of battle, he had miscalculated the power of his haste spell and by this time, it had worn off. The terchryan, seeing its opportunity, seized it, and caught Skyrn in its beak. Skyrn proved too weak to grapple directly with the beast and was swallowed whole, a lump slowly sliding down the elongated throat of the creature. As the terchryan turned to face the oncoming backup, the lump stopped midway down its neck. The beast coughed with a wretched, coarse hacking. With a sudden burst of blood and saliva, Skyrn’s blade pierced through the beast’s throat and an arc of flame spun round cleaving the terchryan’s head off its body. The head fell and hit the ground, its pitch black eyes wide and staring. The body collapsed and twitched several times spurting blood into a steaming pool on the ground before growing still. Skyrn stood beside the body, covered from head to foot in slime and blood, his sword crackling as the holy flame burnt off the remainders of what it had just severed.
The charging men slowed to a standstill staring in disbelief. Skyrn reached down and took hold of the terchryan’s head and began dragging it back in the direction of Alderheim. He spat out with barely concealed indignation as he passed, “Go back to your breakfast, boys. The hunt’s over.”
Don't forget to vote in the comments! Hubby (Skyrn's story) or Wifey (Kaia's story)?