Revisionary work is a great process for improving your work, as well as discovering your voice and your strengths. Both through reading the works of other students and through submitting my own for review, I gained a greater understanding of how storytelling in fiction can be done in a way that entertains, tantalizes the mind, and enriches the readers experience. One struggle I have had with my own writing is moralizing on my stories. From pointers given by my fellow writers, Professor and author Erin Saldin, and through my own retrospective after having experimented with this piece, I believe I have found a better balance in open endedness in my stories, as well as a good amount of weaving in meaning and moral to my work. It is my belief that this revision of “The Guild of the Hunter God” shows that application, and does it well.
Summers were always so hot in Lestmarsh. The air hung thick and wet, dotted with clouds of mosquitos and pollen wafting from the wetlands through the cypress woods. Jesri swatted at them absentmindedly as he leaned against a ruined marker off the side of the ancient road. The wood of the post had rotted from centuries of exposure to the harsh rains of the southernmost province of Silg, yet the years had also tempered it, hardened it, petrified it into a marker which would outlast kingdoms. He’d taken this road many times, on the huntsman’s trail between the neighboring province of Menganny and the fur trapper’s bazaar in the port town of The Thumb. The road was once a great thoroughfare of silks and spices from the far eastern reaches of Udai, but those days were long before his time, before his father Betor’s time even.
Jesri looked to the sun and the shadows; it was about three hours past noon now, and he was told to meet the officiator at one hour past. With a deep sigh he allowed his thoughts to drift backward in time, to before Betor’s death, to the first hunts they shared beneath the sickle moon. Betor came from a long line of hunters, stretching back before king Silgis united the lands under his name. Jesri had always been a part of his father’s work as a hunter, plucking feathers and scrubbing hides. No hunter ever hunts alone, Betor would often say to him, although Jesri was ten before his father fitted with his first bow and a pair of huntsman’s breeches. Their first game was small, pheasant and plain’s hare, yet to Jesri it the most supernal experience of his life. Betor was so proud; his boy had heard the call of the hunt.
It was only a year later they left their meager home to join a field party in pursuit of mastodon, a six month journey with fourteen other hunters. The flesh and bones of mastodons constituted a major part of the Silgen diet and manufacturing, every part of the creatures having great value from leather to meat to ivory. Betor and Jesri lived in isolation in the Menganny wilds, and aside from the infrequent trips his father made to the nearby villages to sell his fur trappings Jesri had spent almost no time with any other human soul. The hunting party accepted them quickly as they made their preparations for the long journey, following the migratory path of the great beasts through Lestmarsh, where they would drop their calves.
In the humid lowlands they stalked the creatures as one great whole, everyone in their party following the guidance of their head huntsman Antha. She was weathered in years from the harsh wilds of Silg, with a shock of straw white hair tightly braided upon her head. Jesri never knew his mother, she had died in labor. Antha was not a person who one might view as motherly, yet to Jesri, she was the closest he ever came. She knew the passage of the mastodons better than any other hunter, and their behavior. They followed the herd at a great distance, watching from afar, as Antha determined which beasts they would capture, and when, and where. She indicated a middling aged male, with a streak of gray fur along the trunk as their first mark and recorded her other plans in her leather bound journal.
It was at the edge of the wetland, where the mountain’s foot peaked from the soft peat dotted with evergreen furs, that the hunting party sprang their first attack. The gray trunked mastodon was quickly separated from his herd as the hunters erupted from their blinds with torches and spears, driving him into the low hill crevices of the mountain’s foot. Once there cornered, the arduous and long process of bringing him down began. Jesri and two other young hunters were sent to the cliff edge to rain down arrows with a simple yet potent toxin lacing their heads. The others carefully and methodically pierced the beast with their spears along the throat and forelegs, where its arteries were most exposed. After an hour, the beast finally succumbed, and knelt on the thick, blood wet grass as if to sleep, a final shuddering breath escaping its mighty lungs as the crimson sunset reflected across the mackerel sky.
In pursuit of those great, wild beasts, Betor showed him the way of the spear and taught him to skin and cure hides, no small feat when dealing with the bodies of the ruddy-haired, tusked behemoths. They would cut the skin into great squares, about the length and width of a man before using the scrambled brain to wash the wet undersides and then bind them into stacks of thirty, tied with sinew. Antha led the way in curing the meat, smoked over flames of alder wood. Once finished, it was then similarly bound, wrapped in maple bark and slathered in lard, stacked onto the wagon. The bones, too, were polished and carefully stored, ready to sell when the hunt season was concluded. Then, the smatterings of meat and tender organs were ground with sage and bitter chicory and stuffed into the intestines, braided and smoked into a kind of sausage called svetch which constituted the majority of their meals throughout the long hunting season.
After the hard labor of harvesting that first mastodon was done, Antha called all the hunters together on the blood-soaked soil, and from her satchel she retrieved a small ivory carving, made in the image of great fanged reptile, with a bow clutched in it’s claws.
“We thank you for this success,” Antha said, and kissed the icon, concluding her simple prayer, “The blood is yours, always.”
Where Betor taught Jesri the practical elements of the hunt, it was Antha’s example that taught Jesri of the philosophy. That season they brought down seven mastodons, and at each sight of the kill, Antha uttered the same prayer, the ivory icon in hand, a tear glistening in the corner of her eye.
“What is it that Antha holds after a kill?” Jesri asked his father at the end of the season.
“It’s Grukscava,” Betor said as he sharpened his bronze spearhead on his whetstone. “He’s an old god, from a bygone era.”
“Does he like the hunt?” Jesri asked.
“Some say he is the hunt,” his father replied, sitting his spear down to look Jesri in the eyes. He rubbed his hands together and pursed his lips. “I don’t much believe in gods. I believe in a good spear, a well strung bow, and the hunters by my side.”
“Why does Antha believe?” Jesri asked.
“You’d have to ask her. For me, I believe in the hunt. Always have. Whether there’s a god involved or not, I have to hope the hunt is enough, because for me, it is.”
Betor ruffled Jesri’s hair and smiled.
“And so are you,” he said, “little cub.”
Betor and Jesri spent the next five years joining Antha’s field parties in the mastodon hunts. Every season Jesri would learn of Grukscava from her, of his great feats, his apotheosis, and his teachings. He was once a hunter not unlike Betor, devoted to his family, focused on the living moment. When Grukscava achieved godhood, he had two children: the groks, which bore his appearance, and the serpents of air—dragons, who were the eventual creators of the race of man. Jesri loved Antha’s stories, as did many of the other hunters, who all sat close to her at the evening fires, joyous to hear her. Jesri wanted to know more about the groks. When Jesri would ask Antha about these mysterious hunters, she’d idly stroke the green-scaled pouch on her belt. They were apparently a people of hunters, much like themselves, but they lived deep in the marshes, their homes dug into the berms around the great lakes. Antha was not keen on telling more about these people, however. She said they were great hunters, great bipedal crocodiles as dexterous and clever as any man, and that they were dangerous. She described them as the ultimate hunt, a reasoning being, capable of hunting in return those who would attempt to take them on for their prized skin.
It was in the fifth year of Betor and Jesri’s journeying with Antha’s field party that Jesri met a grok for the first time. As the group followed the migrating mastodon, Antha gestured for the party to stop. Jesri looked to see what was the matter, and noticed Antha’s eyes scanning the mud; there were footprints there, with a strange swish following along behind—the swish of a long, scaled tail. Before anyone could act it was too late. Out of the marsh sprang a pack of grok hunters, their eyes yellow and black, their scaled skin caked in peat. The grok hunters struck with precision, but it was not mastodon that they sought. Within seconds, four of Antha’s party were taken, Betor among them. Their bodies were found later, or rather, what was left of them.
Antha raised Jesri as her own after he’d lost his father.
Jesri stretched his back, leaning away from the ancient marker. Through the gathering evening haze, he saw an approaching figure. They walked with a halting stride, a long robe hanging down to their weathered boots.
“Jesri?” the man shouted.
“I am,” Jesri replied, standing tall.
“Are you the officiator?”
“I am,” the old fellow said. His face was deeply wrinkled, like a carven marble statue weathered through heavy winters and ice. He was blind in one eye, a broad scar running down his face on the left side. The milky iris unsettled Jesri as it starred at him, unblinking.
“My name is Tolm,” the old man continued. “I’ve been an officiator for the guild for oh, thirty years now.”
Jesri shifted his weight from foot to foot.
“As you know the guild is an ancient society. No one joins it lightly. The initiation will be difficult. It could kill you. Or leave you terribly wounded.”
Jesri found himself staring at the scar on Tolm’s face.
“You come highly recommended,” Tolm continued. “I knew Antha, back in our youth. She was a fine hunter.”
“I believe I met you at her funeral,” Jesri said. “Last year.”
“Yes,” Tolm continued. “I believe so. A rare gift, for a hunter like her to pass peacefully in their sleep. She fought well, and Grukscava is with her, I am sure. But tell me, Jesri. Why do you seek to join the guild?”
Jesri breathed deep. When Antha took him in, he spent half the year with her in the mastodon hunts, and the other half on the coast, near the guild hall where she was a resident and a member. He gained his formal education in the youth house of the guild, learning to read and write, as well as learning all the rites of the guild, and the stories of their god. He had wanted to join then, but his feelings turned when we saw a grok hunting party join them at the festival of Sun Return. Antha tried to explain that the groks were also a part of their hunter’s lineage, but he could not hear it then. It was not until she passed last year that he finally felt the call to join her society, to be more near to her and his father in his loneliness.
“When I lost my father,” Jesri began, “The guild became my refuge. It has been my home for so long now. I am, and always shall be, a hunter.”
Tolm’s face looked rigid as the crimson sun headed toward the horizon.
“Do you know whom it is you serve?” Tolm asked. Jesri’s brow furrowed.
“Our guild serves Grukscava,” Jesri said, resolute.
“The guild?” Tolm asked, “Or you?”
Jesri didn’t respond.
“I know the story of your father,” Tolm said, turning to leave. “And your thoughts are clear. Perhaps you are not ready.”
“No!” Jesri blurted. Tolm stopped. “No. I am ready. I desire to formally join the guild. I serve the hunt.”
“Then you serve the god,” Tolm said heavily. “For the two are one and the same. This is no small matter. Grukscava is father to the hunt, the grok, and the dragons, and dragons are father to man. We are all brothers in the hunt. The hunt is more than the kill. It is the true way of life. To seek out and claim your own part of this world, on your skill and hunger, just as Grukscava did in the age of gods.”
“But,” Jesri said, stopping short.
“Yes?” Tolm asked.
“Do we not also hunt the groks?” Jesri said.
“Yes,” replied Tolm, “They are a mighty prize in the hunt. Our guild seeks the hunt wherever it takes us. The groks are our skin-brethren. To hunt a grok is to hunt a hunter, but this is not driven by anger or revenge. From ourselves, or from them.”
Jesri was quiet for some time, the sound of crickets beginning to grow from the wooded wetland.
“I am a hunter,” Jesri said. Tolm nodded slowly. “I am ready to become one with our people.”
“And so you shall,” Tolm said. “We shall begin your trial now, then. And not a moment too soon; the moon is rising.”
Tolm removed a satchel from his belt. The old leather bag was as ancient in appearance as his face, wrinkled and thin like a paper bag. He held it out to Jesri.
“Within you will find what you need for the hunt,” Tolm said.
Jesri opened the pouch. Inside was a cap of fungus, violet and black, streaked with red spores. It had an acrid smell, like vinegar.
“This is the bait?” Jesri asked.
“No, Tolm replied, “This is for you. You must eat it.”
Jesri chuckled. Tolm did not.
“You’re serious?” Jesri said.
“I was raised in the guild,” Jesri said in frustration, “By Antha. I know the rites. This is not one of them.”
“It is for you,” Tolm replied, unwavering. “Antha specifically requested it for you, should you ever choose to join. It is a more ancient rite, not generally in practice in our time. You will be in no more danger than any other initiate, I assure you.”
“I am not afraid,” Jesri said.
“Perhaps you should be,” Tolm said gravely. “The beast you hunt seeks out those who have eaten this toadstool.”
“What will I be hunting?” Jesri asked.
“You will know when it comes to you.”
“Very well,” he said, and took the cap into his sweaty hand. Without hesitation he placed it into his mouth, and chewed. The cap was rubbery, like a piece of raw fish, yet tough and sour. He nearly choked, the earthy spores flooding his sinuses as he swallowed. Immediately he felt a flush in his cheeks, the mushroom taking quick effect. Tolm nodded solemnly.
“Good,” Tolm said. “Now go. And remember, you are not the only one on the hunt.”
Jesri’s mouth felt like sand as he walked into the darkening cypress forest of Lestmarsh. He could feel his blood pounding in his ears as he went, and even in the encroaching cool of the coming night he sweat freely. His breath came and went in ragged spurts, even though he walked slowly and without any great exertion. Above him, the clouds gave way to a bright moon and the stars, yet something about them seemed off; the constellations were out of order, and he even thought for a moment that the sky was streaked with the colors of a shimmering aurora, like those told of in stories of the spirit world. A biting pain erupted in his gut, and though it subsided quickly, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Jesri stopped and sat on a large, flat stone covered in fine moss. He didn’t know where he was going, nor what he was hunting, yet his hunter’s instincts held strong—he would do what he could, so he examined his hunter’s gear and calmed his boiling blood with a drink of cool water from his mastodon skin flask.
He carried with him his two hunter’s weapons: the bow and the spear. He knew the beast would come for him, and would likely see him first; the bow would prove ineffective, so he readied his spear. The bronze head glimmered in the bright full moon as he looked to his buck knife, and finally, his last weapon. It was not a hunter’s weapon. It was an heirloom. His father’s sword. It was short, with a double-edged blade that was shaped like a long tear, made of fine steel. When his father was taken all those years ago, his body was found with the blade still clutched in his hand. He drew the blade from its sheath, examining the care both he and his father had taken in keeping it sharp, and oiled. Its surface shined like a mirror, and in the reflection Jesri noticed something: footprints. Wideset, and a long, strange swish between them. They were fresh.
Jesri’s senses heightened with recognition as he heard a faint crunching of dry grass just off to his left. He stood quickly, brandishing the sword, and there, in the woods, he saw the form of a tall, scaled being, staring at him with pale, yellow eyes.
“No harm,” it said in a deep, rumbling voice. “Lower weapon.”
Jesri did not move. The pain in his stomach returned, but he resisted the urge to wince, to show his weakness, not in the face of this grok.
“You are on the guild rite,” the grok said. “and so am I. Not enemies.”
Jesri regarded the grok carefully, and seeing that they had no weapon drawn themselves, slowly lowered his own.
“You are joining the guild?” Jesri asked.
“Always,” the grok replied.
“You met with Tolm, then?”
“A unique rite tonight,” the grok said, “the fungus can cause much pain. It helps to eat. Svetch?”
The grok reached into a tan pouch on their hip, and withdrew a strip of smoked, spiced sausage. The grok tossed the svetch to Jesri, who caught it with apprehension.
The grok took out another strip, and began to eat.
Jesri sheathed his sword and ate. The grok was right, as the svetch entered his stomach, the biting pain subsided.
“Some call me Grrk,” the grok said. “You are?”
“Do you know what we hunt tonight?” Grrk asked.
“No,” Jesri said.
Whatever he was going to face, Jesri knew it wouldn’t be small. The Guild of the Hunter-God was known throughout all Silg, even the whole world, for their daring and skill in hunting the most dangerous creatures.
“Our journey will be perilous,” Grrk said. “Many beasts have I slain in my time.”
“As have I,” Jesri replied. As he sat, his belly calmed with the bitter svetch, he began to feel a new sensation. Lights and spots materialized in his vision as he closed his eyes. His energy was fast waning, but he knew he mustn’t sleep. He rubbed his face, and stood once more, finding it harder than he’d anticipated, and turned to head deeper into the wooded marsh.
“I must go,” Jesri said. “I… I thank you, for the svetch.”
“The beast we hunt,” Grrk said, “It may be beyond your ability alone. We should work together.”
Jesri felt a knot in his stomach, but it had nothing to do with any poison other than hate.
“No,” he said. “We shall part here.” He turned to look on Grrk once more, but the grok was gone, as if he had never been there at all. Jesri took a long, ragged breath, and set forth.
There were many things he could face in the dark woods of Lestmarsh. A bulkan, with its razor horns and brute power. Or an arachnin, quiet and skittering, its faint whispering language on the still cold air as the pungent smell of its venom wafted on the night breeze. He shuddered at the thought. His fingers tightened on the shaft of his hunters spear, hoping beyond hope that he would see the beast before it saw him.
He came through a stony clearing, dotted with great boulders left long ago, when glaciers had covered the land. The soil was loose and muddy as he trudged through. His head was swimming once more, the dancing lights behind his eyes almost blinding him, when he noticed a form in the shadows before him. At first he thought it was an illusion—a faint smudge of black on the night air, a shadow, formless and undulating, perhaps light playing through the leaves of a nearby tree. But it moved toward him, unlike any shadow should have. It was a creature, alive. He could not seem to focus on its appearance, a mass of crooked spikes, like a boar covered in black quavering fire. It had no eyes, no mouth.
Jesri shouted at the beast, brandishing his spear. It didn’t move from where it was near the rocks, and yet its form seemed to change, spreading out wider, with a dozen legs or appendages, each shuddering and dripping with stygian horror. Jesri drew a deep, labored breath. He lunged with his spear, the bronze blade glowing like fire in the moonlight. He aimed his blow between the forelimbs, where the spiked plates of its body seemed to join, but the blade shattered like glass on contact. The spear splintered as if driven into the living rock of a mighty mountain, the force resonating through his body, rattling his bones. He staggered back, and the beast came forward. The creature’s limbs drew together, extending and gaining height until it stood as tall as a horse. Where the shadowy mass would have had a head it grew a long, ragged seam, which split open into a maw full of needle sharp teeth. Jesri fell backwards, rolling away through the muddy soil as the beast bucked and roared past him.
Jesri rose again, uneven yet undaunted. He drew his bow and quickly nocked an arrow. The beast turned, as if to make another charge, but it paused. He let fly the arrow, but it too shattered like the spear as it met the hide of the shadowy beast. The creature then charged once more—Jesri unleashed three more arrows, all to no effect. His eyes widened as the creature picked up speed. He leapt aside once more, but too late, the head of the beast now a mass of brutal tusks, which gored his right leg as it passed, tossing him in the process. The fresh wound seeped as Jesri turned over in the loose mud. The beast reared again on its hind legs, pawing at the air toward him as a horrid hiss escaped its body. Jesri looked about himself; his spear broken, his bow missing, his sword still hanging from his hip. He drew the blade with shaky hands and winced as he pulled himself to his knees. But the beast was already upon him again, its forelimbs like those of a bear now, pressing into his chest and pushing him deep in the mud with its colossal weight. The soft peat squelched under the pressure as he struggled against the immovable creature. It raised a forepaw, the spiked claws glistening with Jesri’s lifeblood. In a panic, Jesri held the sword between him and the beast, the mirror steel seeming so feeble against the bladed shadow which held him down.
The beast swatted its mighty paw toward him, but as it contacted the sword’s edge, the digits were cut through like cheese. Black blood oozed from the open knuckles as the creatures paw, a wild, hot hiss roiling from its form. It writhed and withdrew, the enormous weight no longer crushing Jesri’s breath from his body. He inhaled with a hungry gulp, rolling onto his side.
Jesri tried to stand, but the pain in his leg kept him in the mud. As the creature turned about for another attack, suddenly Grrk leapt between them, no weapon other than their own claws and teeth. Grrk gave a barking shout, standing their ground, and the creature turned, fleeing deeper into the marsh. Grrk turned quickly to Jesri, and helped him to his feet. Together they hobbled to a nearby stump, where Grrk bandaged Jesri’s leg with staunching moss and velvet leaves.
“Lucky to be alive,” Grrk said.
“I know,” Jesri replied. “You saved me.”
“No hunter hunts alone,” Grrk said. Jesri looked into the grok’s eyes. They were placid, like a reflection of the noonday sun in a well of deep water.
Jesri stood, and went to the site of his tussle with the beast. Grrk followed.
The creatures claws still lay in the mixed blood and mud, splayed out like silverware at a macabre dinner table. Jesri picked up one of the claws; it was deceptively lightweight.
“You cut it,” Grrk said. “How?”
“I don’t know,” Jesri replied. “My spear and arrows had no effect on it. It was like striking a cliff face.”
Jesri took out his hunter’s knife and scrapped it against the claw. The blade chipped. Jesri’s brow furrowed. Grrk knelt down in a hunter’s squat, swirling their finger in the small pool of black blood.
Jesri paused for a moment, looking between the blade and the claw. Carefully, he lowered the claw onto the blade as he held it still. As the claw grazed the blade, it was cut as easy as paper. Jesri looked on in wonder. Grrk gave a satisfied chirp as they watched.
Jesri placed his knife between his feet, the edge facing up toward him, and dropped the claw onto the blade. The claw was split in two as if it were made of soap.
“I know this beast,” Grrk said.
“Yes,” Jesri said also. “A volraith. But I thought they were a myth.”
“All myth has place in reality,” Grrk said, stroking their chin.
“I had heard they were extinct,” Jesri said, “If they had ever existed at all.”
“Yet here it is,” Grrk said.
“According to legend,” Jesri said, “it could only be harmed by its own force.” Grrk nodded as they looked at the split claw beside Jesri’s feet.
“Then we know its weakness,” Grrk said. They stood, and approached Jesri, their hand extended. “Come, together we can take it.”
“No hunter hunts alone,” Jesri said, and took Grrk’s hand.
Quickly Jesri collected his sword and knife, as well as the shards of the beasts claws. The hunters assessed their surroundings; the high boulders provided cover, and nearby a tall tree offered strong branches. Jesri went through his remaining tools. His sword could prove useful, but one wrong move could leave the blade shattered and broken, like his spear. No, he couldn’t risk the blade moving at all if he wanted to strike true through the volraith’s skin. A trap was in order.
With Grrk’s help, Jesri selected a good spot for their trap: a space between two great boulders, with soft soil that was shallow and dry enough for a good footing.
“This plan will require a fast runner,” Grrk said as they quickly gathered thick tree branches.
“My leg is fine,” Jesri said. Grrk scowled.
“I will run,” Grrk said.
“This is my plan,” Jesri said, heated.
“So then you should spring the trap,” Grrk replied. “I will be runner. I will be bait.”
Jesri gritted his teeth as he carved and sharpened the tree branches, weaving them into a lattice of sharp points. No more than twenty minutes had passed since the creature attacked. It couldn’t be far off. Grrk looked at Jesri, and Jesri looked at Grrk.
“Alight,” Jesri said. “I’ll mind the trap. Come, let’s see where this volraith has gone.”
They returned to the sight of the attack and searched for tracks. But the only ones there were Grrk’s and Jesri’s, as if the creature had left no mark on the world. There was one thing it couldn’t hide though: blood. Ribbons of oily splatter trailed off to the east. Grrk and Jesri exchanged a glance before the grok lowered themselves to all fours, and followed the trail into the dark.
Jesri positioned himself near the trap, hidden in a blind of moss and branches, the trap trigger in hand. As he waited, his stomach churned. His leg throbbed as his eyes flashed again with the otherworldly light, the toxins of the fungus still with him, confusing him. He began to sweat heavily, his heart pounding in his chest like a drum at the festival of Sun Return. He listened carefully to the night, for any sign of Grrk’s return, or the beast. All he could hear was his own blood thumping in his ears.
Then, suddenly, he saw Grrk hurtling toward him. And behind Grrk, the shapeless form of the volraith, a spiny blot, like a deadfall with legs, gaining on Grrk quickly as its body glinted black and blue in the light of the moon. Jesri’s fingers tense around his trap trigger as Grrk and the volraith approached. Time seemed to slow down as a thought struck him, only for a moment: if he pulled the trigger before Grrk passed the threshold, he could kill them both.
He thought of his father Betor, his body bloody and laying dead at the hands of grok hunters. His eyes streamed as he clutched the trap trigger. He knew what he must do. He would honor his father, he would honor Antha. His anger cooled into resolution as the grok and the beast came closer, Grrk ran faster, the volraith sprouted new legs and gained as well.
Grrk’s yellow eyes showed no fear as he passed through the trapped ground, the volraith just a foot behind him. Jesri pulled the trap trigger, and from the soft soil sprouted a dozen sharpened branches, their points jutting toward the racing beast. Too late to stop or turn, the volraith collided with the spikes of the trap, a loud, wet crack splitting the air as the beast writhed, the wooden spikes piercing its body like hot skewers through wax. The creature shuddered, its form drawing together like a deflated balloon, and then with final, long hiss, it melted into a pool of black blood and blue spikes of ethereal ivory.
Jesri emerged from his hunters blind, Grrk heaving breath beside him in the still night air.
“Well done,” Grrk said as the two approached the bloody stain of the volraith’s demise.
“And you also,” Jesri said.
“Take the spines,” Grrk said, gesturing to the remains of the beast.
“We’ll split them,” Jesri replied. “This is our prize. Together.”
“I will take what is mine,” Grrk said, leaning down to the blood wet earth.
Jesri watched as Grrk placed their hand into the blood, and observed in quiet awe as it was slowly drawn into their skin.
Grrk stood, their head framed in the halo of the moon, and on their right and left hand stood Antha and Betor. Jesri fell to his knees. He was the hunt. And the hunt was him. The heavens above them burst with the aurora of the spirit world as Jesri looked on, his head swimming.
“I thank you for this success,” Jesri said as Grrk rose into the moon, “the blood is yours, always.”
Jesri awoke in a soft bed, laid beneath a sheepskin cover. The room was unfamiliar to him until he noticed the insignia embossed on the curtains of the window at his bedside. He was in a Hall of the Hunter-God. He lay for some time, unable to reconcile the experiences of the days before.
He found his leg bound with a fine bandage, with careful stitching of his skin evident beneath the linen wrap. There was no sign of infection, and minimal bruising. As he examined his wound, he noticed a pitcher beside his bed on the nightstand, full of cool, clean water. He drank deeply from it, his dry throat joyous at the refreshing touch of it. As he drank, the door to his room opened. Tolm stepped in.
“You’ve awakened,” Tolm said evenly.
Jesri looked at him, his own expression stoic, calm.
“I have been on a journey,” Jesri said. “I have seen The Hunter.”