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The Hunt and Its Aftermath

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The scent of the fir trees sang to him as they dashed over the rocks, leaping from one to the next without thinking. His strong arms, too long for any human thing but fitted to his lean body, propelled him on, the palms of his hands slapping against granite and slate as he ran on all fours. The hunt was all now, and the fear of the quarry called him. Dimo claws had barely scraped the deer’s soft flanks, and his tongue had yet to taste blood, but he could anticipate. Memories of blood flowing and staining the earth as his prey twitched its last put a knife’s edge on his hunger, and it would be soon repeated. They both knew that, him and the deer.

Sharing that knowledge was the most thrilling thing in any hunt, whether for human or animal. Looking deep into terrified eyes that expected the teeth in the throat and giving what was expected, just as he expected the initial spurt of red from the wound and seizing of the muscles as he killed. They both knew the dance and their steps, and they did them together, all the way to the last dreadful moment. He made it fast and clean, and was rewarded with their final struggles. It was a good way to be, thinking of nothing but the next move to one side or the other, or how best to sink his claws into warm flesh and bring the prey down.

He could smell the doe’s exhaustion, and he leaped for her. She wouldn’t be running much longer, and he wanted to share that final burst of fear before he bit down and she couldn’t run any longer. The deer dashed forward, trying in vain to shake the Jager’s weight from her back, but Dimo only sank his talons deeper into her flanks. Exhilerated to think of the blood to come, he allowed her a few last steps before instinct took over and he ended the struggle. He lapped at the warmth of the wound, and knew that this was good. His pack needed food, and food he could provide. Crouched on all fours by the side of the dead deer, he enjoyed the ferrous taste for a moment longer before standing and hoisting the carcass up over his bare shoulder and returning to camp.

Four pairs of eyes met his in the dark as he came into the light of the campfire and laid down his prize. The meat was divided and devoured quickly, filling empty bellies and helping to quiet other fears that were best left unspoken. Their greater quest was as yet unfulfilled, and might be for the rest of their lives. There was no certainty to it beyond the fact that it would keep going. Each day was just another day, and the seasons passed without regard for anything beyond the weather or type of shelter that they would need. There were still times when the hopelessness of their endeavor weighed upon his mind, but the hunting helped. The more feral he was, and the more he turned to his animal side for release, the less the more human concerns mattered. He had a family here, and they were to be protected.

After the bones had been picked clean, Jenka was the first to retire to Fust’s side. She was his first and oldest friend within the ranks, and the most feral of the four. His primary hunting partner for years, Jenka didn’t even look up to see who was approaching as Dimo strode up and curled up next to her. Her only response was a sleepy growl as his elbow accidentally dug into her side. It was a warning and not a threat, though, and Dimo laid his head on her thigh without any further trouble. Ognian joined them next, fur-collared coat pulled up close around him. He snuggled up on the other side of Jenka, tucking his bare feet up and under Fust’s belly to keep them warm. Maxim was last to join the rest of his pack, having stayed to make certain that the embers of the fire were taken care of properly. Without a word, he nudged Dimo’s free arm with the toe of his boot until the green Jager woke up just enough to lift it and drape it over his shoulders as he laid down beside the other three. Dimo was just aware through the haze of sleep of Maxim kissing him tentatively at the base of his neck before the both of them drifted off, and the pack slept through the night.