[Story] A Story a Week 11

[[ Prompt: A story set at a full moon

About half of my stories were already set at a full moon! Rather than go with a werewolf, I decided to progress Tamazi’s tale with a little backstory. This ended up long! ]]

They rested atop a large, flat rock, the sort that kept warm long into the night. Tamazi still felt vulnerable; the scents of the local clan were not long faded. She did not want to face another angry patrol — or did she? It had been so exhilarating, so unexpected, that rush of air beneath her, that she could not forget it. And what would they say! The Ear Notch patrol would return to their clan, the astoundment plain on their faces. They would tell them of the nomad who flew like a bird. Had it been just one telling the story, perhaps even two, it would be easy to dismiss. But three had seen her. Three would give the story truth, and it would soon spread among the clan. Or so Tamazi hoped. She was surprised to find the idea exciting, that perhaps word might even reach her old clan. Might it even happen again? Harvian slept soundly, his small body curled up around itself, and his bushy tail pulled over his snout. He had not stirred since they had reached the rock, save for the steady rise and fall of his breathing. Tamazi’s body was tired; she had run for nearly the whole day — and then she flew! But her mind raced ahead too fast to allow her to sleep. Even aside from the excitement, they were in unfamiliar territory with a clan she didn’t know. Beyond that, there was a strange, swampy scent that lingered on the breeze. Perhaps there was water nearby. Tamazi wanted to go and see for herself, but she dared not leave the little creature alone and vulnerable. She had given her word to take him to the Temple, but more than that she wanted to see what else he was capable of. He’d promised her power, and so far his promise held true. But was there more than that? Tamazi supposed there might be. She wanted to find out.

Sleep finally claimed her late into the night, when the streaks of pink began to touch the sky. They both slept late, not stirring until the sun burned high in the sky and the rock began to grow uncomfortably hot. Tamazi went to search for food while Harvian made a fire. Ordinarily she would not leave him alone, but they had passed a half-eaten kill the night before. This is what I’ve come to, Tamazi thought grimly, tugging at the skeleton. Picking at the dead like a filthy scavenger. Some huntress I am. She felt her ears burn with shame as she dragged it back to the rock, but the rumble of her belly was too insistent to ignore any longer. And at least the Huntress had not seen her, nor had any of the clan, from what she could tell. Tamazi settled in the grass to gnaw at what was left of the meat. Harvian curled up his lip in distaste.

“I can’t eat that,” he said with a shiver. “You’re going to get sick.”

The kill was not very old, though it had been picked over already. Tamazi looked at him, puzzled. She saw little difference between this food and food that she’d just brought down — aside from the shame of being a scavenger, of course. “What will you eat then?”

He dug around in his pack and took out some dried food wrapped in leaves. It didn’t look like nearly enough, even for such a tiny creature, but he unwrapped and ate it. Perhaps he would feel differently in a day or so. “How did you do that?” Tamazi asked him.

“What — oh,” Harvian fluffed up his tail briefly. She did not yet understand what it meant when he did that. “A lot of practice,” he said, tying the flaps on his pack again. “And magic, of course.”

Tamazi’s eyes widened. Clearly, there was no other explanation, but it was something entirely different to hear him just say it like that. “How do you get magic?”

His tail fluffed up again and he scratched an ear. “Well,” said Harvian. “That’s not really a simple answer.” He slipped his arms through the straps of his pack and hopped off the rock. Tamazi glanced at her meal. She was still powerfully hungry, but there was little to nothing left but bones. Reluctantly, she rose as well. “Where I come from, there are schools where you can study,” Harvian explained. “Depending on which sort you wish to study.”

Tamazi nodded, leading them south along a hunting-trail. She didn’t know which way to go any more than Harvian did, but she could at least sense danger sooner than he could. The local clan had not used this trail for some time, it seemed, and it allowed her to relax a little. “So you just go there and they teach you?” Tamazi asked. “Could I go?”

Harvian made a little laugh that sounded like a bark. “That would be something! To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I’ve never heard of an Aiwaliko there, but other kiraal have been. So I don’t see why not.” Tamazi glanced at him sidelong.

“How do you know that name?” She asked. It felt wrong somehow hearing him say it, an outsider with his strange voice and stranger habits.

His pointed ears laid back briefly. “I admit it’s an interest of mine,” Harvian explained. “Local stories and legends and such. Though I’m sure the books get it wrong. And they don’t have very much about you, either. That’s part of why I asked you to bring me. So I could see for myself.”

Tamazi grunted. She was not sure how to feel about being the subject of this small creature’s hobby. He could at least have told her that sooner. They continued on in silence for some time. They seemed to be nearing the swamp that Tamazi had noticed the previous night, or at least the source of its scent — the ground was still hard and dry. Maybe they would discover a water hole, at the least.

“I’d like to hear some,” Harvian said finally. “I mean, if you’d like to tell them.”

As everyone in her clan, Tamazi knew a hundred stories about the Huntress. They’d all heard them since they were babies, playing between the paws of the males and the females too young to hunt. “Okay,” said Tamazi uncertainly. She wasn’t sure where to begin.

Harvian tapped his chin. “Isn’t there one about a dragon?”

She nodded. That one she knew, of course. “I’m not a very good story-teller,” Tamazi warned.

“That’s fine,” said Harvian, his tail fluffing up.

Tamazi pictured Mvelo, the oldest of the clan’s males, when he would tell them stories. She tried to remember just how he’d said it. “There’s other stories that go before,” she explained. “About all the things she did before that.”

Harvian nodded.

“By this time she had united the clans and she was their leader. She led them away from the flood and to the plains and everything.” That wasn’t how Mvelo said it at all, but she was trying to get to the important parts. “Oh and she chased out the scavengers. Everyone lived on the plains and they were happy for a while.” Here Harvian nodded again. “But then people started disappearing. Cubs at first, then hunters. Nobody saw what happened and they were really scared. They never found any bodies.” Tamazi frowned, watching her steps as she walked. That strange scent was stronger now, and it was distracting. “It was something she’d never seen, something she couldn’t have prepared for. A dragon.”

“Mirroth,” muttered Harvian.

Tamazi shrugged. The dragon wasn’t named in the story that she heard. “It was as long as a river, and it was covered with thick white and silver scales. It lived on the plains, and didn’t like the clan there eating its food and stuff. So it was taking them one by one, swallowing them whole. Aiwaliko saw it one night as it flew away with a huntress, she could not save that one but she tracked the dragon to its roost and demanded that it stop attacking her people.”

The strange, unnerving scent grew stronger. It smelled like dark and musty places, like deep inside a cave. Yet they were still above the ground, and there was no water that Tamazi could see or hear. The brush grew a bit thicker here. She watched it closely for any signs of movement. “Go on,” urged Harvian, unaware of the danger. Or whatever it was.

“Um,” said Tamazi. “The dragon refused, of course, and told her that she and her clan must find a new place to live. So Aiwaliko challenged the dragon, and she fell on it with her teeth and claws bared. Except even her strong jaws could hardly scratch it, because of the thick scales, and the dragon twisted around and snapped at her no matter where she attacked. You see, most prey have a place that is safe and they cannot reach you, but not dragons.”

They passed through a tangled archway of brambles, and Tamazi’s unease grew. Whatever it was seemed very close now, or had been recently. The scent was so strong that it made her want to sneeze. Harvian looked at her expectantly. “Its great claws scratched her white hide and for a time it seemed that all was lost, but then Aiwaliko had an idea. She sprang onto the dragon’s back and ran up along it, her claws clinging on to the large plates there. The dragon writhed and twisted itself trying to reach her, sometimes biting itself in its fury. She ran up to the dragon’s head and clawed at its eyes, uncovered by scales. The dragon roared in rage and leapt up into the sky, maybe to escape or maybe to throw the huntress from its back. But she held on, clinging to its back and attacking where she could. In its blind fury, the dragon tried to fly away, but fluttered into the rocky side of a cliff instead. And that is how the Huntress killed a dragon.”

“Fascinating,” said Harvian, his tail fluffing up. Tamazi hadn’t told it very well. Mvelo always made it sound much more exciting, and did the dragon’s voice and everything. Tamazi was just glad to be finished talking, so she could be alert for whatever was lurking here. “What did the — oh!”

The ground beneath them shook as something very large leapt from the shadows; Tamazi moved to block Harvian from its strike. Its roar seemed to shake the world and made her ears ring, and she felt its coarse claws rake her side. It had no fur, leathery skin, and short stubby limbs — a drake! She had never seen one, only heard of their notoriously bad temper and aggression. And now they had stumbled into its territory. It roared again, and Tamazi could smell something rotten and vile in its breath, like it feasted on corpses. There were words there, somewhere, but Tamazi could not understand them. She braced herself, lunging toward the drake with both paws swinging. Its hide was thick and crusted with mud, she could not so much as put a scratch in it. Wait — her mind raced ahead of her movements. The eyes! It’s a dragon, only smaller. Tamazi wrested herself free of its claws, wincing as she felt them sink into her pelt. She scrambled onto its back, hanging on desperately as it tried to throw her. Tamazi tried to bite its spine, but her teeth could hardly close on the thick hide, let alone pierce it. She heard a loud crack, like a lightning strike, and nearly let go in her surprise. It was Harvian, and he held the lightning between his tiny paws. It arched from him into the drake, and Tamazi felt the brute’s body react; it trembled and staggered underneath her.

“Kill it!” barked Harvian.

How? But the drake had rolled onto its side, leaving its softer belly and throat exposed. She had to act quickly before it recovered. Its bitter black blood gouted out, nearly making her choke. Tamazi stepped back, panting. Her own hide was torn in several places, stained with the drake’s blood and her own. But it was over.

Harvian approached and looked at the drake. Its small beady eyes stared glassily up at the Huntress’s Eye. “You did it,” he said quietly. “You killed a drake. Just like her.”

Tamazi blinked at the small creature beside her. He couldn’t possibly compare her to the Huntress, and yet — was it really so different? Of course it was. A drake wasn’t a dragon, and Harvian had stunned it with the lightning. But she had killed it, hadn’t she? And the Huntress’s Eye still shone brightly; her Blood Hunt was still on. A drake, for her first kill! It seemed impossible. Tamazi, the flying drakeslayer. She wanted that to go into the story, too.

Harvian glanced at her and frowned. “Come on,” he said. “We need to find water.”

 

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