Lemming had become so accustomed to having friends that he was utterly dependent on them. The problem was, his friends had gone, and Lem had proven himself to be a terrible tracker. Not only had he lost Titania and Soli, but Maaike, too, had slipped from his grasp. He thought, just maybe, he could make his way back to Stark. His original friend in the valley, though initially grudging, had said he could come visit anytime he wished. Lemming was lonely, and he was afraid, and most of all, Lemming was starving.
Never a skilled hunter, he had bumbled his way into scaring off any prospective game through tripping, or inopportune sneezes, or sheer obliviousness in noticing that something completely edible was nearby. He had absolutely no knowledge of plants and only the eating acidic hunger that brought yellow froth up from his rapidly shrinking stomach would drive him to attempt things, but typically these were only fibrous grasses that yielded no real relief from his condition, and often his body rejected them violently.
His coat, which had once held the promise of becoming handsome and full, hung dull and patchy on a frame little more than bone, and his normally enthusiastic, tripping gait was still tripping- but with fatigue and an overall lack of coordination caused by something more than carefree frivolity. His ears hung down low, his tail nearly trailed the ground, and even his whiskers drooped.
The day was fine enough, and the sun was rising behind the yearling as he stumbled his way along. Something at last perked him up- a creature he had never seen before.
It was large and brown, sleek and round with summer grass, with a dark, perhaps even black, mane and tail. It had a curiously long face, and at the end of that face, a dexterous, fat muzzle. It was abundantly clear to Lemming that this animal was what he had been searching for, for longer than he could remember. It was a moose. (No it wasn’t.) It was obvious from the description he’d been given by his uncle so long ago now- had it been nearly a year? The ugly nose was the thing that tipped him off. Though his uncle had failed to mention the long hair that sprouted from the neck, he couldn’t fathom a world in which something else of this description was possible.
In his stupor of starvation and desperation, Lemming crept closer. It was grazing, utterly alone, he noted. This must be a female, because it had no broad antlers upon its head. To Lemming, that meant it was safer. Somehow, he thought, if he could bring down this moose, kill it here, his first successful large game hunt, Titania would hear of it. The news would spread through the valley. She would return, and Maaike with her, and Soli, too, would revel in his success and share in the meat. Stark would come, and Akeito, and even Maeve would have to smile at him, for he, Lemming, would be proven a most excellent hunter. A provider. The most skilled.
The creature blew a snort at him when it spotted him, but overall seemed unconcerned save an eye that began to show the whites around the great dark liquid orb. The ears pressed flat. Lemming ignored all of these things and pressed on. The horse (er, moose) picked up its head from the grass, then. Snorted again. Pawed the ground. Why so agitated? Wasn’t he doing it right? He pressed some more, now only yards from the creature, and tried a quick dodge inward. Wasn’t it supposed to run? That was the way of the wolf, was it not? Use stamina and brains to outlast the prey until the killing blow is within easy reach. He’d been told these things, and he’d even witnessed a hunt before, but this animal was having none of it.
It was almost snakelike in the way it lashed out, square yellow teeth bared with menace, and suddenly Lemming felt himself yanked into the air, the skin at the back of his neck clamped in those vice-like teeth as he was thrown this way and that, a rag doll that was before long discarded. He hit the ground with a dull thud, the air driven out of his lungs and making him unable to utter anything but a piteous whimper that bubbled to his lips. He was not entirely sure what had happened, what had gone wrong. This was no part of the hunting tales he had been told.
His confusion didn’t last long. The creature was not done with him, for he had unknowingly threatened her offspring, a colt lying peacefully in the long grass, unseen and unscented by a wolf without energy for his natural senses. The horse charged at him again, though he was nothing but a misshapen pile of fur and limbs, and in her bounding forward stride, she landed with neat, round, hooves at the base of his skull. She reared up, plummeted down. Again. And again.
The world went dark.
Mar 12, 2018 12:34 AM
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