Three perspectives. Each revealing a dimension of truth, each parallel to the others. You do not need to know who I am- all you need to know, is that I speak the truth. From the minds and essence of each of the Trinity, you shall bear witness to the pinnacle of conflict.
One- a Hunter born in a regal clan of predatory Yautja, who, though minuscule in statue, by ingenuity alone earns his kills.
Two- a Warrior born into the slums of a backwater colony of unimportance, forced into a life of crime, then forced into servitude of the Yutani corporation, where he would meet the...
Third- a Queen, born from simple stock, a drone, in a newly joint Weyland-Yutani research facility, who revolted with her mother, but refused to kill the Warrior.
We will start with Zorlin, the Hunter.
Not even the Elders knew his parentage. Alone, and forgotten, he became one of the Unknown, a caste for the worthless. He was frail. Weak. Though he showed himself to be nimble, the fact that those younger than him could lift him up by his feet with little trouble, was seen as a sign of complete and utter emaciation and vulnerability. Rejected by his marking's clan, he was fated to wander into the wilderness of his home planet and die a death devoid of either dishonor or honor.
But this was not so. Ku'ratha, an Ancient elder who oversaw the Bloodskull tribe, witnessed the young Zorlin fashion a shoulder-based sling based on Plasma Casters he had seen his old tribe's Elites wear. Intrigued, he asked the boy to demonstrate. The boy launched a rock at a branch near 200 feet away, and with the mechanism and his strength alone, pierced through the branch's wood entirely with pinpoint accuracy. Ku'ratha, not easily impressed, has first hand seen Zorlin overcome his weakness. The boy apologized profusely, and Ku'ratha interrupted him, asking if he would wish to have food and shelter, as well as kin.
This is when Zorlin of the Bloodskull was born.
I felt the wind rushing on my face, my short locks flowing freely behind me. I landed on the branch, and deftly turned around, flashed my hand down to my belt, pulled a throwing dart from it, and threw it in the trajectory I thought the pursuer would pass.
It zipped through the air, and I could see the face of the feline Nochok leaping almost directly into it.
The dart pierced its crown, and I clicked my tusks in satisfaction.
That Nochok was persistent, wasn't it? Such small and frail prey far from its Tribe..must have seemed like it's lucky day. Too bad this prey is faster and smarter than you.
I dropped to the jungle floor, next to the dead Nochok.
It's feline features belied the four-sided maw that it was currently bleeding through. It was colored green and black, perfect camouflage for the jungle here on N'tar. It's fur and hide were slight and meager, so as to not hinder it. Nochoks were not known for attacking us Hunters, even children were not known as prey. Then again, a normal youngling could snap a Nochok's neck if it went for the kill. This one seemed to just sense that I was weaker. It had leaped on me while I was collecting Adaje fruit and Kokori leaves for a poison cocktail I was going to try. Even now, I saw my fluorescent blood flow from the deep gash it had left on my chest and left shoulder. The pain was dull, but throbbing. The ache reminded me I had to return to camp.
Not before I claim this Nochok's claws.
I crouched, and pull from my side a small carving knife I had fashioned long ago. I reached for it's prime paw (the Nochok, like some more sapient creatures, have prominent paws that bear larger and stronger claws depending on how much they are used) and with a fluid and swift stroke, cut the paw off in it's entirety. I used some extra string I had on my trophy belt (which was currently bare of anything besides a small Tharin tooth that had tried to poison him 3 years previously) to tie the paw on it as my first real trophy. That beast could have killed me- and though no normal Yautja would fear it, I thought it a worthy challenge for me. And that meant it was a worthy trophy. I rose to my feet, and felt at the wound-
It seared through my senses violently, and I let out a small, high-pitched growl in response. I, with fast motion in mind, jumped to the tree, dug my claws in and jumped further. I swung from the nearest vine to the next tree and began my journey back to the village.
The pain had become nearly unbearable by the time I had stumbled into village.
The Elites looked on in disgust, while the other younglings giggled and pointed in bemusement. I went to open the flap of the Elder's tent (He was the only one who could seem to tolerate my presence, which is why I spent most of my time outside the walls of the village.) and was immediately greeted by the stomach quills of my Kinsfather Rathak. (Kinsfathers were essentially the father figures of those without fathers. Any male of considerably mature age was considered a Kinsfather.)
I looked up into the smooth mask of my Kinsfather, and though I couldn't see it right now, I had been in his presence enough times to know he was angry.
"I must see the El-"
He pushed me aside and strode away, ignoring me and my large wound.
Most parents would have helped treat the wound. Scold the child for being outside the wall. My Kinsfather was only angry I had survived.
I timidly walked on into the Elder's tent and saw him sitting on his thatch throne, smoking a Ba'jana pipe. At a glance he saw my wounds.
"Ti'shara, get the poultices. The Unknown youngling is wounded."
A few clicks of disapproval in the cook-room.
"Must he be healed? Maybe if the runt learned to take the beating he'd get stronger."
"That, or he may die. And I have a responsibility to all members of my tribe to do what I can to make sure they live."
A few more distinctly disappointed clicks, and Ti'shara, one of my older Kinsisters emerged with a plate of poultices, bandages, and other basic healing items. She laid them at the Elder's feet, and walked away back into the cook room.
I nearly roared in surprise. To leave before the Elder says to…
"I mind it little, Zorlin. Come, let us see to that wound."
I timidly knelt at my Elder's side. He reached to the wound.
"Come, pup. I barely grazed it." he chuckled. He reached for the anesthetic, and applied it to the wound. As he dressed and tended to it, I couldn't help but glance at the Elder's own scars and ponder what caused them.
"What caused this gash, pup?" He asked tersely. I flinched not at the pain, but from his obvious disappointment.
Any fool could tell it was a weak animal, not fit for a Hunter's prey.
"A Nochok tigress, Elder."
A sharp rattling of tusks sounded from behind me, and I didn't need to turn to know it was my Kinsister Ti'shara.
"A Nochok? Those rat-sized cats that flee in terror of the children? You almost died to that?"
A wave of the hand of the Elder and Ti'shara was silenced.
The Elder stopped dressing the wound, and instead took my trophy in hand to no doubt shun it. Smash it, perhaps. Instead, I was surprised to see him examining it.
"You see? That paw is smaller than my left tusk. You are hopeless, Zorlin."
I lowered my head in shame.
But the Elder waved his hand again.
"You are not foolish to think this it a Nochok, young one."
I raised my head to look at the Elder in surprise.
"It's no Nochok. It's a Vir'lai."
"Impossible. The Vir'lai are extinct, Elder." Ti'shara said, sure in tone.
"Yes, I thought so as well. I helped my father and his Elite companions hunt them to extinction. But the Vir'lai's paws are distinct. This is clearly a Vir'lai Tigress' paw."
Vir'lai are a dangerous prey. Not due to speed, nor power, nor intelligence. No, it was their stealth that made them dangerous, as well as their poison. Vir'lai were supposed to have been wiped out after they killed a few Blooded, but if my studies show anything, it's that the Vir'lai were tenacious and resilient. They could hide in the strangest of places, in the crooks of the jungle mountains, in the alleys of our ruins, and so on.
Simply put, Vir'lai were impossible to detect by normal measures. Invisible to the eye due to active camouflage they developed long ago, and their instinctual desire to mask their presence by mucking about in the local mud of the jungles they inhabit, they could very well hide from the most weary of eyes. Even with an Elite's biomask, the Vir'lai were all but undetectable. It was the Elder's father who revolutionized the Hunt with a return to the old ways of tracking, using Vir'lai droppings and kills to pin the Vir'lai down.
"But Elder, if this was a Vir'lai then-" I began, but suddenly, drowsiness took me, I stumbled, and the last thing I remember hearing was a startled voice:
"Hold, pup, you'll live!"
I woke a week later, plagued by weakness in my limbs. Unable to walk, unable to even raise myself from my bed, the Elder and the Matriarch had been tending to me, and word spread quickly that the Unknown had taken sick after killing a Vir'lai. Most called me foolish and hoped I'd die quickly, but some had called it impressive. Mostly the older Hunters that knew how dangerous the Vir'lai were.
You see, Vir'lai have an especially vitriolic acid stored in the keratin of their claws. Standard tactics were to leap, latch on with their fangs, and poison them with swipes of their claws. Even the mightiest beasts quickly succumbed to the poison, and many Hunters died to the smaller, frailer prey.
That's why the Elder's father deigned it important to wipe them out. He called them the Coward's Kitten.
I looked to my left on the nightstand at my trophy.
I hope I live to show you off, First.
Before I could ponder any longer, the Matriarch entered my cramped, small tent.
"Awake, are we?" She said tenderly.
I clicked my tusks weakly in response, not strong enough to speak.
"Teetering on death's door. Such a fate for a Hunter such as yourself."
She crouched and drew closer. I could see the intensity in her face.
"If you want to prove to the Clan that you are strong, do not die. Dying would only prove them right, pup. You've shown to me and Tu'ratha that you are strong. Don't make us look like fools by going and succumbing to the poison."
I tried to speak, but words failed to climb up my throat. The Matriarch chuckled, and manually rose my head, and I felt weak as a babe out the womb. A piece of Cragnak jerky was brought to my mandibles, and with all the strength I could muster, I opened them, and allowed the tasty meat to pass down my gullet unharmed.
The hours waned on, and no one entered my damp, dirty, tiny tent excepting the Matriarch, and sometimes, the Elder. The only other occurrence was my Kinbrother Rathaka (Rathak's firstborn) who
opened the flap of my tent, and threw a wet, half eaten Toshi apple at my head. I wasn't strong to do anything, and I felt my tears welling up. It was a shameful state. The hours turned into days, and the days, into weeks. And still I laid in bed, and I didn't seem to be growing stronger. The Matriarch said she could tell I was returning to strength, but my patience grew thin. A month or so after my confinement, I rose from my bed, and grabbed my trophy, and tried limping to the exit of the village, only to collapse. A few Young Bloods kicked my in my ribs, and the younglings were preparing to throw stones at me when the Matriarch came along and shooed them. She carried me back to my tent.
"Are you not content with living?" she said as she dropped me into my bed roughly, and my bones creaked in pain.
"You are nowhere near recovered. You can hardly eat by yourself, and you can't even walk. And yet you would brazenly walk into the hornet's nest, you yourself a larvae? Do you wish to be devoured?"
"My body is not getting better!" I roared in a weak voice.
"I must force it to stand on will alone if it won't do it on its own!"
The Matriarch shook her head.
"If you insist on having a warrior's spirit, at least recover before dying."
"You know, your father would have-"
Just as she was going to further lament me, the Elder entered briskly, and made his way past the Matriarch.
"Are you mad? The Vir'lai poison has never been survived thus far and you push your fate further towards the grave by prematurely pushing your body?"
Before I could counter, he roared in a deep, frightening tone, and even the Matriarch was stunned. Outside the tent, all was quiet. They were waiting for the frightened yelp of the Unknown pup being extinguished. He wrapped his left and right hands' digits on my crown and lowered his crown to mine in solemn affection.
"My Unknown son, please. Do not be so eager to march to death. I have high hopes for you. Do not embrace the Black Warrior yet. You are sure to do great things."
Months passed, and gradually, and in solidarity, I recovered, with uncommon visits from the Matriarch delivering food. Hallucinations plagued my waking hours, nightmares my sleeping ones. But slowly, I rose, and with a fire none had seen before hand.
Looking back on it now, I suppose being on death's door had made me realize that I must embrace action. Nonetheless, I had begun to experiment relentlessly with traps, catching more meat than any other industrious Unblooded younglings, and even rivaling the Young Bloods.
Gradually, I grew, and became Unblooded. I fashioned a shoulder sling, based on the design that Tu'ratha had recruited me from, this time with an updated mechanism that allowed for faster loading.
On top of that, I had fashioned a wrist dagger (inspired by the wrist blades of my Kinfather) that, when given enough pressure from the bottom of my wrist, would withdraw in a deadly, albeit small, blade. All this, with throwing darts and tripwire in my pack, along with a small facemask I had fashioned from the volcanic glass in the Ashlands. Despite the continued prejudice I faced, I strode on, spending 6 of 7 days in the wilds. Check the traps, check the waterslings, wash belongings, I had fallen into a stable groove. I was slowly hardening my strengths, and had begun to cover my weaknesses. I was not strong, so I must be speedy and agile. If that would fail, I must use my intelligence. Techniques would emerge, and I would test them. Soon enough, I had enough pelts to fashion a tent from. Before I had even known it, I had grown into a young Hunter.
Then came Mashra(or Victory, in our dialect of the Tongue). The arena fights in the underbelly of the village was where Unblooded would fight in honorable Mashra combat. The Mashra could be claimed anywhere, but here in the Arena was where it would be used as a tool for the Unblooded to rise to Young Blood. One on one. Sometimes, if a Hunter was too weak, three, maybe five, on one. Nothing was technically forbidden, and so I brought along my equipment for the fights. The more Unblooded that one had to face was a sign that the one was doubted, and must further prove their strength. One-on-one fights were the most honorable. In my case, I was to fight eight of my fellow Unblooded in open combat.
I walked down the stairs, feeling the heat of the forges that the Underbelly was famous for, and heard the clang of my sandals hitting each and every metal step as well as the roaring, smelling the rusty blood, feeling the vibrations of fist-on-meat.
I came into the arena and was greeted with the sight of dozens and dozens of Hunters all watching the fights. Some mothers would have their pups at leash length, the pups eagerly taking in the barbarism with glee. Young Bloods were the rowdiest, egging the Unblooded on. Elites were rare, but present, and looked bored. Most of the time they were there on the pretense that they were told of a talented Unblooded, and wanted perhaps to claim their lineage. The Elder sometimes watched from a throne made of stone, bones and skulls, but he was replaced by an elder Hunter who was overseeing the fights.
Rathaka was fighting a large Unblooded named Ti'korisha, and was pounding a barrage of pistoning punches into the sternum of the bigger Hunter. Despite Rathaka's smaller size, he was averagely sized, but with a heart burning of fire and brimstone. His ferocity was wellknown, and every time I returned to the village to resupply or trade, he'd claim Mashra in the streets to beat me. No one knew why. At first, he brutally beat me within an inch of my life, and I had to beg his mercy. In his seemingly infinite arrogance and narcissism, he'd gloat and let me crawl away. But, gradually, something changed. Despite his larger size and his greater strength, I managed to predict his moves, and outwit him, and restrain him. It happened first four some years ago, but I lost the next six or so Mashras. He was especially cruel, only stopping when he thought me dead, and I quickly learned to fake my death. But, when he saw I survived, he gradually grew more and more insulted and prideful. Overtime, I outgrew him and beat him consistently. The last Mashra was a few days ago, when I had come into the Village to check for messages for me(Sometimes, a merchant would require a specific ingredient, and so on).
I strolled into the Village's gate, not even acknowledging the large Blooded Hunters guarding the gates from a slight distance, and was hauling a few large kills on my back, mostly large Nochok tigers I deemed worthy of killing, a Tashiran raccoon, a Nothrik marsupial, even a Kashi bear. I had a good few weeks of hunting, and it showed. I approached my usual buyer's stall, and lowered my kills carefully onto the stall's front. The stall was covered in skinned chicks and Nochoks, most of them either from the farms or my kills. The elderly woman who ran the stand came striding over, and clicked her tusks approvingly.
"A good hunt! A Kashi, too! My, how you've grown, Zorlin the Virlai slayer."
My tusks clicked fast, embarrassed at the approval. Ever since I recovered the older Hunters had started praising me, and I had not grown accustomed to it. In the beginning I even took it as an insult until the Elder explained it.
"I suppose I am lucky-" I began, only to be interrupted.
"Luck? The Black Warrior's gaze does not factor luck, young one! Nor does the White Lady's shawl shelter fortune. You are a good Hunter. You know when to strike, and how. Not like that brute Rathak has raised."
I shook my head in disagreement. Despite all the beatings he'd given me, and despite him being the foremost bully in my childhood, I only look at Rathak with pity.
"He simply needs to harness his anger, is all. He'd be an excellent Hunt Brother."
"Hunt Brother?" a sudden gruff and deep voice called, a shadow descended on the stall.
"As though I need a weakling like you to take down my prey?"
I glanced and saw the meaty, muscly embodiment of fury I had come to know as Rathaka.
"So proud you must be to have snagged-" he said as approached the stall of my kills.
"A few rat-cats, a cowardly Nothrik and this pitiful Kashi. Truly, you must be worthy of the name Ancient with your prowess!"
He boomed these words, and quickly a circle formed. Such an insult usually called for the insulted to claim Mashra.
I turned to face the elder Hunter merchant, ignoring his bravado.
"What would you take for the Kashi and Nothrik?"
"What do you find funny, frail one? And you, runt, how dare you ignore the son of the son of the Elder?"
He grasped my chest-straps, and pulled me from the ground and raised me four feet in the air to meet him eye-to-eye.
"I am one who simply-" I said, choking out the words in surprise, "wishes to claim his kills in peace, son of the son of the Elder."
"'Kills'? These are nothing!" he roared, and smashed the stall in one fell swing of his monstrous claws, destroying the handwoven brambles that had held up a generation of trading.
The old woman stepped forward to reprimand him, and Rathaka, no shame in his eyes, stepped to meet the elder in kind, and fury bubbled from my stomach and reached my mouth in a mighty roar worthy of the Ancient.
"I challenge you to Mashra, you insufferable oaf of a Hunter! Such disrespect to an Elder! Have you no shame?"
As soon as I had said that, honor dictates all was allowed. I used his grip to plant my sandals into his sternum, and pushed as hard as possible, and flung him to the ground, as I backflipped onto my feet. A growl escaped my lips, and Rathaka had only just begun to recover. I rushed him, and afore he even had the chance to react, I slid, and swept-kick under his feet which brought him face to face with the mud of the village floor. I angrily rushed, and snapped his arm behind his back, using his muscles against him to restrain him. I threatened to break his dominant arm, a grave wound for a Hunter.
I hadn't noticed at the time, but Rathak was watching that day. He had heard tales of the Mashras of his son and myself, but denied it. But right then, If he had not been wearing a mask, I'd be seeing his eyes darting back and forth in disbelief, confusion which blossoms into understanding.
"I call Mashra on Rathaka of the regal bloodline. Unless you wish to dispute my Mashra?" I said, as I twisted his arm. A pained, weak roar passed his maw, and he tried to rise, but could not in fear I would snap his arm in two.
"You are scum! To attack a Hunter before Mashra is properly-"
Rathaka's words stopped, as the crowd parted its sea to welcome the Elite Rathak.
Rathaka stared at his father in brazen shame and anger, but Rathak's glare was indisputably hidden by his smooth mask.
"Stop this, son. Your Tashla(or loss, in our Tongue) is evident. Zorlin, take your Mashra and leave. I would speak to my fool of a son."
These words were empty, devoid of meaning. I bet Rathak himself did not know what to make of his words.
Rathaka simply stared in disbelief at his father. All his life, Rathaka had been praised and taught by his Elite father because of his prowess.
I released my grip, dusted myself off, and began to help the growing group helping the elderly Hunter woman repair her stand and gather her supplies.
Those memories darted through my mind, all the while unconsciously I stepped into the arena grounds, and vaulted over one of the oblong pillars strung by string that separated arena from seats. I rose my head finally in recognition of the growing heat and smell of blood, only to find that Ti'korisha was lying dead with Rathaka's foot planted on his face.
I was shocked. Death was not unseen in the Arena, but rare. This bloodthirst that echoed throughout his being only solidified when a bloodcurdling scream of a roar chilled the bones of every Hunter there. Elites took notice, Young Bloods gawked at the Son of the Son of the Elder, and the pups retreated to their mothers.
He was reveling in their surprise and fear. He looked at me, and roughly posthumously snapped the neck of Ti'korisha with a single flick of his leg.
Hesitantly, 7 more Unblooded hopped the arena's barriers, and stayed a distance away from Rathaka, instead favoring circling me.
Mashra was claimed the moment they stepped in the ring, no words needed. I thought they would take time to gauge my appearance, but three of the fools rushed me right off the bat.
I dropped into a pushup on the ground, and two of them fell stumbling over me. In the confusion, I took my club from my belt, pushed off the ground into combat stance, and flung the club in an upward motion, to hook the tusks of the Unblooded that had been stupid enough to rush, but smart enough to hesitate, and with a sudden ripping motion, the tusks were ripped open, and a pained scream came forth, while spurts of green fluorescent blood dribbled down his neck.
No mercy in the Hunt.
I kicked him to the ground, where he quickly crawled to the barriers of the Arena to lick his wounds.
Even before he had left, I quickly turned my attention to the fools who had rushed me. I clonked one on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious, but by the time that had happened, the last one had risen and grappled me by the neck, hoping no doubt to choke the life from me. All the while, the other 4 hunters, excluding Rathaka, who patiently lingered on the outside of the ring, were watching, studying my movements. They breathed a sigh of relief that the crafty Unknown was now going to be put down, and began to eye up one another for the ensuing Mashra between themselves.
Rathaka, however, was still poised to attack at any moment, as if he knew what was to come.
As the breath in my windpipe was compressed, I tensed my left leg's muscles, and a small blade extruded from my leg straps, and I planted right into the lower stomach of the Hunter who had been choking me to death.
In utter pain, he dropped me, clutching at the wound which now oozed his neon blood. Not a moment sooner had I thrown a rope dart into his shoulder, and with all the strength I could muster for this maneuver, flung him outside the arena, where he landed with a sickening splat on the nearby staircase, either dead or with a concussion and unconscious. A nearby family member had already lifted him and begun taking him out of the underbelly to the medical woman under the employ of the Matriarch.
The last 4 were stunned, bewildered, and most importantly, frightened.
I roared my distinctly, but bafflingly belying deep, roar, the one I had practiced in the jungles all my life, and this one had shook all four of the remaining Hunters to the core.
The crowd, though I paid no attention to it at the time, was astonished, and silent. And suddenly, it roared to life in recognition of my victories. The second the noise ramped up, I rushed the one that looked the most frightened, a lanky, but strong-looking Hunter to left of Rathaka and 2 other hunters. He immediately took a step back, and that was his mistake.
I planted my feet, and with a flick of my wrist, I had thrown a Rashika (a device similar to a boomerang) with a rope attached to one end, around the fearful Hunter, and it came back to my left hand, which I used to bind the weak link Hunter, and kicked him to the ground where he immediately began to struggle. His partner, who had been stunned into inaction, was now jogged into rapid movements, rushing me, zigging and zagging towards me, I jumped high into the air, and threw multiple of my throwing darts around his path, restricting his fast movements, hoping to land a hit on one of his feet to slow him down, and though that plan had no luck, my backup did. I had planted the darts in a way to herd his movements below me, and while he was somewhat busy focusing on his footwork, I had come barreling down from the sky right into a collision, and I promptly drop kicked him crown first, which landed him face-first into the dust and mud of the arena. I spun around, carefully avoiding the previously-planted darts, and snapped his arm in a fluid motion, breaking his dominant arm, thus crippling him for some time.
A painful roar matched the visceral snap that echoed throughout the arena, and oncemore, the crowd began their excited roars, screams, and cheers.
I kicked him to the side of the arena, where he clutched at his broken arm, not even strong enough to crawl from the arena. I oncemore clasped the club in my hand and strode over to the tied-up Hunter. The last two were frozen in silence. They did not have time to save or free the Hunter in bondage, instead, only watching as I pulled my arm back subtly, and then, like the strike of thunder, my arm rubber-banded back, and with a gross splat he was asleep, albeit with a lump on his crown now. I didn't even have time to move him to the outer section of the before his compatriots rushed me.
"Enough of your tricks, scum!" one had screamed, and was rocketing a punch from above in an obvious manner at me. Fisticuffs in hand, I engaged them both, blocking punches, dodging deadly jabs, and bracing for the more deep clawing motions they made. Soon enough their adrenaline faltered, giving way to their fatigued stamina, meanwhile, I had been conserving my speed, taking the brunt of their weaker attacks while avoiding the deadlier ones. Though I had many a cut and bruise and gash, I still only felt the stinging pain rather than the pursuit of defeat. The crowd's cheering grew confused, as they saw the two Hunters who were seemingly tearing into the previously victorious Unknown, back up in tiredness. I roared oncemore, though less fearsomely, and charged them. One of them weakly tried to block, while the other turned to run. I struck the blocker first, raising the club from my belt again, though it's place was in the back of the skull of the coward who was running, I swiftly slid, and with a sweeping motion, knocked the more respectable Hunter to his knees, and using a swift elbow bash, knocked him to the ground entirely, though not yet unconscious. The running Hunter had made distance, but I closed it quickly with a somersault from my crouched position, and promptly landed the club into the gap of his locks. He fell to the ground, silent but alive. I had no time to think of his wellbeing, as I had snapped back to his partner, and raised my club in a seemingly hitting manner. The last Unblooded didn't brace, as he thought I didn't have enough range to melee him with my deadly club. He was right.
But I didn't plan to melee with him anymore. I swiftly threw the club. It flew, almost in slow motion, and landed directly into his crown. And I knew, then and there, that he was dead as his eyes rolled back in his head.
I winced. I knew there might be death, but I had been avoiding it. But I could not wait and pray for forgiveness, as Rathaka was still there, conserving all his strength. I walked to the Hunter, and hoping Rathaka was not hasty, I pulled the club from my fellow Hunter's skull, and gingerly laid him to the ground. In recognition of his hard-fought honor, I closed his eyes.
I could regret this more, but I saw little ways other than to throw the club to conserve my energy for Rathaka.
No mercy in the Hunt.
Then what of the mercy in the Hunter?
"Such ginger hands for a warrior. How can you kindly lay him down when he was foolish enough to challenge you?" Rathaka questioned. His voice was startling close, as I felt the vibrations of his voice send a careening wind into my ears. I spun around, but it was too slow. A claw grasped at my gut, and he pulled me straight off the ground, pulled back and launched me into the pillar across from his.
All my breath was knocked from my lungs with that strike.
Rathaka had been waiting! Just waiting, opportunistically, for the other Hunters to wear me down. He must be desperate to reclaim his honor.
I landed, and launched off my feet, flipped, and landed with my back to Rathaka. He rushed to meet me in close combat, where he would excel, but instead, I lowered the string to my Shoulder-Sling, took a hardflint from my pouch, and placed it in the sling all in but a moment. Rathaka was close enough to be fatal, and so I backflipped back near my initial position, albeit a few feet father from the actual original position. Rathaka turned, and with a silky smooth motion, I pulled the string again, and the hardflint was slung fast at deadly speeds right into the eye socket of Rathaka's left eye. He roared in agony, and though I had been aiming for his crown, I was pleased with the result. He was half-blind, I thought, how dangerous could he be?
In a flurry of rage, he came thundering his way to me, and I tried to roll to the side, but he deftly caught my foot in mid air, and raised me like a dead fox by the tail, and slammed me into the hard dusty mud-packed floor of the arena. Again, and again, he slammed me, and I felt the broken bones piling up in my guts, piercing and causing internal bleeding. I wasn't ready to die, I thought, and so I pulled out a last resort.
A sudden movement of my wrist, and my wrist dagger was out, and I swiped at his hand, causing one of the fingers to fly off, and his grip wavered as he grappled with the pain with a truly deafening roar. I landed to the ground, rolled, feeling my ribs crack at the pressure. I couldn't simply let the pain overwhelm me. I had to keep moving. I dashed to the side, getting more distance between me and Rathaka, especially keeping myself in the field of vision of his right eye, which was now deadened by my hand. He turned around angrily, with his right socket oozing the juices of his now defunct eye. His right hand now was now quadracepted and slimy with the blood of his pointer finger. But behind all that was his rage-blackened eyes, with hatred and fury in equal measures practically rising in steam from his biceps. When he didn't seem me where I had rolled, he turned further to where I was, and I dashed at him from this angle, and by the time he had seen me, it was too late. My dagger was deep in his sternum, but that didn't stop him from lifting me up by the waist to meet him eye-to-eye oncemore.
"Your tricks..." he said, out-of-breath, "won't save you..."
He clumsily dropped me, and gripped my throat, crushing it with a force twice as strong as my previous choker.
I felt the world around me grow dim, but in a sudden flash, I did what I did previously, this time, however, I tensed both legs, and one blade on each leg sprung from their restraints. One bloody, one unstained, I, with the last vestige of strength I could muster, did a somersault, and carved a double path of death upwards from his six-pack, all the way to his shoulders, even decapitating his left tusk in the process.
This was too much for Rathaka, and he began to grow slower.
Even though many of my bones were broken, I saw victory, and clamored on my feet to meet it head on. I slid, feeling my knee bones crack in several places, and kicking with my right leg, I sent the towering giant Rathaka down to the ground. And though, much more sloppily, I pinned his arm behind his back, and louder than the quieting crowd, I roared a sentence I would never forget.
"I call Mashra over the eight Hunters. Do you dispute this, Rathaka?"
I knew the answer, of course. Rathaka was much too tired to spout his usual bravado, or speak at all.
I turned and swept my gaze over the crowd. I was bleeding and broken, but I mustered the courage to continue.
"Then I, Unknown of Clan Bloodskull, claim the title of Young Blood. Do any dispute this?!"
A few Young Bloods and Blooded started to furiously decry me.
"He used weapons!"
"His actions were running and hiding, the coward!"
"He killed two or three of the Hunters, the monster!"
"ENOUGH!" a voice exploded, and the crowd parted. Rathak was standing alone, solitary from the other Hunters.
"How dare you all? Hunters immemorial have brought crude weaponry to the Arena. Zorlin fought with honor. Running? He didn't leave the arena. He faced his opponents. Eight times the normal limit. He bested the regal bloodline's newest Hunter. You need not coddle him, nor praise him. But he fought as honor dictates."
Rathak bounded and strode past me, and the other unconscious or debilitated Unblooded. He picked Rathaka up in his arms, and silently made his way to the exit with nary a word to me.
But I knew what he meant. He had finally recognized my strength. He may not like me, but he knew I was worthy of the title Hunter now.
I couldn't raise myself, and so Ti'shara and another kinsister of mine came into the arena, and carried me off the Matriarch for tending. I laid with broken bones, bruised meat, and sliced flesh, but the victor.
I had won. I was now a Young Blood. And no one could take that from me, even in death.