Hello again everyone! Guess who is back and ready to take this story where I planned to years ago?! Me! That's right, I am currently going through all my old notes and re-editing the chapters I had written to bring you Maruk's story once and for all. So, thank you for re-reading over this chapter and I hope you continue to stick around. Thank you all!
Maruk woke to stiff limbs and throbbing pain. Rising shakily to his legs he looked around the small, dark hollow in the tree he had been hiding in for the previous day. Rubbing one of his thin, muscular legs to alleviate the feeling, Maruk slowly walked up to the thick, resilient scrub that covered the entrance of his hidden retreat. Silently poking his muzzle through the leafy bush, he surveyed the area around him with hollow eyes. The silence was broken by the buzzing of zappflies and the chittering of a nest of stunkz, interjected only by the occasional cussing of a hidden chippunk. Slowly he trotted out from between the large foliage, stretching his legs as he did, his hooves crushing the leaf litter underfoot. As he trotted slowly through the winding trunks of the blooming forest he thought back to the previous days and how his life had been ripped from his grasp.
Maruk had been resting next to his mother at the time, her arms wrapped around him as she fiddled with his hair. Maruk had snorted irritably followed by a childish whine. "Muuuuuuuum! Could you stop it, please."
His mother had just smiled. Night had fallen and everything had taken on various shades of grey, shapes greatly defined by his night vision. The bucks had been out on patrol when the poachers had struck. The first shot had echoed out across the field, filling the air with dread. A pained howl from one of the younger males followed closely behind. A sadistic signal signifying the beginning of the raid; it was like they had come flying out of the ground itself, demons hell-bent on destruction. The herd had scattered at the first sign of trouble, mothers sheltering children while the males went off to defend them.
But the poachers had foreseen this and set up accordingly, screams rang out as steef are cut down where they had stood.
Maruk watched on with horrified eyes as his mother attempted to make him flee. Dragging him by his arm, his mother had galloped towards an opening in the poacher's line, a gap leading to a field of tall grass and the safety of the forest beyond. Tall strands of grass had whipped by Maruk, lashing against his legs and chest, his free arm raised to protect his face.
His mother, face stricken with grief and sadness had kept up a steady pace; fast but not enough to leave him behind. Maybe is she had left him or ran faster she might still be alive.
A shot had rang out through the night, ripping through grass before striking her hard in the flank. A spray of blood kicked up as she had stumbled and fallen, her legs collapsing beneath her. The next few moments had passed as if underwater, sounds had dulled and motion had seem to slow to a crawl as he had watched his mother fall.
Maruk had cried out and slowed down, but a growl and a stare from his mother had got him running again, tears streaming down his face andmatting his fur as he ran into the relative safety of the forest. He stumbled through the trees, tripping over roots and crashing through low branches in his desperate bid to secure his life. Through sheer luck he had stumbled across his hiding spot, staggering in as angry voices echoed after him.
Here he had lain and cried before passing into a fitful sleep. Next day he had been too depressed to move and had instead chosen to stare at the ceiling, breaking into bouts of crying as the events played over in his mind again and again. By the next day an increasing pain in his stomach forced him to leave his hollow to hunt for food, the task he was now trying to lose himself in. Maruk was on the search for any form of edible food, heck he'd eat a stunkz if he could find one.
"So much forest and not a single thing to eat." he mumbled to himself glumly, eyes downcast with a slight pout on. Trotting along sometime later, the sound of running water reached Maruk's ears. Running his tongue across his parched lips in an attempt to wet them he had to hold himself back from rushing through the scrub and leaping bodily into the beautiful running river.
With his cloven hooves sinking slightly into the soft mud of the riverbank, knees leaving marks, the disheveled steef stared down at his reflection in the crystal clear water. His brown shoulder-length hair was full of twigs and leaves and the fur on his face was matted and dirty from mud and tears, a testament to the past 48 hours. Hollow blue eyes stared hauntingly back, sunken further into his head than normal. Sticking his face into the water, he took massive gulps to sate his thirst. Having had his fill, Maruk wiped the beads of water collecting in his fur off, before once again heading off to search for food.
Maruk wandered for several more hours without luck, the forest had gotten lighter and the foliage became sparser. As luck would have it, just as he was closr to giving up, he stumbled across a patch of edible berries.
As he was enjoying his fill, Maruk's ears began to twitch as he caught snatches of sound in the distance, bringing with it voices; high pitched squawks and accent-laden words. Mouth still dripping with berry juice and with a large amount of berries grasped firmly in his hands, Maruk wandered silently over towards the voices. Standing before him were a strange group of creatures, short stubby creatures with beaks and feathery arms. He had heard memebers of his herd talk about something like them before. They stood in a group arguing loudly with each other.
A larger member of the group, with rolls covering most of his neck, waddled forward and began talking rapidly. His voice made Maruk's ears cringe and twitch. "Well I think that we should get da 'ell out of here, I hear there is creatures in these here woods that hunt Clakkerz."
"Don't be ridiculous Egland. Thems just myths, like them Steefs. Crazy stories for little hatchlins."
Maruk reared back slightly at his species mention before leaning closer, curious as to what these strange creatures knew about them. Maybe they could help him find them again... if anyone had made it away. Unfortunately they had heard Maruk moving in the bushes and had begun to leave quickly, frightened squawks passing between them. By now Maruk had completely forgotten about his hunger, his mind set on the feeble hope that these things, these clakkerz, could help until the Clakkerz were out of sight, Maruk soflty followed after them, a shadow flitting between the trunks of the trees.
Maruk was careful to stay just behind the group, out of sight but close enough for him to hear where they were. Stumbling along and not paying much attention he had almost lost the group, sheer panic taking over as he cantered, panicked, forward only to dive behind bushes as he almost ran into the back of the Clakkerz. Each one of these instances spurred the clakkerz to move faster, afraid some mythical beast was pursuing them, until even the most skeptical of them wassprinting through the trees, dodging trunks in a fevered manner.
"Geezus Earl it's gunna get us!"
"Shut up and run ya moron!"
"AAAAAAAH! I THINK I LAID AN EGG!"
The trees began to clear more and more, until a clearing appeared, a dusty road winding off across the plains in one direction and into the forest in the opposite one. And standing as a crossroad was a small, rundown town, standing like an old man, each building hunched and fading in the harsh sun. Maruk stood in wonder at the strange site poking through the leaves of the bush he was hiding behind, a dull mix of browns and yellows standing in harsh contrast to the lush green of the forest.
The group of terrified Clakkerz fled towards the centre of town, their cries leading the other inhabitants to follow out of curiosity. Dozens flooded out of their houses, following the terrified screaming to the opposite side of town. Scents drifted on the wind, tantalizing smells that teased his nose, pained growls echoing his thoughts as his stomach complained. The berries had done little to sate his hunger.
"I'm sure they won't mind me getting some food, I am starving after all." he muttered to himself. The trail of smells leads to a small, ramshackle house haphazardly fashioned out of wood and tin. It looked as if a good strong breeze would send it tumbling down, but apparently there was food inside and that was good enough for him.
Pushing open the door, Maruk peeked his head inside to investigate. Wooden furniture adorned the front room. An old rocking chair sat quiet and still in the corner, a small table in the center of the room held various objects and papers, some littering the floor around it and a couch covered in an extremely large amount of pillows finished off the set. Light spilled through small holes in the tin roof, casting a dim light on the scene. Hunger took over curiosity and the kitchen was soon ransacked of everything Maruk could carry, arms full and cheeks lined with anything edible as he made his way towards the door. Unluckily though the commotion had died down and the Clakkerz were returning to their homes, their interest in the 'beasts' lost. This meant that Markus was halfway across the front room when the owner of the house returned.
Stepping through the door the female clacker stopped dead when she noticed the young steef standing in her house, with her food. Completely oblivious to the terrified look occupying her face, Maruk smiled at the clacker and thanked her for the food, thanks to his mouth being stuffed full of food though it came out like "Thmfp jmh foh dhhm fdd."
"AAAH BEAST GET OUT! GET OUT! HELP!" The hysterical woman began desperately throwing objects in a bid for her 'safety', including a vase and painting. The former which narrowly missed Maruk's head, causing him to yelp, and the latter ending up stuck around his neck. Feathers filled the air as the new projectiles rocketed in Maruk's direction. Pillows and knick-knacks became deadly weapons in the clakker's hands. Slipping slightly on the rug Maruk galloped straight out the door, terrified of this crazy bird. The harsh, blinding sun caused him to stumble and fall, rolling off the steps in a tangle of hooves and arms.
"Ooh look little birdies too, and their floating around my head."
Head still spinning from the tumble, Maruk staggered to his feet, arms clutched protectively around the stolen food. Silence filled through the town as the inhabitants noticed the new arrival; stunned eyes stare directly at Maruk as he stared meekly back.
A vase came rocketing out of the doorway, striking the back of his head, shattering itself and the silence. His stagger forward brought the clakkerz out of shock, causing them to scurry insid,e only to return seconds later, each clacker armed with a shotgun or rifle and every single one aimed at Maruk.
Fear drenched Maruk as he recognized the devices that had slaughtered his family, frightened whinnies escaped his throat as he set of in a blind gallop in a desperate gambit to escape the demonic contraptions that had taken his mother from him. Some clakkerz fled into their homes when Maruk began to run, scared that the beast would kill them, while others began to fire.
"Get tha beast, don't let him escape!"
"Take this ya demon!"
Vicious voices mixed with the gunfire as Maruk fled the town, bullets ricocheting off the ground around him. Ducking and weaving, hooves sliding in the dust while the food lay forgotten behind him, tears began to pour down Maruk's face; wetting his fur and blinding him. Blindly dodging Maruk sprinted deep into the jungle, looking wildly behind him, Maruk collided with something soft, knocking him off-balance and onto the ground.
Curling up in a ball, Maruk covered his head with his hands waiting for the end. Instead, something else happened. Four voices surrounding him began conversing with each other. "Hey guys, look'it this fuzzy little thing I found. It's all scared and stuff, should we help it?"
"I don't think so, it could eat us. Then where would we be? We'd be dead, that's where we'd be."
"Shut it Supa. Let's go. Leave it."
"I'm gunna help it."
A rough and calloused hand touched Maruk's shoulder. Flinching from the contact, Maruk looked up at whatever was touching him, confusing and fear runnig through his mind. Large bulbous eyes stared down at him. the creature was bald except for a single, feathery topknot on its head. Green skin covered an extremely thin frame and a three fingered hand was gently resting against his shoulder. Three similar creatures stood behind him.
"It's okay little buddy, your safe with us now."