It's Not The Size That Matters.
For now, Italics are used when thinking, or when using a non native language. Example Yautja speaking ooman, or ooman speaking Yautja. Normal font is used when speaking the native language. Example Yautja speaking Yautja, or ooman speaking ooman. This will change in later chapters.
The Game World. No matter which perspective one chose to take in regards to it, the planet was still an exceedingly dangerous place. This was the one world were where almost all laws and rules were cast aside. It was the one place where Yautja, both large and small, male and female actively hunted each other in addition to those beings who had been brought to this world to be hunted. The one rule which was held inviolate was the injunction against bringing any Hard Meat to the planet. Those who were in orbit or in transit were to remain untouched, but once on the surface, everyone and everything was fair game to be hunted and killed by whatever means one chose to use. This was the world that the Great Yautja named R'ka-thwei was now forced to call home.
She had come to hate this planet over the past four years. She had hidden and quietly watched as even the seemingly most honorable Great Yautja she'd known devolved into a form of dishonorable madness in which the only things that mattered were the trophies that were claimed. But it wasn't just the planet that she hated. What she truly hated were the circumstances that had transpired to place her here. She recalled how she had been so full of pride in having returned from her Kainde Amedha Chiva even though she only had a single scar to show for the five skulls that she had claimed. That pride had turned to ash in her mouth when she discovered that her Bearer had been murdered, while still owing a debt for her place on the vessel. Being unable to collect the debt from her Bearer, those responsible for her transport had immediately demanded a full punishment. Thus, she had been sentenced to live on this world for the remainder of her life.
Four long frightening years. That was how long she had lived here. She knew that the main reason that she hadn't been killed or captured yet, was because of her size. At a full fifteen nok in height, she was a force to be reckoned with. Even though she wasn't counted as being among the largest females of the Great Yautja, she was still taller, heavier, and stronger than the males. Her charcoal black skin was highlighted with a dark golden yellow coloration along her breasts, belly, and upper inner thighs. She no longer had just that one single scar from her Chiva, because here, each day, each hour was a constant struggle to avoid the persistent, grasping claws of The Dark Hunter. Each time she awoke from her sleep, she truly thanked The Dark Hunter for granting her another day of both freedom and life on this planet of misery.
There were some aspects of this planet that she wouldn't have considered to be so bad if she could only take some sort of reprieve from the never ending battle just to stay alive. The need to constantly remain on the move meant that she couldn't even retain any of the numerous trophies that she could have honorably claimed from the countless kills she'd made. Trophies to proclaim her hunting skills, hot meals of freshly cooked stew, and even furs to sleep on were just a few of the things she'd been forced to do without in order to simply survive. That didn't even touch on the incredible loneliness she was forced to endure. No comrade to greet her at any time, no friends, or even an acquaintance to speak to or simply pass the time of day with. Instead, it was a ceaseless kill or be killed life, where absolutely nothing could be trusted.
R'ka-thwei shook her head in irritation as she quickly scanned the surrounding branches for any sign of a threat. She could not afford the luxury of thinking about her past life. It no longer mattered what she used to have! What mattered now, was surviving for the next few minutes, and after that, maybe another couple of hours, then, if she were lucky, and The Dark Hunter was with her, perhaps even until nightfall. There were no living creatures in the area, and that meant that she would need to keep moving if she was going to find something to eat this day.
She was about to begin moving downwind, when she caught the fresh scent of a pack of Yaut Hounds. Fortunately they were still upwind, but she had no idea as to whether there were Yautja hunters controlling them or not. Moving quickly and silently as a ghost, she began making her way through the branches. She moved downwind, but at an angle to that she would soon be out of any area that any group of hunters following those hounds might search. It took her several hours to make sure that she was completely out of the area. So that she wouldn't risk being detected by the Yaut Hounds or the hunters who might be following them. Crouched on the thick branch of a tree, she paused to rest for a few moments. Living on this world had taught her to rest when she could, because she might truly need that recovered strength later.
After resting for nearly half an hour, she once again began moving downwind. She knew that for now, she was putting herself at a slight disadvantage in that anything which might wish to hunt her could detect her scent and prepare for her arrival, but that couldn't be helped. She wanted a place where she could be assured of at least some semblance of safety, and that was why she had been moving downwind each day. She knew that sooner or later, she would have to reach a coastal shoreline. Then, with the sea at her back, she would be able to detect the scent of anything approaching her from inland. She had to admit that it wasn't much of a strategy, but it was something, and it was sound. The only problem that she knew of… was getting there.
Almost as soon as she began moving, she heard a soft snuffling noise from below. Looking down, she saw what she thought of as a Spike-hound. She didn't know the true name for the species, but she knew that they were exceedingly dangerous! The lizard like body was about twelve nok in length, with the spike tipped tail being another ten nok. The entire creature was covered in thick and incredibly tough armored scales that even her tremendous strength couldn't penetrate with her spear or wristblades. Then there were hundreds of spines that adorned the back of the beast. Each one was nearly four nok long and very deadly. She knew that those spines were very fragile at the base, so that they would break off in the body of any creature that tried to attack.
R'ka-thwei pulled out her spear, and readied it by locking it into full extension. She felt herself salivating at the thought of the meat she could gain from this beast. She knew from hard learned experience that there were only three places that this creature was vulnerable. The eyes, inside the mouth, and the underside of the bottom jaw. These creatures were tough, fast, and deadly, but they were by far, the most delicious things she'd found on this planet!
She moved silently among the branches until she was in position. Then with a soundless snarl, she dropped to the ground thirty nok below and slammed her spear at the creature's eye. The Dark Hunter was surely with her this day, because her spear had been unerring in its path, and her thrust was true. The deadly blade of her spear plunged straight through the rear left eye of the creature, and right into the brains of the beast. It died without a sound, and without a struggle.
R'ka-thwei was glad of the silence that had accompanied the death of the Spike-hound, because she couldn't tell what else might be lurking nearby that was waiting for a chance to hunt her. She knew all too well, that it would only take one slip, one mistake on her part, and she would become the hunted. Removing her spear, she stabbed it into the ground the clean the blood off it before collapsing it and replacing it in the holster of her left thigh. Acting quickly, she rolled the beast on its left side and using her knife that was made from the tail of a Hard Meat; she worked the tip beneath one of the scales and began the slow process of gutting the creature.
Slitting the belly open was slow going, and the cut was extremely ragged, but once done, she had access to the heart, lungs, and kidneys of the beast. She knew better than to take the liver, which in any predatory species was filled with fatally toxic levels of whichever mineral their blood was based on. She laid the edible organs on the inside of the ribcage and cut out the first of the two stomachs. Turning it inside out, she quickly scraped the inner layer off, and turned it right side out again. Then, she placed her delicacies in that stomach, before cutting out the second. That one, she filled with some of the entrails of the beast. She knew that she'd have to conceal that fact that it wasn't killed by another animal, and removing some of the intestines that no Yautja would dare eat, would go a long way towards doing that. Next, she used her bare hands to break the upper ribs, so she could get to some of the tender and extremely flavorful back meat. That too was stuffed into the stomach that held her next meal. Now there was only one thing left to do. She stood up, and leapt high in the air the come down on the head of the dead beast. The armored sole of her right boot landed right on the two left eyes of the creature and crushed the skull beneath her weight. Then she grabbed the two stomachs and leapt into the branches to get as far away from the scene as she could. She knew that soon, either an animal, or some intelligent being would find this kill, and she wanted to be well away from it when that happened.
She moved swiftly and noiselessly through the middle layer of tree branches, as she resumed her trek downwind. She had traveled about four thousand nok, when she had to stop. R'ka-thwei found herself facing the shore of a bend in a fairly vast river. She stared at it silently for a long while before she spotted a small piece of wood being carried downstream. The river was flowing downwind!
R'ka-thwei sincerely thanked The Dark Hunter in her relief after realizing that she could follow this river to the coast. It would be a winding journey, and she had no idea just how long it would take to cross the remainder of the continent, but she knew without any doubts that this river had to empty into the sea! Following it, would mean a constant source of water for her to drink. It would also mean reliable fuel for the micro fusion power cell in her armor. She also realized that this river would provide her with a fairly reliable hunting ground, since all animals would have to drink sooner or later. The only drawback to the river was that the moisture from it would also hold her scent for a very long time.
R'ka-thwei dropped down to the ground and searched carefully until she found a rock that was small enough to fit in the second stomach, but large enough to ensure the result she wanted. Finding such a rock, she stuffed it in the stomach and deftly tied off both ends of it, before dropping it softly in the river. The weight of the rock would ensure that the large stomach and the intestines it contained would sink to the bottom where it would either decay, or be devoured by some type of aquatic creature. Either way, the result was that the stomach and its contents would not serve to give her away.
Leaping back into the lower branches, she began slowly following the river bank. While she traveled at a now much more leisurely pace, she opened the remaining stomach that contained the delicacies she had collected from her kill. A toothsome and delicious kidney was followed by one of the lungs from the beast. Then she indulged in the creature's heart. The thick, slightly tough, and therefore chewy, blood filled, and protein rich but still delectable muscle would serve to give her strength, not to mention that she found it very tasty as well. Pulling out the second lung, she enjoyed the soft tender tissue for the short time that it lasted. The second kidney was savored in much the same fashion. The high amount of nutrients that it contained would help her stay healthy, and while it was quite good raw, she would have given up quite a lot to be able to take the time to warm it over a fire.
As she munched on the large slab of muscle from the back of her kill, she lamented the fact that she simply couldn't take the risk of trying to establish some type of permanent camp. She knew that there were many other Great Yautja on this world. They preferred to hunt in small groups in order to avoid being hunted themselves. They were almost always boastful individuals who had declared themselves to be 'Great Hunters', but she felt that if they were truly great, then they wouldn't be nearly so adamant about hunting in a group.
R'ka-thwei checked the surrounding area carefully before she shut down her cloaking system. She turned her attention to her wrist computer, and checked the power levels in her armor. She saw that the power was holding steady at peak level, but that the fuel reserve was down to one twentieth of full capacity. She had a full two hours of pressure stored oxygen and nitrogen mix in her armor, and that would give her a fair amount of time to allow her fuel cells to refill. She dropped down to the bank of the river in a swift move, before silently entering the water.
It was cool and refreshing against the exposed areas of her skin, and she switched visual modes in her mask to allow her to see through the murky water. Getting to the bottom of the river was no problem, and once there, she abandoned all pretense of stealth and moved as fast as she could. She was glad that her equipment weighed as much as it did, since that allowed her to remain on the bottom with ease. Armored boots and even the claws of her fingers were used to propel her along the bottom at great speed. As far as preferred methods of travel went, this one wasn't even on her list. On the other claw, this method did allow her to move much faster, and cover far more distance without risking detection. It was a tradeoff however, because she couldn't hunt while traveling this way, nor could she be positive that one of the Great Yautja wouldn't detect her once she decided to leave the river. Therefore this was much like anything else on this horrid world with both good points and bad points. To her though, a major good point was that she would be able to cover enough distance in two hours to equal three days of stealthy travel through the tree tops. She allowed herself to entertain thoughts of a possible camp where she could have and keep furs and skins to sleep in, a fire to warm herself and even cook some food, and maybe, just maybe, a place to keep a few choice skulls from her kills.
She moved slowly and carefully so as to avoid creating any ripples in the water as she poked the top of her head just above the surface of the water to look around. She cycled through each of the visual modes in her mask to make sure that there were no threats nearby. Ground, branches, and even the tree tops were carefully checked. She took a deep breath of her now scanty air reserves, and slowly moved onto the river bank. She knew that her cloaking would be completely useless until the system dried out, so she took off at a silent run. She knew that the rush of air, as well as her own elevated body heat would dry the system faster than simply trying to wait it out. So she had a choice, either present a stationary target, or one that was moving fast. She knew that there were several Great Yautja who were actually here to hunt her. She knew this because she had even observed them discussing the best means to capture her, well, if they wanted her, they would have to catch her!
After half an hour of silent running, she was nearing exhaustion. She knew that she had exerted herself far more than normal in her high speed crawling swim along the bottom of the river, and that if she kept going, her breathing would become ragged, noisy, gasps that would give her presence away. She leapt into the branches of a tree, and checked the status of her fuel and air reserves. The fuel had been completely replenished, but it would take another half hour before her air supply would allow another two hour excursion to the bottom of the river. That was fine, since it would give her the chance to rest, and warm up a bit.