Zi'da 79, Arc 717
Wolfgang, Part II
Ellen crouched in the bushes, holding her breath, willing herself to not move even a single muscle. Not the smallest feather. She wanted to burst from her hiding spot and loose an arrow so badly that she had goosebumps all along her arms. The little hairs stood on end, and she felt saliva pooling her mouth. Just a few yards away a pair of does rummaged in the damp leaves at the edge of the plain. She was shaded by woodline and brush, peeking through a gap in the tangled evergreen bushes that she only hoped didn't contain poison oak, because if it did she was screwed about three bits ago.
She shifted her grip on the body of her bow, sliding her knuckles along the fletching of the arrow nocked to its string. Birds twittered in the bare limbs overhead, and one of the does raised their head to look the other way--away from her. Now!
It all happened in a blur. Ellen rose from her prone spot in the bushes, lifting her bow, drawing back the arrow to the corner of her mouth. The deer both balked and bolted. She sighted the shoulder of the closest one and released. The bow snapped taught, launching the arrow across the gap. Her target bobbed and spun suddenly at the last moment, taking the arrow in the hip instead. The doe faltered in her escape, stumbling heavily but managing to get her feet back under her and continue bounding away. She still ran surprisingly fast with an arrow buried in her flank.
The mixed-blood hesitated, watching both of them disappear in different directions. She paced in a quick circle, then cursed again, louder this time.
She waded through the bushes with little regard for grace and silence now. Once free, she started sprinting after her injured quarry. If nothing else, she wanted that damn arrow back. But her legs were no match for the animal, even losing blood and staggering along as it was. Ellen pounded along nevertheless, pumping her arms and soon faltering in her own strides. It wasn't long before she was panting, but she persisted. Still the beast grew farther away, out across the damp brown prairie. She finally half-stumbled half-slid to a halt, doubling over hands on knees to catch her breath a moment.
"Nï karshe! Herwìva akra ke’u aladani eo motsi ke’u?" she shouted out at the distant doe.
Straightening again after a moderate pause, Ellen grimaced, still breathing hard, but able to focus on her rapidly escaping meal ticket once more. She wasn't going to catch it on foot, but in her adrenaline-fueled haze she considered the alternative. She licked and gnashed her teeth in frustration, but ultimately it was the best option. And really, it was just her legs that burned. Her other limbs were quite alright. So she lurched back into a swift jog, tongue poking out from between pursed lips in concentration. Carefully but also as quickly as she could without losing her balance, she unfurled her wings. As the air caught them they drug her back, slowing her gait slightly but not halting her. The wind filled their bellies like sails, and she made a few quick flaps, hopping and skipping over the grass to aid their lift.
They lifted her a little slowly at first, and the muscles through her shoulders and back tightened as she strained to pick herself up with a bag of gear strapped between the feathered appendages. But she'd done it before, and she did it again. Soon she was completely free of the ground and stabilizing herself in the air. She felt the wind pushing up against her wings, lifting her higher until she felt comfortable enough to stilling their constant beating enough to glide and rest a moment. She sighed, feeling almost suspended. Ellen could see the deer more clearly again. It had slowed to what looked like some kind of ambling trot--still spurred by the pain persisting in its hip and running on flight instincts.
Without the terrain to slow her down, the mixed-blood caught up quickly. She angled her wings slightly up and folded them just a bit. This let her begin a slow, controlled descent. Apparently the deer could either hear her coming down or it simply felt something, but it started its mad dash once again. So much for a ground takedown. Ellen spread her wings fully again and flapped briskly, increasing her pace. She closed the gap again in just a few moments and pulled another arrow from the quiver at her hip. Nocking it, she swallowed a hysteric, nervous laugh. Ellen had never tried this before, so she had no idea if it would even work.
Her wings stilled once more, and although she began to slow again the glide was stable. Taking a deep breath, she swiftly drew back the next arrow, tipping slightly in the air. Startled by the shift Ellen backed out of her shot for a moment to stabilize herself once again. A little more prepared this time, she redrew in one quick motion, broadhead baring down on the doe's shoulders as she tipped to the side in the air above, released, and... missed. The arrow thumped into the ground beside the doe, making her jump aside and balk back towards the trees.
Growling loudly in frustration, Ellen curled her wingtip and circled back around. Folding them slightly to descend closer to the ground, eyes narrowed on the feathered shaft sticking out the grass, she reaches out and plucked it from the dirt as she passed. Flapping hard to rise back several dozen feet above the plain, she refocused her pursuit back to the doe. Despite the last failed attempt, this deer wasn't looking too good. It was possible she was simply too exhausted now by the mixed-blood insistent pursuit, or she was in too much pain, or both. She struggled along just a ways ahead, stumbling and limping and putting up quite a valiant fight. Ellen slowed and circled overhead, watching as the doe ultimately collapsed in the grass, sides heaving as she tried to catch her breath.
Ellen came down beside her, approaching low, spreading her wings wide and angling them steeply. She felt the wind swirl behind them, trying to suck her down, but she fought to stay balanced. She landed in a jog, knees bending on impact and springing back so she could slow and finally stop. The hunter stooped down beside her quarry, silent now, looking the animal over. The doe lay on her side, mouth open as she panting, ribs fluttering. Her eyes were wide but glazed, and her hip was dark with blood around the arrow. Ellen couldn't muster any pride in that moment.
"Sev'm kïnä ọsïsẹ sev waje takip kufikiria ke’ua dabi ọníšẹ. Ke’u did takip walƙiya tä bou'eri a'oul ar kọv tìt'nari kọv ke’ua filu spä. Gbà ọkan-kẹta eo," she mumble softly to the animal as she pulled her knife from her belt. She stroked its neck softly for a few brief moments, whispering more quiet words of comfort, then swiftly thrust the knife up under its chin and down, severing the jugular and opening its throat. It wheezed softly, twitched as if it wanted to try and run one last time, but then grew still and quiet. She felt warm blood on her hands, gently removed her knife, and wiped it off on the wet grass. "Ọfïïsï ke’u osise ke’ua shïgọdä. Sev i’en ke’u lasan kọv ke’ua swotu dabi."
Ellen was somber as she planned her next steps. She looked up at the setting suns, trying to gauge how much daylight she might have left. A few breaks at least. It was enough time to field dress the doe and set up a camp back in the trees. She didn't want to be exposed out in the open like she was right now. It would be too easy for anyone or anything to find her, especially with a carcass in tow. She would have to be careful overnight, or else risk drawing in unwanted competition. The mixed-blood was bound to have little sleep tonight, but that was fine. She'd had a successful hunt, and that was all that really mattered.
She gave the doe a quick once over, making sure nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The animal looked healthy enough to her, so that was good enough. Bracing a hand against the beast's flank, she grabbed her arrow firmly and pulled. There was no give at first, but she kept pulling. Ultimately she sat with her knees as leverage, and using both hands, ripped the arrowhead out. It had been deep, but came out cleanly enough. She would have to clean it and the other dirty arrow properly later, but it put it back in her quiver with the others.
Ellen just hoped she could drag the damn thing all the way back to Foster's Landing. After all it was easily over half her own weight. But after cleaning out the organs, that would shed a considerable chunk of weight. So she didn't fret yet, and resigned herself to the task of finishing with enough daylight to spare.
Bäbbän! - Shit!
Nï karshe! Herwìva akra ke’u aladani eo motsi ke’u? - Stupid deer! Why won't you let me eat you?
Sev'm kïnä ọsïsẹ sev waje takip kufikiria ke’ua dabi ọníšẹ. Ke’u did takip walƙiya tä bou'eri a'oul ar kọv tìt'nari kọv ke’ua filu spä. - I'm sorry that I couldn't end your life quickly. You didn't deserve to be afraid and in pain in your last moments. Please forgive me.
Ọfïïsï ke’u osise ke’ua shïgọdä. Sev i’en ke’u lasan kọv ke’ua swotu dabi. - Thank you for your sacrifice. I wish you luck in your next life.