TheHunter
there will always be the hunt skekMal inhaled the deep scent of the thick forest; the moss mixed with damp earth and the rain that just washed Thra. His tail thumped against the ground, with content, as last droplets fell on his unmasked face.
by skekMal

“Puny gelfling.”

“Mal, they are my family.”

“I don’t like being caged.”

They were placed in a small room, once an Ariya’s one. skekMal at once felt trapped, and getting used to this new kind of prison took him more than he was gracious to spare. skekMal was an old creature, and his bond with freedom was immaculate. He needed woods to breathe and feel alive. His veins were filled with his own kind of vital essence other skeksis could drain to no avail. The essence of Thra, a very rare and addicting blood of trees and bogs, leaves and cold ponds.

Ariya was at the other side a very stubborn princess.

“I am sure you can at least appreciate that they tried to fit your tastes in food” she said, looking at him teasingly.

“Yes.”

That was the only thing skekMal said. Ariya at once realized he is much more displeased by his quarters than she suspected before. Mal was a free soul and the walls indeed could feel for him like a cage. Especially how small they were, in fact. She decided they shouldn’t spend a night here. If skekMal feels this wrongs him, and wants to spend night on fresh air, she will oblige.

Especially, since annoyed Hunter could be a threat for her kind, even if he promised to her to tame his temper.

Still, he never broke a promise.

An idea came to her, like a lighning in the starless night.

“Mal… let’s take a look at this place. I almost forgot how my own home looks like and it holds many things that may  enchant you … if you allow them to show their real beauty.”

The Hunter’s fiery gaze landed on her and she immediately felt like his eyes traces a warm circles over her skin. Oh yes. She loved that. She loved everything he was. And now, she was like him too.

“So the vapran palace can compete with an open meadow?” he also teased her and she chuckled.

“Only if you allow it to dazzle you.”

“I am not easily dazzled, Ariya.”

“And I know that. But I know place which can at least… be to your liking.”

They left the way too small room behind, Ariya with a quite sadness realizing that for her, it also is too cozy, too comfortable. And doesn’t have trees murmuring lullabies to her, and streams near their cave, which whispered secrets of the woods in her sleep.

Vapran palace indeed was a wonder. Ariya took skekMal to the only place, which had overgrowth in it and she had to admit that seeing it again, felt like a kiss from a lover. She played in the garden with her sisters, when they still were young, naive and reckless. She was not young nor naive anymore. Maybe still a bit reckless.

skekMal felt disenchanted and maybe not annoyed anymore, but more melancholic. It strucked her how many other things he saw through almost one thousand trine of life. This garden probably was only a small rock added to an avalanche of his memories.

Their feet took them into depth of the palace and soon, quite by a strange urge Ariya felt, and maybe a need to see this place again in the middle of the night – just like in childhood – they ended in throne room, now bathed in a blue light, created by luminiscent plants she didn’t remember – had be planted, when she was away.

So many thing changed. Her, the most.

“So here you sister owns Thra” skekMal said enigmatically. His eyes, alit by inner flame, was reflecting the bioluminescence. It was fascinating sight, maybe a bit scary, even, for those, who should fear the Hunter.

“I think yes. Though not own. The skeksis still own it.”

“They don’t dare anymore to own anything aside their own skin.”

Ariya could believe. skekMal, helping the gelfling was aterrible treason for the skeksis, but also, a worst threat they even witnessed. She felt a pang of pride.

My forest beast.

“Go” he said suddenly, looking intensely at him.

She felt confused for a moment, but then, realized that he means the throne. He wanted her to sit on it.

She laughed, a bit nervously.

“This is Seladon’s seat. She probably even shaped it around her–”

“Yes. That makes her sister suitable for taking a seat.”

Indeed. But she never doubted Seladon would tear her head off and stick it on a spear. Metaphorically.

“Sit. It belongs to all-Maudra’s line.”

He could be really persuasive. And, she had to take it, she wanted to impress him a bit.

Slowly, she approached Seladon’s throne. So many time, she was seeing her mother sitting on it, ruling Thra – in the name of the skeksis. Seladon rules it now, completely in the name of the gelfling.

One step, two. She touched it. She almost felt, as it calls her.

She sat.

Then looked at her mate.

“So… here I am.”

“You are.”

His eyes burned in the darkness, with a certain intent and she could almost fill it. On her skin. In her soul.

“I am not all-Maudra” she had to say it.

“But you are.”

“Hmm?”

“You are my all-Maudra. A forest Maudra.”

She moved, a tail slid through her leg but disappeared when he started to circle her.

“A forest Maudra…”

“You are the queen of the woods.”

“Mal…”

She swallowed hard. This was quickly getting out of control. skekMal slowly slid between her legs and, she at once, embraced him with them, just in the waist. Just to feel his arousal.

“Rule me” he huffed into her ear, and she knew she was already lost to him.

As always.

He took her, on all-Maudra’s throne, and it felt so right.

In her veins, a forest ran and she was its queen.

With her dark lord by her side.

“Rule me…” she whispered, and melted into him.


by skekMal

skekOk: Ah, taking care of those noisy fizzgigs skekUng keeps is excruciating. My books lay all bitten.

skekEkt: Do not even mention it, Scrollkeeper! Nothing is worse than a crawly!

skekMal: Fizzgigs and crawlies.

skekEkt: …

skekMal: You all really have no idea how pathetic it is.

skekOk: They bite the books, Hunter! The books!

skekMal: At least they don’t bite off your head.


by skekMal

The scent of blood was prominent here.

urVa sensed it faster than saw. It was strong, though masked a bit by surnayla flowers leaning over the stream – but for his trained nostrils, it was obvious.

Someone died a cruel death here.

urVa made his way through the overgrowth to see a bonechilling sight. The stream slowly rolling its waters near the rocks, was red as autumn leaf burned by the sun and smelled of iron; a murder scene, none the less, far less innocent than a leaf and far more revolting than steel.

The Archer caught also another scent; strong smell of leather and fur. And it was obvious, that someone died today to quench the neverending desire of his counterpart.

“Ah, skeMal” he shook his head, supporting himself on his bow.

He wasn’t even disappointed. He knew skekMal too well and realized long time ago, that his nature is different than his own. Different even from other skeksis. Trying to stop him would be chasing wind. And he appreciated that sometimes, skekMal agrees to not hunt or stops his blade, when his is asked by urVa.

No, urVa was not disappointed. Just sad. Yes, sad was a good word.

He decided to face the Hunter and see if he can do anything –  and if creature still lived, to ease its suffering. He was sure it must be a large beast, as the stream carried a lot of blood only huge animal could posses in its veins.

The forest, as if doing it purposefully, was making the walk more difficult for him. urVa got even a lash of a branch on his nose, even if he was careful as always. He would curse, if he was skekMal. But he only sighed again and took the branch from his path, as well as other numerous ones that stood on his way.

The scent of blood was stronger here and urVa was at this point sure that he will see a bloodshed. He didn’t like such sight, they were not turning his guts upsidedown though, as he has seen many of them, living on one thread with skekMal. He just wanted to be of help, if the prey’s heart still beat.

But he was not prepared for what he really saw.

No bloodshed. No suffering animal in death throes. No skekMal, wearing the crown made of blood, relishing on his kill.

Yes, skekMal was here.

Bare to the pants, with his muscular chest exposed.

Doing laundry.

The look on urVa’s face was not the wisest one. He felt as relief mixed with a strange need to laugh. He never truly was fond of laughing. He prefered kind, calm smiles and his urru nature, still more stoic than other living beings’, felt good with inverbal communication.

But now, honestly, he felt like laughing.

skekMal sensed him faster than he thought he will. But of course. His scent was so well known to him.

“I wash my clothes” he said, not turning back to him. “No prey slain. No creature in pain to rescue.”

Ah, how they both’s minds worked together. Like one mechanism. urVa smiled and stepped closer, to look behind skekMal’s arm. In typical for urru bent pose, he still was larger than his counterpart, who was small, but made of tendons and muscles.

“I always was curious, how often you wash these robes of yours…”

skekMal, still applying podling soap to his shirt, scoffed.

“Enough often, to not reek.”

“I really thought I will witness a bloodbath. I am happy to be wrong, skekMal.”

The Hunter grinned. A grin filled with both teeth and pure joy.

“Good, that my dirty clothes brough you here.”

“Hmmm?”

“How often you wash yours, Archer?”

*

urVa laid his head on Hunter’s chest. Their both’s clothes were hanging on the tree branches. Not that urVa didn’t clean them, but he had to admit, that it was about time.

The Archer felt skekMal’s breath under his chin. The Hunter was not sleeping, but observing night with keen eye. urVa slowly drifted into a calm and soothing dizziness caused by closeness of his counterpart and warmth of the fire burning nearby.

The wind took the scent of the blood and playing with it a bit, chased it away.


by skekMal

“I won’t order you to try, But it would please me a lot, if you did.”

They were laying in tangled bedsheets, skekSo sprawled over the pillows, skekMal behind him, licking the blood from the fresh wound on Emperor’s shoulder – which by all means he did himself. skekSo sighed feeling Hunter’s touch. The beast from the woods sometimes showed a side to him, only skekSo was able to enjoy. And he used this privilege like a hungry fizzgig,

“Mmmm…”

“I think I heard you said something, skekMal.”

The Hunter placed one more lick against the wounded shoulder, tracking the droplets like a skilled puruser. When his tongue reached the neck, skekSo involuntarily growled with pleasure.

“I think I heard you said something, your highness.”

“skekMal…”

The Hunter made a noise which could be both laughter and grunt of annoyance.

“You want me to take an assistant? What for?”

“I think the name of it could explain a lot. To assist you. All my subjects took one. It’s in good tone.”

This time the guttural noise the Hunter made could only be seen as chuckle.

“Is it in good tone I sent it to death?”

skekSo shoved skekMal off his neck and shoulder, to turn and look into his face, now unmasked. His brow raised, questioning this.

“I hunt for most dangerous beasts. No gelfling can match them. No gelfling can match me.”

A wide grin graced Emperor’s face, like he waited for this to be said.

“And that would be the challenge, yes? To teach it, to make it live against all the dangers you witness. Birds sing that you like the challenge, skekMal.”

The Hunter’s eyes narrowed. skekSo felt the rush of adrenaline in his veins, when he saw one of skekMal’s most darkened expressions. He was tickling the wild creature and he was teasing it. But he knew at the same time, that he couldn’t be safer with any other living being on Thra.

skekMal softly turned Emperor back. skekSo wanted to protest, but as soon as again, the soft and wet tongue lapped at his – again bleeding – wound, he surrendered to it and slowly, his tail squeezed the Hunter’s one. He loved that. He absolutely loved that.

skekMal purred into his exposed neck.

“It may die. I can’t promise to keep it safe.”

“Ah, gelfling are as numerous as peeper beetles. One more lost is like nothing lost.”

“A merciful Emperor spoke.”

“You hold them in no better regard than me, skekMal.”

“I can appreciate the truth. Yet, if it interrupts my hunt, with its lack of experience…”

skekSo completely lost in the overwhelming warmth that was radiating from skekMal’s body, and with his delicate yet rough caress, couldn’t find anything against the Hunter even eating the gelfling, if it was making him happier.

“I want to see the gelfling who can be taught so well, that it won’t interrupt your hunt.”

“Like a trained makrak?”

skekSo chuckled, amused.

“Yes. A well trained “assistant”. I want to see your results. I want it to run and swing on those branches, and dive in deepest lakes. When it happens, I graciously allow you to do with it, as you please.”

skekMal pressed himself hard against Emperor’s back, so close, that he could feel each muscle on his stomach. skekSo shivered once again, feeling a rush if blood to his loins.

“My Emperor always challenge me most…”

“Ah… yes…” he closed his eyes, giving a way to all these feelings that circled inside him. “… yet you never fail…”

He heard the last dangerous growl coming from the Hunter and his back melted within skekMal’s abdomen. He lost it, again. He lost it, but how could he not lose, if he wanted it?

The gelfling… it will have easier way than him. At least skekMal won’t bed it.


by skekMal

There was no mystery in the castle which would evade skekSo’s senses and knowledge. Maybe perhaps he was a skeksis and the natural ability to trace the gossips and secrets was strong even in the ruler of his position. Or perhaps if other skeksis wanted to hide something from him, they would not dare. He was the owner of the castle and silent lord of mysteries within it – a quiet puppet master among his subjects. He liked to think about himself as a sun circled by the planets of his court. And many times compared himself to hoarder of the skeksis, much to amusement of the only skeksis who didn’t like to be hoarded.

skekMal still was a secret to him. He perfectly knew that he prefers forests, deserts, open sky and touch of rain over his skin, over sitting in the palace, eat with fork and knife and indulge himself into whatever lords of the crystal were fancied at that moment.

He was coming from the woods, skekSo’s senses teased temptingly with unknown scents he was bringing in. Very often with prey, which he later was passing to skekAyuk, so the others didn’t have to taste blood (too much of it that is). His robes made of fur and hide were bringing also the scent of the earth after the rain and the rich soil on which he probably slept. skekSo many times wanted to – was so close to it – ask him, no, order him, to take him on the hunt. To show the Hunter that he also can be deadly and bloodthirsty and his talons didn’t lose their sharpness after trine of caressing pillows.

But he never did it. He was the Emperor, yes, but skekMal was the creature of the forests and skekSo was almost sure that – even if he was in right to just force him to take him on the hunt – the Hunter would laugh into his face and leap into darkness to never return to the castle.

To him.

That evening, skekSo was lazily observing his court indulging into something that partially was a social game and partially a very messy sexual ordeal. Which he didn’t want to join, personally. Like through mist, the sounds and sights were mixing together, yet his thoughts were drifting into completely different areas of interest.

He knew the Hunter returned, the feast, filled with unknown kind of meat was the best proof. Partially, he was feeling relief that he isn’t among the bodies before him. Skeksis, as sophisticated they wanted to seem to gelfling, were carnal creatures, putting their own pleasure before anything. skekMal WOULD put his own benefit before his own. The fact that he didn’t and decided to not join this awfully sounding thing, was a cold poultice on his heart. He was glad he isn’t breeding the Cantor right now, who few times moved his hazy looking eyes in the direction of the entrance.

Yes. skekMal never asked him.

He never asked his Emperor, even if he had to be aware, that he hungrily craves for his company, of touch of his rough hands over his body and of hearing that deep voice saying how he missed him when he was venturing the woods, spilling blood.

No.

skekSo sighed, when another, deeper voice joined his own. And a guttural chuckle, which sent small shivers down his spine. Was he that obvious?

Not turning back, he mused idly.

“Never to late, Hunter.”

“I thought you like when I come when you don’t expect me.” skekMal appeared near him and taking a cup of wine from skekSo’s stretched talons, he crouched on the cushion, his eyes blinking in the unmasked face.

The face that every each of them could find most dangerous. skekSo was finding it filled with unspoken secrets of the wilderness, which he was yet to taste, if allowed.

“I thought you retreated before skekAyuk prepared today’s feast” he said, lifting the glass to his beak and making one, perfectly elegant sip.

“I merely helped him to make it edible.”

“You plan to become skekAyuk’s kitchen helper?”

“Only when the animal I hunted possesses a very strong toxin which could kill whole our kind on one single feast.”

That, skekSo was not aware of. The idea that they just ate and enjoyed the previously toxic meat, the Hunter himself brought to the castle, lit an unpleasant red light in him. If it was any other, he would be more alarmed, though.

Somehow, he knew that skekMal never coveted the throne. His throne was made of tangled branches and murmuring leaves. The red light ceased and skekSo grinned.

“Good that it was you, who hunted it, then. We too much rely on the gelfling.”

“I think, your highness, that gelfling hunters know perfectly about the poison the animals produce.”

“Why to hunt on it, then?”

skekMal’s eyes lit once again, this time with something even skekSo found dreadful.

“Gelfling learnt to hunt on prey only to feed us or to scare away the beast invading their settlements. They don’t eat meat.”

“And…?”

“I learnt to be immune of the toxins hard way. Exposing myself on them. It would be a loss if my knowledge didn’t benefit the castle with the best tasting prey I could hunt on.”

skekSo caught a dancing grin on the the Hunter’s beak and nodded in approval, amused.

“If its good in taste, why not to eat it, yes?”

“Why not to kill it, bleed it and put on your table dressed in urberry and honey sap.”

skekSil, with the same hazy look in his eyes dared to come closer and put a hand on Emperor’s knee. skekMal only looked at him, baring his teeth and the Cantor scurried away, not even trying any further. skekSo suddenly pondered, how far the Hunter would go, if skekSil continued. For an shrouded in mystery, seemingly uninterested in him shadow from the forest, he was deliciously possessive. That was filling skekSo with something he couldn’t quite name.

“Tell me, Hunter.”

“Hmm?”

“If I had… an urge… only you could fulfill…”

“Straight to the point, yes?”

“… and urge to go with you… into the woods, try my strength at killing one of those poisonous beasts…”

“… try to get immune too, your highness?”

“Partially, skekMal, partially” a big ball of nerves filled Emperor’s chest, something that he shouldn’t feel, not as someone with his rank and position, not with skekMal near. “I would wish to hunt with you. To stain my talons in blood, to see what you see in dwelling into darkest parts of Thra.”

“Alone? No guards?” this made another shiver run through Emperor’s spine. It was filled with so many promises and so much danger.

“Only you and I” he managed to say, rasping.

The Hunter looked at him, from half lidded eyes, like he was balancing pros and cons.

Or eying him like he eyes his prey, before he tears life from it.

“You know that it may be dangerous, your highness” he eventually said.

“I can take care of myself, skekMal.”

A head move, like a bird. skekMal had more from a wild creature in him, than a lord.

And that was one of the things skekSo absolutely adored.

“Good. I will come for you tomorrow at the evening. Do not take anything with you, I will equip you.”

And that also felt like danger. And skekSo collapsed on the pillows, not quite sure, if he won something or miserably failed.


by skekMal

He lurked through the forest like a shadow, blended with the mist, a wild hunter, an apparition, who was feared by many but unseen by eyes… until he was the last thing you witnessed, as he appeared before you in the darkness, to make you his prey.


by skekMal

urVa was never asking him for favors. At least not in a way the skeksis did. The lords of the crystal, whimsical and fiery scourge of Thra, were asking all the time. Sometimes to hunt something for them, to later brag that they contacted the dreaded hunter and even got something from him. Sometimes – more often – to feed their fear before him and quench the thirst in their everneedy loins.

He liked to think that he secures his own legend. He liked to think that they are silly things that don’t deserve his attention. That he chooses to follow the sound of the horn because he needs fire too, fire and blood. boiling hot.

But he liked them. He liked their stupid mannerisms and prey-like attitude. He liked their flaming eyes when he was appearing, when they knew he is there for them. He liked them, as flawed as they were. How sentimental of him.

But only urVa never wanted anything from him. urVa wanted to give, not take. He didn’t see him as fierce predator from dark woods, who is as unknown and dangerous. He simply knew him as skekMal. skekMal, who snorts his tea in laughter just into the cup, when amused. skekMal, who comes to him, to tend for their both’s wounds. skekMal, who needs help with his way too hot temper.

He liked his own legend enough. But sometimes, he wanted a friend, who sees him as he is. Sees through him and sees the light, bathed in familiar darkness.

Let me laugh with you. Let me chop that cursed vegetable for you, let me growl at you and then, let me lay with you in the cave, safe, as one, but still comfortably separated.

Only you make some sense in this world.


by skekMal

I went from the hunt victorious; blood-stained, wounded, but with my prey’s skin in my teeth. Forest sang the hymns for me, silent whispers between the branches, a song only I heard.

Then, she found me. Feral creature, eyes like darkest night, soul like pit without end. She took a skull from my talons, a prize she never won. My senses felt her bold soul, her untamed spirit.

She didn’t need to be tamed, I allowed her to hear the call of the wind, summon of the hunt. My soul joined hers, like it melted in the fire, intertwined in the flames.

Twilight catches the burning sky in its embrace, painting it with crimson. We will spill the red tonight.

This time the skull she gets, will be her prize.

The woods swallow us like hungry beast. We are hunters. Feeding the wilderness in us. Drinking the blood from the veins of this land.


by skekMal

The gelfling were bringing him tokens of grattitude for long time already. He used to disregard them, as long as they were bringing him ridiculous things. Until some wiser one didn’t realize that food is best offering for a mysterious spirit who was saving their youngs from traps the wilderness held for all children of Thra.

They never brought him meat. It were usually fruit, vegetables, sometimes spices. He was receiving them with gratefulness typical for the urru. Yet, he still thought that gelfling adoration is pointless and a bit amusing.

Gelfling were giving him food to sustain, though. He didn’t have to visit urAmay for his doubtful skills. But as much as fruit and vegetables were good and he liked them, he sometimes wondered if the gelfling didn’t bright him meat, because they wanted to separate the good spirit from the meat-devouring apparition that was his own counterpart.

He once heard of those poor Spriton who gathered to do some… cult of skekMal. Even skekMal thought it’s pointless, and a skeksis who didn’t like own cult, was a rare sight.

urVa imagined cult of urAmay and shook his head. Filling cult, but tasteless. He bit himself in the tongue, to not say it aloud.

But once gelfling brought him something that he couldn’t bite.

A large squash, from the podling farms. urVa tried them few times, but only with other urru. And with urIm close, who always had something moderately sharp near.

Now, he had his hands… and teeth, but he would faster broke them on the thick skin, than forced the stubborn vegetable to open for him.

If he was a skeksis, he would sound the horn, he thought not without certain amusement.

But he was urVa, and all he could do was to brew the tea.

With additional herb that worked on skekMal’s scent like a fizznip on fizzgigs.

***

The tea was nearly done. It was fourth already, but urVa just thought that skekMal is far enough to not sense it. It was still a better way to summon him, than searching for him in the deep wild, not even knowing in which direction to go.

He lifted the pot from the fire, and poured to the cup. Will fifth be needed? Ah, no, here he comes, angry and startled.

“Archer” the sharp voice rasped.

“Hunter” urVa bowed slightly with his head, like showing him that he regrets, in all regards.

skekMal sniffed and his expression darkened.

“So you decided to call me like a pet. Numbing my hunting senses with that horrendous scent. I could feel it from hundred of miles.”

“I am sorry, skekMal” urVa smiled lightly and soothingly.

“What then,” growled the Hunter, circling him and sitting 0bviously closest the fire. He was challenging himself even now. “You need my skills? Otherwise, you wouldn’t summon me on a leash, disrupting my hunt.”

urVa made a most sheepish expression and stretching his hands, he showed him the culprit.

“I would use your blades. To chop it.”

skekMal’s spines and fur on his back bristled like a crown, his tail hit in the fire, sending sparks all around. The Hunter’s face, even if hidden under the mask, had to look like a demon’s now.

“You called me because you need me to peel a fruit for you??”

“Vegetable. But yes, if you would be so kind. My equipement, as you know, can be compared to your large blades.”

skekMal raised a furious brow.

“And skills you have in hands.” added urVa.

The Hunter growled angrily, but fetched the squash from his urru, and looked at it with certain interest.

“Looks like a very weak prey.”

“No, skekMal, believe me, it’s not weak. It’s hardest growth that you can find in these woods.”

“You really called me to chop a food for you” said eventually the Hunter.

“Yes. Because I trusted you can help me. And because I believed you won’t allow yourself to harm me out of anger.”

skekMal looked at him for a moment, percing him with his gaze. Until he bursted in raw, sharp laughter.

“Good one, Archer! That could be a priceless joke, if urru knew what it is.”

“Oh, we know perfectly what a joke is. At least… most of us.”

The Hunter grinned widly and unsheathed his blades…

***

“I hoped some of it will land on my plate.”

“When I get a thick prey, I shred it.”

“Most of it is on the ground and some of it, high on the trees…”

“And that’s how its guts should look like!”

“skekMal…”

“Skeksis know jokes too, Archer.”


by skekMal

The animal was very close, he sensed it with every fiber of his body. Its scent was vague and indefinite but nothing could really escape him – the slight trail of the animal path was almost glistening before his eyes, as he took a jump and with an agility that other skeksis could never muster, crawled fast on the tree, for a better view.

The tracking already warmed him up, making his heart pound in his chest in a frantic manner, a sign of elation, that he never mastered to control fully. He could even loathe the way his blood was hitting his head in a frenzy if it wasn’t making him more alert most of all, felt good.

The hunt, the almost sacred rite of blood, catching him slowly but insistently in its claws, marking his mind and soul, making him feel alive.

He stopped, sniffing silently in the air.

Yes, it was there. Not the biggest. Not the most armed. But he knew one should never underestimate a greidon. He hunted on them before, now was the third time.

Silently running through the canopy of leaves, supporting himself on all fours and aiding with minor arms, which held on the smaller branches, the Hunter minimalized the distance between him and the animal.

Good as a challenge.

Good to kill.

Good to satiate the hunger for a thrill.

The animal had acute senses because it started to look around, inhaling the air and baring the fangs, which were sharp and deadly for an untrained hunter. Even skekMal had no certainty that he will go from this hunt unharmed. And these moments he was living for.

His green eyes shone in the darkness as he observed his prey, narrowing them, to make them less detectable. His tail already was moving in impatience as he looked the greidon returning to the water spot, slowly lowering its head and slurping the cold liquid.

There was some kind of serenity in this scene, and he was part of it. Part of Thra. Killing this beast will give him more life, more power, and more strength. And he will again prove himself, ready to fall asleep in the embrace of the thought that he is unbeatable.

He jumped on the ground when the animal stopped to drink. His tail hit loudly into the soil, his leg talons burying in the damp earth, his major arms supporting him.

“Nowhere to run” he hissed, knowing that the animal has plenty of maneuvers but he probably uses only a few of the possible ways. And indeed, greidon, seeing the small yet innately dangerous predator in front of himself, roared in fury and threw itself in the Hunter.

skekMal made a sharp and short laugh at that. When the animal’s long tail waved to cut him off his feet, he lunged back, making it hit just in the place where he stood. That made greidon even more furious and it entered the attack mode. The beast was so fast that skekMal barely was dodging its moves and clawed paws, but he insistently was keeping the distance, wanting to tire it and make it even more furious from the futile attempts to remove him off its way.

Greidon was terribly fast, though. One of the clawed paws hit him in the arm, making a deep jagged cut in it. skekMal roared in anger but didn’t allow it to distract him. He was in the center of the action and he couldn’t pay it more attention. Pulling the two blades, he attacked the beast directly, and soon, the tired and shocked greidon was faced by the wounded yet terribly fast and agile creature, armed in cutting weapons, teeth, and claws.

The water stop gained red color as the blood started to flow from wounds, both of skekMal and the animal. The Hunter received a mark on his back, his skin pulled apart by the deadly and long talons of the beast. But skekMal was restless in his pursuit and attacking the greidon with all six limbs, he managed to cut the flow of the air from the beast’s throat. Choking and spitting bloody saliva, greidon fell just on the Hunter, who was so clung to it that it looked like they were one creature rather than two.

skekMal was buried into the ground by the heavy animal but didn’t loosen his grasp. Suffocating the beast, pressing his legs to its stomach and digging holes in it with his claws, he choked the greidon, his muscles tensed and his breath ragged.

Feeling as the beast weakens, he lunged with his beak on the neck of the animal and biting it hard, he tore the flesh with his teeth, the animal howled wildly and Hunter’s voice meets it’s as they still remained pinned as one by skekMal’s grasp.

The animal started to slowly fall into trance out of blood loss and the lack of air. skekMal’s taloned hand grasped harder into the wound he made with his teeth and squeezed so tightly, that the beast tossed manically and fell next to him, almost dead.

It was then when he heard a summon horn.

His left forearm bleeding, his back torn to a flesh, skin coming from the wound, like peeled. His eyes unfocused, his mind trailing off the path. He looked at the hunted animal, that was still breathing, though its almost white eyes looked as much unfocused, as Hunter’s. Grunting in pain, he took the blade.

“Summon… horn…” he growled, then, leaning over the beast, the beast he slew, not without cost, he moved closer to its muzzle and grinning and breathing in the scent of his prey, he slid the animal’s throat with one swift move. The beast tossed delicately, almost like in sleep, and then, turning the white of its eyes at skekMal, it gave the last breath.

The Hunter fell into a sitting position, trying to gather thoughts and cope with the pain of the wounds he got. That was a good hunt. Now… now… he needs— he needs to bandage them… he must bandage them and use kisen moss and faptanth…

“The summon horn” a hiss escaped his beak, as he tried to drag himself into standing position. Better for him— he has a good reason….“

But he couldn’t refuse THIS summoning. He knew who called him. And, after all, he was as loyal, as any other skeksis couldn’t ever be.

Yet now… he must put himself back together. skekSo will need to wait. He probably even suspects the Hunter won’t appear at once. He never appeared at once.

There was one more thing that he needed to do, though. He grasped the knife harder, causing the muscles of the tired hand to protest. His blade sank into the flesh of the fallen prey, tearing a long, sharp fang from the gum. Looking at the trophy, the Hunter grinned. He was a victor, once again. Wounds will hurt but the scars will remind him about it, every time he touch them or sees them. The howl of pride bubbled in his throat, yet didn’t resound; still grinning, skekMal dragged himself into the forest, to search for the only creature that was able to help him after an intense hunt.