Chapter 4

A year passed since Kid started his journey as a novice hunter and his skills had improved greatly. Torsten was right in saying that knowing a monster was half the battle. The rest came from experience. Since Kid was young, what he lacked in experience he compensated with speed and creativity. Fast and small monsters required nimble feet and precise evasion, while larger slower monsters required different tactics. But if a hunt ever turned for the worst, he could make a quick escape. With no set mapped direction, Kid found himself settling in an area, exploring, and marking the monsters he saw and hunted in his books. Occasionally there were a few monsters not listed in the books he owned, so he used parchment to draw rough pictures and write notes as he learned. Once he hunted or noted the monsters in that area, he moved to another spot.

While Kid was no cartographer, he did end up making himself rudimentary maps. From the maps, he found he moved much farther east than he had expected to. Even farther to the east, past the trees, were hills and valleys that were home to many more monsters, but north was where the real challenges lay. He sat at his campsite with quill in hand wondering if he was ready to start the trek north, or if he might go towards the hills. He sighed when his growling stomach broke his train of thought. It was lunchtime and he needed to hunt for meat. He was tired of the local herbivore meat and decided to spice his diet up with jaggi meat.

Kid packed his provisions and made his way to a spot he had seen jaggi circling a few days prior. As he made his way closer to their den, he heard multiple monster calls. Kid stopped and waited, they were chattering about something. The trees trembled, the ground shook and the sky momentarily went dark as flocks of birds made a mass exodus. Then a loud, blood-curdling roar rang out, the sheer power of it blew loose debris. Kid planted his feet and drew his blades, the ground’s quick pounding mimicked the sound of his heartbeat. It was coming towards him and he could either stand his ground and wait for the monster to show itself, or he could back down. The roar wasn’t familiar to him, so he had no idea what to expect.

Still undecided on his course of action, a large head towered over the trees and an enormous body bulldozed its way through them. Kid’s eyes widened, he should have run. The one-eyed deviljho roared again, but even with his ears covered Kid felt like his head would explode. A bit dazed he sheathed his blades and turned to run, but it was only when he turned he saw a zinogre blocking his path. The beast was ready to pounce, electricity shooting off its back. Kid was in the middle of something far beyond him. He drew his blades again; no matter how tightly he clenched his hands around the hilts, his arms still trembled.

‘What do I do?!?’, he screamed to himself as he turned to keep both monsters in his sights. The deviljho barreled forward towards the zinogre, bringing down every tree in his way, and used its wide stance to sweep its long tail towards Kid. He dodged through it, narrowly avoiding the falling trees, but the deviljho stammered backward when the zinogre lunged toward it. Not expecting it to stumble his way, Kid ducked and covered, then rolled off to the side. He still wasn’t safe; the deviljho was just too large and the newly fallen trees were a perfect trap to get crushed in. Kid had one opening to the closest tree line, maybe the zinogre would distract the deviljho long enough to escape.

Before he could make a run for it, Kid realized he dropped his right blade. “Stupid!”, he spat out loud as the deviljho’s thick legs kept vibrating the ground. He was about to give up hope of retrieving his blade before it was crushed into nothing when a whistle echoed through the trees. The zinogre’s ears perked up and he roared and pushed the deviljho towards the tree line. Kid watched in awe as a hunter sprang from the tallest tree and landed on the deviljho’s back. The deviljho roared and violently shook itself, but still, the hunter clung until the monster toppled over, and only then had the hunter gracefully jumped off its back.

Kid couldn’t see clearly, but the hunter began whaling on the deviljho’s tail with a blade so quickly and effortlessly Kid completely forgot he was scared. In those few minutes, Kid was so overcome with awe he didn’t bat an eyelid when the deviljho’s tail popped clean off, sending the monster tumbling forward. After some struggle to get back on its feet, the mighty monster used its heavy jaw to dig itself to safety. Kid hurried closer to meet the skilled hunter, but the zinogre lept in the way, growling lowly.

“Thunderclap,” The zinogre’s ears pulled back, “come.” The zinogre bared his teeth at Kid and quickly leaped to the hunter’s side. Its electricity dissipated as the hunter carved up the deviljho’s tail. Kid carefully inched his way closer, careful not to alarm the zinogre with sudden movements. Upon closer inspection, he noticed the zinogre had two large scars running down its side and it was missing half its tail. He remembered Torsten’s note to not attack or brandish weapons at it. Inwardly he let out a big sigh of relief.

“Um, excuse me”, was all he could think to say, he was so nervous. The hunter stood up, wiping her forehead with the clean side of her bloodied hand. She wore nothing but her undergarments.

“You…you were the hunter at Torsten’s…” Kid remembered her clearly. She looked him over and went back to carving. Kid’s shoulders visibly dropped in disappointment.

“Torsten…ah, the blacksmith at Trésor?” Her voice was slightly muffled, “you from the village, kid?”

Kid perked up thinking she knew his name but realized that she was just calling him a kid. “Not really, I’m kind of a nomad.”

“‘Kind of’, huh? So, you’re the one making campsites around the eastern woods?” She stood up again and wiped her hands clean on her loincloth. “I’d stick to those parts of the forest this time of year. Old One Eye seems to be moving farther south each summer.” She looked up at the sun to check the time, “If he gets too close to the village he’ll have to be put down…” She was talking to herself out loud.

“Why didn’t you?” Kid followed her as she walked over towards the trees. “Kill it I mean.”

She shrugged off his questions, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Kid’s face went as blank as his mind. “I was watching you from the treetop, you could have run away, but you hesitated for a reason.” His blade! Kid turned back around and frantically looked for it, the ground had shifted so much he couldn’t tell where it had landed anymore.

The hunter whistled for the zinogre and she climbed on his back. “Hey, kid.” Kid looked up to see the hunter pointing. “It’s over there. Help yourself to the ‘jho tail, though it makes for a nasty meal.”

“Ah, wai-” Kid sighed as she disappeared into the forest. He retrieved his blade and looked it over to see the damage. Shockingly there wasn’t a ding on it. Everything was too quiet now. The small section where the skirmish happened was decimated and in the center lay a fat monster tail. As a hunter he’d have to fight a deviljho on his own one day, but it was very evident that he had so much further to go. He closed his eyes and replayed the hunter’s movements in his head. Kid sheathed his blade and hurried into the direction the zinogre went.

He tracked it down for a couple of miles to where it looked like there was a campsite. Kid could see wheel marks from a heavy ladened cart. Judging by the prints, it seemed as though the zinogre was hitched to the cart and they traveled farther north. He looked to the sun, darkness would fall in a couple of hours and he didn’t want to take the chance that the trail would go cold. Any number of factors could cause it, rain, stampedes, large monsters rearranging the terrain.

‘I can always return for my cart later…I can find my way back by marking the trees…’ his thoughts trailed off. There was no time for hesitation, the area he was about to enter was home to many challenges. Kid took a deep breath to calm himself; he was both excited and nervous.

Night fell and Kid still hadn’t found the female hunter. He settled in what seemed to be a safe spot and made a fire to deter small monsters. Although he was hungry, he thought it wise to not cook any meat in an unknown section of the forest. No telling what monsters the smell might attract. Carefully nestled in between very large roots, Kid slept with his blades at his side.

Morning came and Kid’s stomach was angrily growling at him. He just patted it, telling it to wait just a bit longer. First, he checked to see if the trail was still there and then decided to see what raw foods were available to him. There was no immediate sign of fresh water, so he squeezed it out of moss until he was quenched. Still not ready to risk cooking meat, and not looking forward to eating mushrooms, he sacrificed a ration from his pouch and continued on his way.

Days later Kid came across the remains of a campsite, though it seemed like it hadn’t been used recently. However the tracks went through it, so he assumed that it was a site the female hunter sometimes used and was encouraged that he might be getting closer. Kid followed the trail for a while longer and it led farther north most of the way, but then curved to the west. Since he was nearing the volcano, the weather got warmer, even though he was still traveling up the mountain side. And when he thought it would never end, he found the hunter’s camp, but it seemed like no one was there.

Kid carefully entered the grounds and helped himself to water from one of the rain barrels. He’d have preferred to ask first, but no one was around and his throat was parched from the volcanic heat. The site was on a massive rock face overlooking a rocky valley. Kid walked to the edge to survey the area, it was a good perch to monitor volcanic activity from. He respectfully walked around the camp, keeping far enough not to disturb anything.

It was a decent size, it must have been an active hunter’s camp in the past. There was one bed large enough for a team of four to rest on at the same time. It was in a partially enclosed hut with one wall open for easy access. Kid noticed a few hunter items on a shelf to the side. Farther into the hut, on a dresser hugging the back wall, was a display with a few unknown monster materials, and behind that hung a hunting horn. To the right of the bed was a closed door which seemed to lead to an addition. Kid assumed the female hunter constructed it after making this her permanent home.

Kid also assumed the hunter lived by herself since there were no visible traces of a two person party. Apart from the hut, there was an outhouse, a stable of sorts, which was most likely for the zinogre’s use, and multiple stations dedicated to tanning hides and preparing meat. A few Kelbi and Ioprey hides were left to dry near the rain barrels and wash basin. And in the middle of the site was a fire pit with a spit fixed to it and a few large stones to sit around it. He decided that was the safest place for him to wait at.

Kid watched clouds meander through the orange sky as he decided what he’d say to the hunter when she returned. Their second meeting was fortuitous. He didn’t even have to think about what his options might be, his mind was made up. He had finally found his master, and nothing could deter him.

0 0 votes
Chapter Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments