Chapter 9

The female hunter could not sleep. Halfway to Chava she and Thunderclap were making excellent time. Thunderclap was smaller than most Zinogre, but he had amazing stamina. Their traveled path was an off-beaten one; she wished to avoid hunters at all costs. Thunderclap was open for an attack at any given moment, and she’d rather face a horde of monsters than risk an encounter with a hunting party. 

She sat with her arms over her knees by a small fire. Their location was safe, it had to be for Thunderclap to rest from the impressively steady speed maintained during the day. Yawning she quietly rustled through one of her bags but her hand stopped when she realized she had accidentally brought some of Kid’s things with her. Her fingers ran over a rough leather pouch, hesitating for a moment. Curious she began rummaging through his bag until finding a collection of papers bound together by twine. Somewhat guiltily she unbound the papers and began looking through them, only stopping to shake her head at the uroktor sketches, ‘You were in the volcano.’ 

She continued sifting through the drawings when folded papers fell to the ground. After unfolding them her eyebrow twitched; it was a part of Kid’s journal. She had already read a few words but decided to fold them up again. ‘I have no right to intrude on his thoughts, but still…’ The female hunter looked upwards as if she could see the moon and stars from underground. Again, she opened up the papers and continued reading.

‘I never put thought into why I wanted to become a hunter, but now that I have I still can’t come up with a good answer. Huntress will throw me out if I don’t say something worthy. I thought maybe I wanted to become a hunter to find my parents. Maybe I wanted to make them see how amazing I was, and they would be sorry for leaving me, but that’s not it. At first, I hunted in order to survive, but something in me came alive and, I can’t put it into words. I am a hunter. Every day and night all I can think of is hunting. I know that one day I’ll be really skilled and that makes me excited to explore new areas and find new monsters. One day I’ll be like Huntress, I know it. I’ll be able to dodge every attack and not need any armor! But for now, I need to figure out what to say…’

Closing her eyes she folded the papers back up, there was still much more there, but she felt guilty enough reading what she had. ‘So, you are a hunter?’ The image of his body flashed through her mind and she opened her eyes, fixating them on the crackling fire. ‘We must hasten our journey.’

The morning didn’t come soon enough, even though the female hunter hadn’t gotten much sleep over the past few nights. She couldn’t afford it. Assuming Thunderclap could keep his pacing, they’d reach the halfway point in three more days. ‘I hope you get my message, Nomad.’

Chava was a city of life and it never slept, but even in all its busyness, it retained an air of quaintness, which only added to its allure. The inhabitants were often celebratory in their welcoming and loved seeing new faces. The city, while small in comparison to neighboring cities, was a hubbub of old-school trade and commerce. Many came from all around to visit their marketplace to find rare and valuable goods.

The city had much to be proud of on its own, but it boasted one more attraction. It was the home of the most famous hunting celebrity the land had seen in decades. Every year, for ten consecutive years, he broke his own records in all hunting tests. It seemed he was untouchable, but to those who knew the man behind the fame, he was infused with humility and constantly strove for a goal it seemed he’d never reach. It was in his house that Nomad thought he’d spend his cushy retirement and last of his felyne years.

Knock knock knock

The house was still. Their door was a common drum to those seeking a glimpse of the hunting legend. Mu’in, a silver tiger house cat, perked up her ears but chose to ignore the visitor hoping he or she would go away.

Knock knock 

Mu’in sighed and grabbed a broom before reaching the door. “Meowster Vojin is away on a hunt, purrease leave your fanmail in the green box.” 

Knock knock knock!

She raised her voice, thinking she wasn’t heard, “Purrease leave your mail in the green box.”

“Nyo time! Open up, nya!”

Mu’in opened up the door a bit to let a sliver of light in, “What’s your business stranger?”

A scruffy-looking, scarred melynx put his paw to the door, “Need to see Nyomad, it’s extremely urrrgent!”

“Nyomad sees no one, he’s done with the business and don’t take visitors. I’m sorry but you’ll have to find another doctor.”

“He’ll answer this call, it’s from the sacred horn.”

Mu’in’s eyes widened for a split second, but she still wasn’t sure, “Who sends you, nya?”

The melynx shifted his gaze only for a moment, “I’d rather tell Nyomad himself; there is no time to chit chat! Emurgency!” 

Mu’in sighed, she knew she should never let anyone in unless they were family or friends, but rarely did a lynian stop in. She nodded, “Nyokay follow me.” 

The melynx walked closely behind Mu’in, he was clearly in a rush to do something. The house was deceivingly large, which was quite fitting for a hunting legend like Vojin. However, the visiting melynx had little time to gawk at his surroundings. They reached a small door and Mu’in tapped on it lightly. 

“Come!” Nomad said from behind the wood. They entered to find Nomad sprawled on the floor. “Ah, Mu’in! Come look at this bug I caught! The hunter in me is still alive. Come quickly before he crawls from my paws.”

Mu’in cleared her throat, “Meowster Nyomad, this one has urgent business with you. Sacred horn business.”

“Sacred horn, Nyeh? Don’t see too many of them these days. Well, what do you want?”

Without ceremony, the scarred melynx stated, “You must go to Trésor.”

Nomad scooped up the bug on his own and began waving it in front of his face, “Trésor…Trésor…Hmm, don’t believe I know of it. But regardless, my traveling days are done. If it’s medical assistance you need one of my apprentices should be more than adequate. No, no, you’ll have to take one of them.”

“But the call…” The scarred melynx protested.

“Nyes, the call, the call…I’m far too old to be answering any calls, as rare as they are. I just want to spend the rest of my short days in peace. Nook was my best pupil, he’ll answer it. Tell him that it is a special request. A dying request, that’ll persuade him.” He chuckled to himself as he was about to place the bug in his mouth.

Mu’in pushed her broom against the melynx’s shoulder, signaling that it was time to skedaddle. However, the melynx still had one more thing to say. “The message is from Adira.”

Nomad stood motionless as the bug freed itself from his grip and quickly flew away. There was only one person he knew of who had a sacred horn and would use that name. “What does the message say exactly?”

The melynx pushed the broom aside and took out a paper from his vest, it was in paw code. “Internal injuries, stop, severely burned, stop, dying, stop, Adira.” The message left much to the imagination, but that was the nature of sending it through the felyne courier. The original message came from just beyond Trésor and was spread word of mouth from felyne to felyne until it reached a felyne messenger who could deliver it. By the time the message was received it was broken down to its simplest form. But even stripped Nomad knew exactly what it meant.

“Mu’in, pack my medical bag. Use the potions and tools in the gold box and the red box.” Mu’in’s mouth nearly dropped to the floor, “But Meowster Nyomad…”

“Quickly Mu’in, there is no time.” He slowly trotted to his desk, grabbing his paper and writing utensil.

“So what’s the plan young scrapper?” 

The melynx wrung his paws, “There is a cat cart waiting outside to take you to an appointed location in the dark woods about four days travel. There you will be met with a person who will take you the rest of the way.

“A ‘person’? No name?”

“I assume, Adira?”

Nomad sighed, “Impossible, that person died years ago.” The melynx was caught off guard, but decided to not pry; he had more messages to deliver by lunchtime and needed to get Nomad off before he could resume his courier duties.  

“Well, whoever this person is, she is riding a zinogre.”

Nomad stopped writing for a second, “A zinogre?! NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH, that doesn’t surprise me one bit.” 

“You’ll have to ride it too, I hear it’s tame, nya,  but only for her…”

“I’d expect nothing less of the only person who could get me to come out of retirement,” he sounded annoyed but had a huge smirk on his face. “And spend the rest of whatever years I have left in some rajang forsaken wild place.” Nomad folded up a letter and placed it in an envelope just as Mu’in dragged an oversized backpack into the room.

“Mu’in, just in time, give this to Vojin. He’ll ask questions but eventually will come to terms. He’s not as pushy as that one.” He snarked, as his smirk grew into a fiendish smile. “Oh yes, and scrapper, you’ll have to get my bag. After all I’m far too old to be lifting such a heavy load.”

The scarred melynx’s shoulders fell, “…of course…”

Thunderclap strode at an impressive pace, and despite a few close calls with monsters and hunters, they were still on track. The female hunter refrained from urging him to go faster, she knew he’d need that energy on the way back. With luck and Nomad’s potions, they might be able to shave a day off their return.

It was hard keeping her mind focused on their surroundings, she kept imagining what was happening back at camp. Kid had a good chance of survival, but only due to the potion she had given to him before she left. That concoction, had it been created in time, might have saved Adira. Kid’s wounds and burns were not as bad as hers had been, but they were very similar cases. However, even with the miracle concoction, he would need a master healer to mend what it could only begin.  

Thunderclap’s ears twitched to the side, alerting the female hunter that something was coming from that direction. Carefully she raised her body to see what she could, but nothing was clearly in sight just yet. His ears still favored the right side, so she remained attentive to the north. She glimpsed something briefly and lost it, then again it appeared and disappeared. Nothing worth diverting Thunderclap for, so they continued on. ‘We should be there soon…if Nomad didn’t get our message, we’ll have to spend at least two more days just getting to Chava.’ Again something from the north popped into her peripheral vision, this time much closer. She focused her eyes and when it popped up again she identified it as a melynx. Thunderclap came to a jouncing stop and the female hunter jumped off. 

The melynx popped up from the ground again but was clearly exhausted from trying to catch their attention. He looked as though he was about to fall over, and kept a cautious distance from the zinogre. 

“Nyomad…” He needed to catch his breath, “Nyomad is just beyond that stoney mound. He arrived at the rende, rendezv, meeting point early and continued ahead. We heard you coming but..too fast…” 

“Thank you,” she said as she climbed onto Thunderclap’s back. Steering him, she urged the zinogre into a new direction. As they strode closer to the stone formation, the female hunter felt a slight wave of anxiety as she recalled her last encounter with Nomad. She regretted much of her past. Just as she felt herself get emotional, Thunderclap leaped clean over the  rocky mound and jolted her back to her senses. There were more pressing matters at hand.

Nomad sat with his bag on the cat cart mixing together a concoction as if he hadn’t a care in the world. His felyne escorts retreated once they heard the approaching zinogre and his melynx guide had run off to summon the great beast. The dark woods were dangerous for smaller prey; the all felyne party had a couple of monster attacks, but fortunately for them, the melynx guide doubled as their distraction while they carted to a safer distance. Even then Nomad paid them little mind; while the cart was steady he ground powders and mixed items, and when it was too wobbly for finer works, he laid on his side and thought about much. ‘I wonder how much she’s changed…’ Nomad had become quite nostalgic in his elder years, always thinking of his first family; the two people he’d forever regard as his true family.

Nomad’s ears perked and he knew the zinogre was approaching. Quickly and steadily he poured the last of his potions into a jar and then packed all but three containers. In the distance, he could see the zinogre racing towards him. Nomad knew who rode him, but even with the knowledge the sight of such a powerful creature running at him at full speed caused a chill to go up his spine. His heart raced a bit; it had been a long time since he was on the battlefield, but his body still reacted. 

The female hunter pulled Thunderclap to a slow trot while she jumped off and ran the rest of the way to the cart. She approached quickly and as Nomad looked up at her he just smiled. Only a moment passed, but it was enough for the two of them. For now. 

“You’ll have to get my bag, I’m not as spry as I once was.” She nodded and fastened  it on her shoulders and waist. “Let’s see this zinogre of yours. Back in my day, we weren’t mounting monsters left and right…so this is all new to me.” He couldn’t see, but she smirked at his statement. She was his ‘my day’. As they approached Thunderclap both growled and whimpered. His instincts were to attack Nomad, but his master would not allow it. 

“Don’t be afraid of him, not now at least.” 

She bent to grab Nomad, but he motioned for her to wait, “I have some tonics for us before we start our great journey. One for your friend here, it will revitalize him.” He handed it to her and she managed to get it down Thunderclap’s throat, much to his displeasure. “Good, now this one for you. I knew you’d be ragged with exhaustion. You are always at it two hundred percent.” She shook her head, not five minutes into their reunion and he was resuming his sagely role. Admittedly she was very worn and although did not outwardly express it, she was extremely grateful. “And this one’s for me! So I don’t get electrocuted to death!” His face winced at the taste as it went down. “Downright awful. I need to work on that…” 

Without any hesitation, she hoisted Nomad onto Thunderclap’s back and climbed up behind him. “Grabbing onto me is the safest way for you, it’d be more comfortable to sit on my lap than his back.” Nomad turned with his back towards Thunderclap’s head. “This will be a hard journey for you, but please endure as much as you can.” She felt him nod. Already the zinogre’s static electricity was shooting off, but thanks to the tonic Nomad drank, it didn’t bother him much. 

Thunderclap turned back in the direction of home and ran at an impressive speed. It was time to push him harder than the journey towards Chava. 

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