Blood and Stone Arrow
Cleft hoof toes glided over soft moss, blacken from human corruption and influence, as the strong muscles worked their way over to a glistening pond. The Creature stopped, his form illuminated by the light that made it past the few cripple trees: his body was a human man, thin and strong, but his toes and fingers were hoofed like a deer’s while antlers adorned his curly brown hair. Deer ears flickered at the sounds of the forest, unnatural and weak. His beloved home stood on the brink of extinction but here he would remain. Here he was needed.
Without blinking, his body shimmered like a water reflection disturbed by pebbles while a white Stag took his place. The muscles twitched, live energy shot into his living tissue making effortless bounds into the forest greenery. Air whistle past his flanks and his nose drank in the path’s flight. He was searching, his eyes black and darting at the sides, for any trespassers in to his forest.
Spindle legs planted themselves into the ground, drawing up the remaining black soil encouraging life to begin again. This was his life, his purpose as he needed no other. Every movement felt natural, almost too good to stop with just a single bound around his territory. Despite the green lush surroundings, there was nothing to be heard about the Stag. Most song birds had fled, leaving the trees lonely and empty of their lovely melodies. The small and meek animals that once littered the forest left nothing more than tracks where they once treaded. Now only a Great Bear- an old Grizzle- with a foul temper matching his awesome size claimed this land as his home.
The proud animal halted at the edge, the forest thinned and ended into a nearby village. A village of humans. Behind those black placid eyes, hatred bore at the pale beasts milling about their lives, ignorant of the harm they caused to his very life. If the forest was gone than his life was no longer required and he would vanish into nothing. The God snorted his hate once more before springing his loaded body back into the woods. Humans were nothing but trouble. The last thing he needed was one trampling their way into his land.
Among the dappled sunlight that made its way through the branches of the trees moved a silent and stealthy figure. It was human, and if you looked close enough, the figure was female. Though she was dressed like a man in leather pants, a short tunic over that with a cloak that kept close to her body as she moved. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a messy braid that had leaves in it. Whether they were there on purpose or they were accidental, was hard to tell.
Green eyes searched around her as she slipped among the trees, bow out and drawn, arrow held in place as she searched for the sound of the thump. There was buck more than likely. Or someone's horse had strayed into the forest. But that was unlikely. Perhaps it was the big bear. Again, unlikely. But even if she didn't take the stag that was surely just ahead of her down, she'd feel more accomplished if she could find him. Anything was better than the rabbit that was currently tied around her waist in a bag.
It was sad, really, that the forest was so lifeless. It was her lively hood to hunt. But there was a difference between hunting, and killing off a forest. And that's what was seeming to have happened here.
The Huntress' eyes finally caught the flashing sight of something moving through the trees to her left. Slowly, cautiously, she moved over, stooping down to peer out onto the path between two trees to see just what was there. Her breath caught in her chest as she looked up at the most beautiful stag she'd ever seen. He was huge, his antlers were beyond impressive. She almost didn't want to draw her bow against this creature.
But her body moved before her mind could stop her and she was standing, bracing herself and pulling back on the taunt string, looking down the arrow as she lined up her shot. An almost unnatural silence fell over the two of them as she took in a deep breath, releasing it as well as the arrow in the same moment. She watched in that eerie silence as the shaft of the arrow flew through the air for its mark, waiting for any impact it might take, or for the Stag to notice her there and flee before it could find its home in its flank.
Light dotted against his coat, creating spots of yellow with each jump of his spring loaded feet. His head was held up, antlers strong and large, chest pumped full of the air he once knew as new. Now it smelt stale, ancient stirred by stank of man’s treason upon his beloved land. The stag never skipped a beat as his body moved with the rolling of motion from shoulder to hind, his little white tail aid slightly in his balance as leg snapped away from earth. It was his world, his rhythm of life as movement caught his speed died down into a waltz. His eyes twisted just to take in the very rare sight causing his shoulders to twitch in frustration.
A human, here of all places, in his woods traveling on the very ground he tended to so lovingly.
A breeze shifted the hunter’s scent smell softer like a flower, free of the type of heavy musk himself carried. It was female he could smell that much with certainty, thought she fool the world with her outfit, and his nostrils flared in unhappiness. She should not be here. In those hands, no good ever came from them, pulled a string back from the bow as his forelocks reared to the side. Instinct and folly, his rewards for the flight across his territory just as the arrow buried its head into his flank.
It made a soft sound, but the pain it brought with its release burned worse than coals against the fur. It took moments and he was off, dashing recklessly onto under growth leaving a path to follow. Blood trailed like a river from his working muscles, panic filled his helpless pain whipping him into quicker pace. Heedless of his path, unaware where his feet traced as his right foot sank. It crumpled beneath his body at once. He swayed to the side, rolled over by the sharp needles of agony in his attempts to stand. It was little use.
The shimmer happened once more, slower with the lost of the thick bright blood pouring from the arrow in his ribs. The God, in his man form, laid there, a loin cloth hung about his slender hips-long and rectangle in shape-and even his hoof finger pressed against the bleeding. His breath was painful, greedy in taking of the air with feet curled up by his side like a wounded child. That Human! How dare she shot him?!? The leaves died at his bracing hand’s reach, blackened and yellowed from the energy making him with draw his hand only to fall onto his shoulder. His mouth turned up in a winch causing him to grunt, a tell tale sound should she had lost him. His ears flickered, heart grew into his throat in panic wait. Would she find him?
The huntress hesitated for a moment as she watched the stag take off through the underbrush and branches. She was more surprised that she'd actually fired the arrow than she was that the creature was running. Had she really just done that? She'd shot the most magnificent creature she'd ever seen and she'd done it without a second's thought.
And what was more: she'd hit it. She shook her head clear and started off after the stag, following its obvious trail through the forest, though she went much slower than he had. She was still in a moment of shock and wasn't for sure what it was that she should really do. Could she kill now? Could she even save it now? Her paced picked up and soon she could see something ahead of her, and it wasn't what she thought it should have been. Because in front of her was no longer the stag she'd shot at but something else entirely.
But not anything less amazing. Even from the distance back she stood he was stunning. Her breath caught again in her throat and she cursed herself for her foolish actions. She'd shot at such a divine creature all because she'd been too prideful not to try. Such an idiot. Such a stupid idiot.
As silently as she could, she stalked forward again, bow put away in her quiver because she had no need of it now. When she was a good five feet away she stopped, standing still and looked towards him with her eyes cast down in shame. She said nothing, he'd see her soon if he hadn't already. She wanted to make amends for that, or at least pull the arrow free from his side and help bandage him up.
"Let me pull it out," she said after a moment, taking a hesitant step forward through the dying leaves to the wonderful creature's side.
His ears slipped back, the cupped shape caught nothing as it whisked back to the front. The fur on his hind legs brushed up in agitation with her closeness, his black eyes bore an unnatural hate, watched the huntress coming into sight as his hand pushed on the ground. The dead leaves crackled beneath his eagle spread fingers and his hips turned for footing. He had to stand, just had to before she killed him. Humans were poison, black and venomous disease that killed everything they landed their hands on. Even a female couldn’t be any different. There the prejudice was set in stone.
“Be gone ….ack!” His eyes crinkled up, vainly tried to force the rushing pain from his mind.
Body curled into a ball, the arrow erect from the squished muscles, the right hind foot jerked. A long struggled breath released from his thin lips coming out in a whimper. The stag god’s eyes burned with tears from this new experience. It made him realize how far he had fallen from not that long ago, time meant little to him, and now he was at the mercy of this monster. His face twisted to her direction just now taking in the human’s words. Kindness, what a grand mockery she made of him. Did she think he was a fool? The arrow had missed his heart, a few more inches or leap later than he wouldn’t be here. Red lines stuck to his skin, running into the white fur ever slowly coated the shank and waist in his blood. It was slightly darker as if the embedded unnatural item was a sin itself.
“Finish it, now female human. You have poisoned the forest enough with your presence. Take your prize, a Forest God, and then leave this place to die in peace,” Everything relaxed as it washed away, leaving the creature to go limp as he turned his face turned up in a scornful look,” Just know it was Duir you killed.”
Now he laid there defenseless and fighting the loss of blood that brought his world into black. Should she touch him, Duir would only shudder at her touch closing his eyes and hide his face into the dead growth. He was expecting the worse slightly less balled up than before. Despite his words, he held his left hand over the wound as skin turned paler. He didn't want to die not when his forest needed him most.
She said nothing at all at his words and instead just stalked forward, pulling her knife out from its sheath on her belt. She held it there in her had as she made her way to his side, her eyes ever cast down and away from him like she was afraid or too ashamed to look at him. She dropped to her knees at his side, her knife finally coming into use as she cut at the hem of her tunic, slicing up and then along the length of it before she ripped it off and repeated it a few more times, making strips of cloth to use to bind his wound.
"I'm sorry," she started, finally glancing up at his face, her eyes looked tear rimmed and her face covered in her regret for what she'd done, "but this is going to hurt quite a lot."
Her rough hands reached forward and she didn't even notice his disgusted reaction to the feel of her hands on him. She pushed on the wound for a moment, trying to see how easily she could get it. But she'd been too good of a shot and it wouldn't be something simple as just tugging it out. But it was going to come out and that was what had to happen. Taking a deep breath she grabbed hold of the shaft and turned it the slightest bit before working the arrow head out of his side and finally free of his wonderfully soft flesh.
As soon as it was free of him, she pulled her wine skin from her side and poured it over the wound, cleaning it as best she could just now. Then she took the strips of cloth she had and bound the wounds around his torso to hopefully stop the bleeding. Or at least slow it down.
"I'm sorry," she said again, this time not apologizing for the pain she was about to cause, but for the pain that she had caused in her stupid pride. "You have every right to punish me, Forest God. And I will take whatever punishment you wish to give me."
There was the impulse to run, his inner animal wanted to lash out with his toes and wound the human dearly. Each time he moved however, his insides crumbled with hurt, Duir seized up back into a ball. She never looked at him. It was curious but the idea was short lived, sullied with his prejudice, she didn’t want to see his eyes. The guilt would haunt the heartless human. His head lay against the ground and his own blood colored his hands, his vision blurred at the edges.
He weakly listened to her voice, fury at his state and more so unable to stop it, as she let her sham of sorrow show in front of him. Duir’s breath heaved up and down, labored with the embedded arrow dug ever deeply. Sharp explosion of anguish rippled through muscle and sinew causing his flickering flesh to burn.
Her fingers contrasted against his skin, calloused from the lifetime of pulling a string to his unblemished surface, prodded the enflamed hole about the arrow head as more rivulets of his blood escaped beyond the a little swelling meat. Once more he struggled not to move feeling the rewards of being shot with an arrow while his knees pressed against his chest, failing to protect him from the pain until it hit its peak. His body shuddered, relief iced over the torment, leaving him drenched in sweat. Duir couldn’t move for every part of him, mind and body ached leaving him wishing for death. At this point his senses were dying; the color black and watery vision was more than at the edges of his sight slowly taking it with time. Yet his touch wasn’t in the least hampered, the liquid, cool damp sensation dribbled down his skin following its slope to the earth beneath. Feebler than a new born infant, Duir couldn’t fight her as each strip wound over the hole, covering and starching the escaping life.
Her plead for punishment, her begging graded his nerves but there only enough strength for one last sentence,” Just leave…”
Then Darkness swallowed him whole.
His body was lighter than a deer carcass in his current form, hardly a challenge should the huntress chose to move him. Where his blood touched the plants withered in echoing agony, crying out for justice, for an ear to their voiceless suffering. The god himself was in a sorry state, left alone, his life was forfeited along with his beloved forest. His purest white skin took on a slightly blacker tint, his once strong limbs looked slightly more thin and deprived of muscles, but his face remained masked in defeat.
The huntress looked up at his words and watched as he slipped from conciouness. She couldn't just leave him here. He might have been a god, but he looked less than able to take care of himself just now. He looked weak and pale and nearing death. And that was not a state she thought a god should be in. She couldn't leave him in this state. He could just punish her for disobeying him later.
She didn't move him, she didn't want to upset him further. She didn't know if she could either. He didn't look any heavier than a buck would be, but that didn't mean he wouldn't actually be heavier. He was a god after all, she was sure that he could look how ever he wanted. She didn't know, she didn't know a lot about the gods. Which now, she regretted. There'd never been a reason, she thought, to know such things really. She'd heard stories, but that's all they'd ever been, stories. Too concerned with practical things to worry about bed time tales.
The human made a small fire a few feet back from the god, settling in to watch him and make sure that no fever took him and that he woke from his own darkness. She would not be able to live with herself if she knew that she had done nothing to help fix the problem that she had caused through her own pride.
Pride, that was always human's downfall wasn't it? Too much pride. She could almost understand that now.
Duir found himself drifting. No weight to hold him, no experience to guide him and no history to embrace him. Nothing was his scenery, the color black above and below in this dark void. Even as he kicked out his hoofs, found none to be had, there was some sense of awareness passed though him. It was time. Gods started from their domain and a reason, without those, he would simply fade back into this plane. Force to haunt its endless night empty of feelings, sound, and much more pleasures that life brought. The place shifted as an invisible hand parted away the color, making a scene older than him come to life.
Duir watched himself come into existence. Ancient people, humans of the past piled on stones and wooden sticks into a crude small house like structure with care. That was the beginning, that was the foundation of his life, then came the antlers, stripped from the proud stage’s carcass from the first slain within the forest, strung on the slanted roof’s peak. Finally came a gift of the People, a lock of hair from the elder chief, a curly brown and freely scattered upon the antlers. With a pray muttered by all, they melted away like sands in an hour glass.
It was night, hidden flights of owls’ hooted and nocturnal scurries of mammals in the undergrowth, teeming with life all around in the prime of its age. Everything was draped in a haze of purple so different from the black hole he dwelled in, colored by being, saved for one place: his temple. It's height came to his waist, currently that of the human woman and it surged with golden light adding paler shades to the crowding greenery. Tiny dots fluttered like fireflies as they drew him, sky tracing with their brilliance his deer form over and over. Slowly the figure became darkened making him solid within a few hours of the rite.
His eyes, colored like mother of pearl rainbow, blinked taking in the first sights of his new home. Black shiny hooves stepped down mercifully stopped a centimeter, hovering as the next one took its place alongside. Soundless, trail less, and boldly he darted off in his solid shape for a few meters. His body rippled with energy, completely lost in the excitement to use his newfound body when it shimmered changing in his more humanoid form. Duir watched himself disappear in his forest.
Insects, not rare in his woods, only thing to escape the attention of humans, chirped in his ears creating nightly melodies of soft noise. His body was stiff from his curled up posture, the wound was bleeding again with the bandage dyed though and his fingers were coated in the slick essence when it ran over it. Dried blood became wet again coated with new. His joints crackled from stretching leaving a throbbing ache. It had broken the air with its sounds and even the Huntress should hear Duir stir from both the bones and rustle of leaves.
He had risen half way up rather quickly, his leg slide beneath, only to fall onto the other side directly upon the wound. Duir screamed a deer like cry escaped his lips filled with agony. The wraps had slipped down exposing the piercing hole to dirt and more blood seeped out, staining the ground. If the stag god knew how to curse than his forest would be soiled by a number of profanities but sadly he could only lay there cradling his side. To ease the suffering, his pushed onto his back. He was weak that was certain and his pride, his hate drove him more back than forward.
If the female helped, Duir would not, no couldn’t resist her aid. Not anymore to his everlasting repulsion. If she hadn’t come to him by then, he would lay in wait too drained to struggle anymore. Meeting what may come of it.
The human huntress had drifted off into something almost like sleep, eyes closed and a light snore coming from her, but she could still hear the movements around her in the forest. She heard the Forest God stirred but she didn't fully wake herself until he screamed. Quickly, she scurried up to her feet, spilling the other bindings she'd been working on making to change his bandages later. She hurried to pick them up, shoving them into a pocket on her belt before she stood and came over to the God.
"Gentle," she said as she watched him roll away from his wound. She was surprised he was still injured. She thought he'd be better healed by now, he was a god after all. But she remembered nothing of their tales from her childhood.
The woman sighed, coming forward with still bloodied, but dried hands, reaching for his wound again. "I should change them, it'd be best if you stayed still," she murmured, still refusing to look up at his face. He was too handsome and glorious for her to look upon. He didn't look like he was going to be moving anyways and she finally pulled all the bloodied bandages off his side, rising his wound with her wine again before pulling out the rest of the hem of her tunic that she'd cut off for him. She'd wash the dirty ones after he surely passed out again.
"Do you have anywhere to go that would offer us better chances to keep this wound clean?" she asked. She almost asked if he had somewhere more comfortable to go, but knew before that left her mouth that it wasn't a wise thing to say. "I can make a liter and move you there if you wish."