Blood pounded in Garoff's head. There were too many people here. There was too much noise. He could tell the others felt the same way, and he began to wonder why the damned Moots were even held.
Garoff did not like attending them, though he came out of a sense of duty. He did not talk much when attending them beyond saying what needed to be said. Words... He wasn't good with words. He knew them, and could hear them, and he could get a few out, but they were meaningless to him. Words could lie. Words could betray. Words could be given the illusion of truth, of meaning, of power and strength, but they had none of this.
Action speaks louder than words. Those were the only words that had any truth, and even they were lacking.
There were others gathered in the same circle he was in, centered around a large stone. Garoff observed their gear, comparing it to his own, comparing scars and trophies. Some carried spears of bone; others axes made from a beast's skull. Some had swords made from the teeth of great hunting beasts. Garoff could respect these accomplishments, but he did not share these methods. They hunted like humans. That was the fault he found with them. They were armed for fighting, not for the kill.
Garoff scraped the tusks strapped to his arms together, growling like an animal. His brown skin had been thickened and scarred by years of gutting beasts with tooth and claw. Yes, tooth; his teeth were no sharper than any man's, but he'd torn into a leapord's hide with them. Garoff had punched a hole through the bottom of more than one creature's maw, rammed the claws and tusks he favored right into their brains. Yes... And he was good at killing, not because he was a man, but because he became an animal. He let instinct rule him first, and cunning second. He let himself go, and let the beast in his chest take over. That was the only way to hunt. No... That is the only way to live.
The tall, brown-skinned man snorted, scratching at his black beard. He was tired of waiting. Garoff wanted to get up and go, and it took every ounce of patience in him to not rise up, pull the head of the snow leopard he wore as a cloak over his own head, and walk out.
He was lucky. He didn't have to wait long. A grey-bearded man using a toothy club as a walking stick stepped into the middle of the circle slowly. He raised a hand to the gathered hunters, then dropped it back down.
"This moot was not called lightly," began the old hunter, a man who was nearing the age when he'd go off to die in the snow. "I have come to tell you of a great beast, one greater than anything we have ever hunted before."
Garoff snorted at that. I doubt it, he thought to himself.
The old man heard his snort and stared at the dark-skinned hunter before continuing. "We have learned of a creature so mighty that it has slain a whole city of the sky-dwellers. It ravaged their homes, tore apart almost all their people, and then continued to kill and rampage and destroy. Hunters are needed."
"One hunter is needed," corrected a woman, cracking her knuckles. "This beast is just a beast."
"Other hunters have died to this one already," said the old man coolly. "Their bodies feed Alrugard now. Our world gives us a challenge unlike any we have ever faced, sister. If this beast is not slain, it will destroy not only more colonies, but kill the beasts we hunt. More than one of us is needed to down this one."
Garoff grunted, standing up. This was why he came? He did not come to hear this dying old sack of a man ask for help killing some beast he was too scared to fight. Garoff had real challenges to take on.
Others must have thought the same as he did, or they were leaving because he was. They were standing, too, and preparing to leave. Good, thought Garoff. Let the old coward die on his own.
"I see," came the old man's voice. "I thought I was speaking to those who loved Alrugad and the hunt, not glory-seekers."
That struck a cord. Garoff leaped down from the stone he'd been using as a bench just a moment ago, landing at the bottom of the crude amphitheater. He strode right toward the older hunter, snarling, "Is that a challenge?"
"Yes," the old man said unflinchingly, remaining in the exact same position he had been before Garoff had leapt down, the spitting image of calm. "It is. It's a challenge to prove you are a hunter, and not just an arrogant fledgling."
Garoff ground his teeth together at that. How DARE he? he thought. Rip. Tear. Break. Shatter. He wanted to turn this man into a pile of feces and gore, and he could feel his nostrils flaring, hot air rising from them. Rend. Gnash. Kill. Kill.
Instead, the taller, younger hunter swung his arm out to the side, mouth twitching. "Fine," he snapped. "I will play your game. I will find this beast, and I will kill it, and any pups that want to come... come." Garoff snorted. "Just tell me where to go."