Risa stood with her back to the tree trunk, high above the ground, heedless of the sap that stuck to her skin as she watched the sun setting over the lake. She loved the way the colors graced the sky and the waters. She had been out hunting all day and had a few things to show for it. Nothing elaborate just some game to grace the stew pots the next day. It had been a peaceful kind of day, nothing too challenging, just enough to keep her hands busy and her mind wandering over her life. It wasn’t too often Risa found herself in a moment of peace and so she was treasuring it.
She was finding herself a little restless lately, nothing too terrible but enough that her Grandmother was beginning to look at her sideways and mutter under her breath about her following in her mother’s footsteps. Then she’d snap at Risa and tell her it was well past time she got a man. Risa would then laugh and suggest that she move out and get her own place. That suggestion would set Brenna to sputtering about the indecency of that, the scandal of a woman of marrying age living alone. Risa smiled at the whole idea. It was groundless worry, but still, sometimes she needed to needle her grandmother where she could. She loved the woman but she was not easy to live with at all.
Brenna needn’t worry, she reflected. Risa had no desire to leave the village or its ways. She loved her life, her work and the people who inhabited her little part of the world. It was just that she hadn’t felt challenged in a long time. She’d nearly been killed a month earlier when the mate of the Owlbear had burst from the brush and nearly eviscerated her. But that hadn’t been an issue of skill, that had simply been bad luck. No, it had been some time since she had felt the thrill of picking a target, narrowing down its territory and then tracking it. That was the part she loved; the learning of the ways, following it through its day without ever having seen it. Noting the signs and learning about her prey and its habits. Catching and killing were a thrill certainly, nothing got the blood pumping like the end of the hunt, the kill. But that wasn’t what she loved, though it did satisfy her.
She watched the colors of the sky deepen, the edges of the world blooming with a deep red the color of blood as the sun returned home to sleep. She needed something new, something to fire her blood. But she didn’t know what. She picked at the bark behind her and found a large lump of sap and pulled it off absently. For a long moment she played with it, squeezing and rolling the sticky substance between her fingers as she contemplated nothing but yearned for something. Then, just as absently she popped the lump in her mouth and began to chew. The resinous taste filled her mouth and the texture was a satisfying feel between her teeth.
As she chewed and watched the sun say goodbye to the day she listened to the sounds about her, the settling in of the day creatures and the waking up of the night time folk. Soon after she realized that it would be dark enough that climbing down the tree would be more work than she wanted just then. So with another sigh she started to silently make her way down. She paused halfway down to grab the brace of game she had gotten for her efforts that day and slung it over her shoulder. Then just as she was about to proceed she head the unmistakable sound of footsteps below. She grinned, this may not be the prey she wanted and it may not satisfy for long but it certainly held a little fun for her. She listened intently and tried to place a distance and speed from where she sat. Her grin widened, it was perfect timing. Slowly and carefully she made her way down, laughing inside at the fright she was about to give someone. About ten feet up, a little too far to jump her foot hit a loose patch of bark and a small particle of it fell to the forest floor to land in the soft blanket of needles. Nothing most people would hear and so she continued on her way, confident that her “prey” would be easy to surprise.
Panting and sweating, Zarco fell to one knee with his blade planted on the ground for support. Staring at his dinner before him. The heated lump between his broad chest calmed. A few more deep breath and he'd collected himself to make a stand. Leaving the broadsword still planted, he approached the 'Sabre-tiger' withdrawing a dagger from a sheath by his lower back. Kneeling as he dug up the canine tooth from its roots. They made good accessories back in the village and was good side business. Especially among the toddlers who went around the village spreading rumors of their imaginary feat though the adults bought them for decoration puposes or for carvings and sorts. He began setting up a bonfire to have a portion of his dinner.
Hawkins had impart him with the knowledge of being a good hunter and his first rule of survival was to satisfy oneself's hunger before 'satisfying' others. A notion of humor induced by his uncle to have the phrase imbued in Zarco's mind. He smirked as he recalled Hawkin's humorous gesture when the statement were made. 'It's your own fault, old man.. I'm hungry after that fight with this cub here.. So.. You'd better start tying up those intestines of yours until I got home..', Zarco thought as he skewered the meat and began rotating the portable wooden pin over the fire. The smell alone had provoked his guts and began to growl, clamoring to be satisfied.
"Zarco..! Zarco..! No! Wake up boy..! Wake up! Drekka! Quickly, alert Brenna of Zarco's conditions... Have her prepare for him when I return.. Go, now..! Liana, organise a team and track the creature that did this to him.. It could still be around.. Zarco, you're going to be okay... Hang in there, kid.. Hang in there..", Hawkins voice repeated in his mind as the history's events played in his mind. "Brenna, please save him.. He's much too young and.. and.. he's the only one I had left..", Zarco now couldn't imagined how the big man could plead for his life but he was grateful though. If it weren't for the man, he wouldn't be here. "What do you mean, Brenna..? There.. there must be a way.. Tell me, Brenna... Which type of plant you need me to bring..?", the care Hawkins had displayed back then was the reason why he took up smithing but nonetheless, the blood within was of his parents who'd both died while attempting to subdue the 'scaled one'. By the pure blood of a hunter from both parents, he couldn't resist himself from besting a selected game. "I understand, Brenna.. You did all you could.. We'll just pray for the best now..", the change was drastic from before the incident to after he'd recovered. No longer was Zarco as playful. No longer was he as cheerful and the anxiety of excitement no longer existed.
He leaned against the fallen beast's torso as he munched the overcooked meat. Though its the way he liked it most, he never could gauge the right timing for a well-done even if he wanted to. Zarco stared the sky and realised it was getting dark. The comfort of fur from his dinner was comforting under his head. Too comforting perhaps, that he needed to force himself out from an imaginary grasp of the 'sandman'. With a grunt, Zarco got up to his feet and began dragging the meal after he'd rid the bonfire as well as retrieving his weapon.
Making his way back with the sack of meat trailing behind as he pulled it with his left hand and the broadsword on his back, his eyes darted the shrubbs and the thick undergrowth around him. The night creatures began to join the orchestra and filled the ambience almost as quickly as the sun hid over the horizon. He approached the outskirts of the forest and neared the village. Something wasn't right. He could feel it but was unable to pin point its exact source. His right hand held the daggers hilt. Ready to slit the throat of any beast that would pounce on him unless if it were the village's toddlers that sometimes did managed to somehow, escaped the guardian's supervision and strayed too far into the game's belly. His grip tightened and his alertness heightened.
Risa squatted on the branch over the trail and peered into the gloaming. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. It was Zarco. Anyone but Zarco and she’d be leaping down onto them or in front of them for no reason that to give them a fright. Such things amused her and Brenna had never been able to break her of the habit despite years of switchings. Now that she was a woman grown it was pretty clear that her unfortunate sense of humor was there to stay. But with Zarco she’d be as likely to get gutted as not and so sense prevailed over fun and she waited, lowering her feet to where her fellow hunter would see them. Just because she couldn’t jump him didn’t mean she couldn’t have fun with him.
Zarco had ceased being a fun person a long time ago. She remembered how he’d been a fairly amusing playmate back in the day, but as she’d only been in the village for a few years when he’d gone out and gotten hurt she couldn’t be certain her memories were correct. He hadn’t been the same since everyone agreed. Risa just remembered a time she’d been sent to live with Kiana’s family for a few weeks because the house needed to be quiet and Risa was incapable of doing so at the time. She remembered the night he was brought in, the commotion of the emergency had woken her up and she’d peered sleepily into her Grandmother’s work room and seen Zarco, his face a pale gray color as Brenna leaned over his still form before she’d been shuffled off to bed with no explanations offered. She didn’t remember much else.
But since then Zarco had been silent and brooding, flinging angry words when provoked. Risa had a pretty bad temper and sometimes there was nothing so satisfying when you were in a bad mood as to engage in a verbal sparring match with an equally angry person. Zarco was her favorite target. Well to be honest he was her favorite target no matter her mood. He was a good hunter and that galled her. Deep down inside, completely unspoken was the thought that he might, just might, be a better hunter than her. She would never admit it, but she resented him for putting that fear in her. And so he was her favorite target for barbs and the person she most often strove against. She had something of an unofficial tally of their kills and they had been even, until tonight. She looked down at what he was dragging behind him and then down at her own, more meager and conventional kill and felt a slow burning heat fill her.
She could see even in the growing dark that the beast was magnificent Tiger, in the prime of its life and a worthy kill. In anyone else she would have felt a flush of pride that her people had produced such a hunter and she’d have called out a compliment. Deep down there was a small tinge of that, he really was good, but it was swallowed up by her more pressing feelings of jealousy and rivalry. Still she couldn’t keep silent any longer. She tucked her own brace of prey behind her and swung her feel like a girl above the trail and called out,
“Good evening Zarco, that’s quite a find you have there. I do hope the scavengers didn’t wreak too much havoc on its hide before you stumbled upon it.”
So saying, she slid soundlessly down to the trail and leaned against the trunk. Her teeth still worked on the resinous sap as she kept her body held in a casual pose and waited his response. Her eyes sparkled with dark mischief and her wide mouth curved into a soft smile that twitched at the corners.
Pausing in his tracks as he saw a pair of dangling foot, he looked up to see who they'd belong to. Risa, a comrade from the same village. The grasp around his dagger's hilt loosened and the hand was brought to his side. Grunting at her remarks with a smirk on his face as he watched her gracefully making her way down before leaning on the tall tree. Deliberately provoking him into returning her with one of his own as she waited.
Zarco had noticed to how friendly Risa could get. Too friendly sometimes that if he'd known any better was her way of vastly spreading her reputation across the village and its neighboring dens. An effective approach as she'd carried herself with graceful confidence in which they silently bragged on her accomplishment. A proud demeanor yet approachable however, one would suffer the torment of her tongue in the most unpleasant taste of sarcasm and the painful effect of remorse should they stepped on her wrong foot. Her accomplishments and the contributions she'd made to the village exceeded many hunters, yet most of them were unaware of this fact due to her compliments to their achievements in a hunt. To Zarco, they were blinded by her elegance to even notice that a woman could easily best them in getting a better catch.
He remembered when she was sixteen and had disappeared for a few days before her return was accompanied by the fussing of a dead Dire bear found on the threshold of the chief's house. Many men had tried to slay this bear but had failed countless times. Since then, he'd a different perspective about her. A new motivation for him through the inspiration she'd given. He'd been watching her and studying her just so to avoid being trapped by her charms and not to forget what she's capable of.
"If it isn't the herb hunteress herself. Evening to you too, Risa. Disappointingly, it was chaotic. The 'cub' was pummeled by a whole gang of them and I had to shove them aside before tripping over this.", Zarco grinned for a moment as he thumb-ed the catch behind him. "How was the tree this evening?", he mocked.
Zarco then allow himself to sit on the creature after bringing the broadsword to his side. An arm rested on his knee as he sat majestically over his trophy and held her eyes. The arrogant smile challenged her further in the game of verbal torture and his eyes lazily stared. 'Sorry, old man.. Looked like there's going to be a delay.. I was held back by a tigeress now..', Zarco mused.
Risa’s smile grew at his response, he wanted to play. She watched as he sat down on the side of the great beast and it snapped into perspective for her just how magnificent a catch it was. It made her feel a twinge of guilt for needling him, he was a good hunter, he provided well for the village and she really shouldn’t be bothering him. But he was so dour and he had called her “herb huntress”, something she hated and since he’d first coined the phrase it had spread through the village. Not too many dared use it to her face but still it was said and she often overheard it.
She stood there, leaning against the tree and tired to be casual and keep the war she was having with herself from showing. On the one hand it was Zarco and she loved to needle him, he gave as good as he got and she was in a mood to needle, especially since she was secretly wildly jealous of his skills. On the other hand it was Zarco, he was a good hunter and wasn’t often the one to start things with her and didn’t deserve to be targeted. She felt exasperation well up in her and all of a sudden she felt weary.
With her slender shoulders slumping she un-slung her brace of catch from behind her and tossed it towards him, following after it and unceremoniously plopping down onto the beast beside him. She heaved a great sigh and put her elbows on her knees and her forehead in her palms and looked at the ground.
“Sorry,” she muttered under her breath, “I’m going to have to take a rain check, I’ve lost the mood.”
She ran a strong and graceful hand through the pelt that shown between their thighs, her fingers smoothing the hairs as if it were a beloved pet and not a prized kill, the idle gesture a delaying tactic. The fur was glorious, thick, lush and a lovely color. This animal had been in the prime of its life when Zarco had brought it down, a real accomplishment, damn him. She looked at her own meager take and realized that she’d been lazy, restless yet lazy.
She looked up at him through the dim light that filtered through the canopy of trees, her brown eyes oddly empty of the amusement that usually resided there.
“I’m sorry Zarco. It’s a magnificent kill, you should be proud of yourself and not have to listen to me needle you and be sour about the whole thing. I’ve just been, bored lately. I’m not sure what to do with myself and Brenna keeps screeching at me about wanderlust and is worried about me leaving. It’s not that…” She trailed off a little. “Well I don’t know what it is, restlessness I guess.”
She was quiet for a long moment as her hand continued to play with the patch of fur between them. Then suddenly she looked up at him, her eyes narrowed and her lips trying to scowl but curling up at the corners.
“Don’t you dare tell anyone I apologized,” she said with mock sternness, “they won’t believe you and I’ll deny it!”
Then she shifted a little and hip-checked him, the amusement back in her eyes.
Zarco's smile slowly faded as the bundle of her catch fell near his legs. Staring at it for a moment before searching her face as she slumped herself beside him. He listened as she apologised and sang praises for his catch. It was a sincere apology and her praises to him was a rare honesty. Much unlike her usual self. Zarco frowned and was confused as to how to react to this decent approach. He wasn't sure if this was some kind of her game. Her charm. Her ways of making him feel good before grasping away the glorious feeling when he'd been least expecting it. Nonetheless, she seemed troubled and the intention of a sarcastic reply to her was dismissed from his mind.
However, it was far too many years ago that he'd interact with anybody without offending them with his harsh words. To construct a sentence without the means to shove them away from him proved to be a difficult task. He could see the fact that his rival was down with something that bothered her and had almost jeopardised her hunting instinct. Or so it might seemed.
Picking up her bundle of catch when she'd threatened him mockingly. Using his other hand to as if flip the pages of a hanging book. Toying with the trophies and displaying an act of ignorant. Yet, those that had been observing him would've realised that he was actually listening. Rather quite earnestly and on the contrary to his physical reaction which seemed to show distractions and unattentiveness. A smile carved across Zarco's face as his peripheral vision captured her gesture with her hips.
Without turning his head to face her, Zarco began, "Is this some kind of trickery, Risa? Do not take me lightly as how you'd been picking on the rest of the hunters in our village, woman. This cub here...". He paused as he patted the meat under him, ".. is at least big enough for me to see and its mass made easy target whereas yours..". Yet again he paused, flipping through her catch. "Small, agile and quite the task to chase. So, don't think that I could easily feel proud of my massive trophy and to look down on these small ones without taking into consideration that these... Are much harder to track. And you did a good comeback with your usual unique submissive trick of sarcasm. With the not in the mood, boredom and restlessness but it seemed to be on the contrary when you threw these at my feet."
Zarco looked at her for a moment before he stood up and let out a laugh. Throwing at her the brace of her catch before retrieving his broadsword, "Now, get off my dinner unless you want me to drag you along with it.. I've got an old mouth to feed.". Zarco bend over to start the drag without even waiting for her to get up.
Risa felt her jaw drop and then her very seat get dragged while under her. She scrambled to her feet with her customary grace startled right out of her. She stared through the dim light to Zarco’s retreating back and felt a slow flush rise up her cheeks and anger burn deep in her belly. Did he think her so pathetic that she needed to fish for compliments? Did he not sense the sincerity of her words? Did he think her a liar?
That she was normally quite acerbic did flit through her mind like a voice of reason. Perhaps he had grown so accustomed to it that he though her capable of no other genuine emotion. But she’d been honest, she had opened herself up to him, HIM of all people hoping he’d maybe understand, maybe he’d have an idea of how to solve her dilemma or at least offer sympathy. Instead she’d had her motives questioned and her offering dismissed. She felt shame and fury well up in her and she let out a shriek that momentarily silenced the night-folk of the forest. Into that silence she called after him.
“I was not fishing for compliments you overgrown fool! I was being honest and you have the gall to mock me, you great big oaf!”
She searched about with her eyes and found a small pile of pine cones, not the missile of choice but all that was at hand. She stomped over it and began hurling them at him one by one, each one accompanied by a scathing insult, all the angry words she knew but never crossing over into vulgarity, they weren’t so far from the village that she’d risk word of her being vulgar getting back to Brenna, that was trouble she did not need. As she hurled both pine cones and insults she felt wetness on her cheeks and stopped mid throw. Was she crying?
She stopped and felt her cheeks and eyes and was horrified to realize that the brute had indeed driven her to tears. She who hadn’t cried since she’d kicked over that wasps nest when she was ten and been stung more than fifty times and had swollen up for days as a result. She’d been wounded, taken ill and lost friends to fever and hunting accidents and she’d never once cried. Yet here she was, standing in the dark hurling pinecones at an insensitive fool and weeping. By the spirits what was wrong with her?
She dropped the pine cone she was holding and angrily snatched up her brace of prey and turned and moved back into the forest. She was humiliated and confused and there was no way she was going to head back into the village with tear tracks on her face let alone jumbled emotions. She’d collect herself and then go back, after full dark had hit and the families had fully dispersed for the night. Like a coward a small voice in her head pointed out. She ignored it and marched noisily through the trees and down a path towards her favorite spring. She supposed it was just as well she thought a few minutes later as she heard the quiet bubbling sound. She was all over tree sap and Brenna would likely insist on taking a horsehair brush to her hide to get her clean. She shuddered at memories of such cleanings.
Once at the spring Risa hung her take on a low branch she’d used for such purposes in the past and raised her hand to unite the string of her leather halter. Quickly she shucked out of her clothing and piled it on a rock near the spring and went hunting for the patch of soap root she’d been tending all season. It was a few minutes work with some rocks and she’d pounded open some roots and had begun lathering herself up. A handful of sand scrubbed away the sap with less abrasion than a brush would have done. She washed her braids without bothering to undo them and at last slipped into the spring and tried to relax.
She felt humiliation every time her mind began to wander. She’d allowed herself to be vulnerable and this is what happened. She tried to keep it in mind as a life lesson but that hardly lessened the sting. As she watched the moon move across the sky and as she felt her fingers and toes begin to prune up and wrinkle she wondered if enough time had passed that she’d be able to slip home without Brenna catching her and demanding to know what had kept her.
He made his way down the road towards the village. All the while having his gaze fixed to the ground. A slight shaking of his head as he thought to himself,
'Clearly you'd failed to notice my compliments as well, Risa. I too was honest when I said catching those creatures you'd caught wasn't as easy as it seemed for I couldn't have done it myself even if I wanted to. Indeed I was a fool and an oaf to have thought that you of all the rest could get my meaning. Whatever it is that had bothered you had certainly bothered me as well and I couldn't bear to see my worthy rival suffer like that. At least I dare say that I'd successfully distracted you away from whatever it was that tormented you and have your mind wandering over my impudence instead.'
A smile carved as he'd thought it was the least he could do for her. To have her hate him rather than to linger over a matter he'd yet to find out what. If he would only asked what it was that bothered her but to what she'd told him, even she herself were unsure. Aside from boredom and Brenna's lectures, Zarco had no idea what else was troubling her. Perhaps she just needed somebody to talk to but, of all people she'd chose to talk to him? Zarco frowned as he entered the weaponsmith-hut. Throwing the catch over the table with a loud slam. Hawkins entered from the room next door.
"What's the matter, boy?", the big hulking man asked as he looked over the meat on the table. "Cat got your tongue?!", he laughed as he pointed to their dinner. "Get it? Cat?".
Zarco sternly stared at his uncle without a word. A sign that indicated he was in no mood for one of Hawkins' jokes.
"Oh, right.. I'll start heatin' the pot.", his uncle re-entered the room and began making fire while he drew out his broadsword and chopped one of the tiger's legs off. Placing the broadsword on one of the weapon rack as he grab the meat and went out of the hut in silence.
"Sometimes I wondered what he'd seen that night and why was the once playful Zarco I knew became so angry.", Hawkins said to himself as he peered through the window and watched his nephew walked over to the notice board outside.
Zarco browsed the list of requests on the board in search for something that might be fun for tomorrow. Aside from the heaps of delivery requests that suits best with the young ones in their village, there were really nothing much of interest. One however, managed to make Zarco smiled and had given him a thought. He reached for the huge dagger from behind him and slammed it on the requested notice. An indication to all hunters that the request was taken and to challenge for the same request would be to pull out the dagger then wait for the owner of the dagger. They would then seek from the village's chief on who should be more worthy in taking the task. The request was from their neighboring village and it was to kill a Direbear who'd been getting too close into their hunting grounds.
Zarco then left the notice board with his dagger on it and headed to a hut. His solid knuckles knocked on the door as he called out, "It's me Zarco..". The door swung opened a few heartbeat later and an old lady emerged.
"Zarco..? What can I do you for?", the old woman asked as she looked up to the towering young man.
"Here, Brenna.. This is for you and Risa. It's nothing much...", Zarco entered the doorway as Brenna opened it for him with a smile on her face and he placed the meat on the kitchen table for her. "Good night, Brenna.", he leaned closer and planted a kiss on one of her cheeks before he left, managing a smile towards the old lady. He was grateful to her even though he knew she'd said that there was no hope for him to survive but he'd taken her as his grandmother nonetheless for the help she'd done.
Zarco began to chew on his dinner with his uncle. Silence less for the munching and chewing of the two barbaric smithers. There were no words exchanged and the time for bed was nigh. Zarco glanced out the window towards the road from the forest before he turned in for the night.
Risa crept into the village many hours later. She’d sat in the moonlight for a long time and let the cool night air dry her before she’d gotten dressed. She’d been so still as she’s sat there, and with the touch of pine sap aroma still clinging to her the night folk had slowly grown accustomed to her presence that eventually they had crept out of the brush and come to the stream to drink and hunt. It had been so peaceful.
When she finally reached the village all was silent and still, as she had hoped it would be. There were lights on in a few of the homes but no one was about. As she passed the message board in the village center her eyes slid over it by force of habit. She stopped and paused when she saw a large, unmistakable dagger sticking out of a notice. She slowed her stride and turned towards it. By the light of the moon she made out the words. As comprehension of the situation filled her she felt heat creep up her cheeks again. He was mocking her, she was certain of it. She glared at the dagger as if by doing that it would send some of her bad will towards its owner. Then abruptly she stalked off, any relaxation gained by the bath lost by the sight of the dagger.
When she finally arrived home her night was made worse by the voice that called out from the darkness,
“Risa? Where have you been you wild and heedless girl?”
Risa sighed and went to see to her grandmother’s wrath, knowing nothing would appease her but loving and respecting the crotchety old woman enough to give it a try.
The next morning she crawled out of bed before the sun had even risen and changed quickly into her best hunting leathers, binding them tightly to her fit and toned form. She then armed herself appropriately before she crept out of her room. Fortune smiled on her just a little as Brenna was still asleep, having waited up the night before to give Risa a tongue lashing. While that had made the night unpleasant it made her morning so much easier.
She quickly rummaged around in the pantry looking for something to eat and froze when she saw the haunch of tiger meat. She looked long at it and tried to sense a motive behind it. Was it given out of kindness or mockery? She honestly didn’t know and felt too unsure of her own judgment currently to hazard a guess. Regardless she ignored it and grabbed a hunk of cheese and a heal of bread before slipping out into the lightening day.
She strode towards the message board with long strong strides, none of her inner restlessness or fears visible in her demeanor. She was a huntress and the best in the village or near enough and the job she wanted was claimed by another. That just wouldn’t do. Upon arriving at the board she reread the message to be certain it was worth the trouble that would result from her claiming it. It would be she was certain by the time she’d read to the end.
She reached her hand forward and grabbed the hilt of the dagger. She momentarily had a flash of what Zarco’s face must have looked like as he drove it home. Was that a smile she’d imagined on his face or simply his usual dour expression? She didn’t know or care; it had been a flash of fancy and nothing more. With a great effort and a mighty tug she pulled it free. Holding it with respect she replaced it with one of her own more slender blades and waited for the next round to begin.
"Dad.. Mom.. Please stay home today. I don't feel so good..", young Zarco pleaded as he tugged on both his parents' hunting gear.
"What's the matter, dear? Are you having a fever? ...You looked healthy to me, Zarco..", his mother replied as she felt his forehead for signs of sick.
"The boy's just jealous that we're going to hunt a game and he couldn't come with us..", his father directed to his mother before he looked down to Zarco. "Go play with Risa, Zarco. I want to see you catch a hopper when I returned.", he said to the boy.
"Yes dear. Bring one for me too, Zarco. ...And watch over the lady, dear.", his mother smiled.
"Ya, like how I watched over your mother, boy..".
"Hawkins, please look after our boy.".
"Don't you worry about that, dear sister.. I'm going to look after him till he's fat and ugly like me.. Hahaha..", laughed Hawkins.
"I'll kill you myself should he turned to be that way, dear brother-in-law..", Zarco's father joked.
"Hahaha... Unlike you, sis, your husband found humor in my jokes.. Well, hurry now.. Say your goodbyes so I can start bloating up his belly.. Haha".
"Goodbye, dear Zarco..", his mother said as she kissed him on the forehead.
"Farewell, son.. and hunt well..", his father tousled his hair.
"Goodbye mom, goodbye dad..", Zarco bade.
Zarco sat up on his bed with a palm on his face. Lazily bringing both his legs to sit at the edge of the bed. Both elbow resting on his knees as he cupped the frontal skull of his head with both hands. Staring onto the ground blankly. A few heartbeat passed before he stood up and strapped himself into his hunting gear and leather armor. Made from the hides of his previous trophy. The recent trophy have yet to be skinned before he could make something out of it. He made a few arm movement and hopping in place to feel the weight and to ensure no hindrance in his movement. Bending down to retrieve a skull helmet of his recent kill. He'd attached leather straps and some adjustment to the structure so that it could sit on his head and cover his face without discomforting head movement as well as obstructing his vision.
There was of course no need for such fancy gear to face a direbear but its the thought of the neighbor's noticeboard which had brought him to be ready for the worse should there be a mission there, that required his strength. He smiled at the opportunity to wander off to another village and to stand a chance in encountering new creatures if not a rare one. Grabbing a bag full of last night meat, Zarco strapped the provision to the side of his waist. On the way out, he retrieved the broadsword from the weapon rack and left the hut with his uncle undisturbed.
Zarco was now in his black and sleeveless leathered armor. Designed and made to take the shape of his sinew muscles. His forearms and shin legs were greaves of similar material, strapped by simple strings. His braided hair fell behind the new helm sending of the vibes and an image of a creature himself.
His gait seemed more intimidating with the new look he had. The width of his shoulder made clear by the sleeveless layer of skin. He even included a marking on the armor with resemblance to his scar. A signature to tell who he was under the skull. There were not many early birds in his village, especially near the center where the noticeboard were at. Or so he'd thought.
Zarco approached her without haste. Measuring her up as she'd gotten herself ready for a hunt as well. He then froze when he saw her dagger on the board instead of his. Something heated up and boiled from his chest. 'A challenged?', Zarco thought as he looked and restrained himself as he maintained his composure. As much as he tried, the rise and fall of anger displayed by his shoulder and the heaving of his chest betrayed his calm tone.
"What now, Risa?", it hadn't occurred to him that direbears were to be always her choice and no other should accept the job aside from her.