The water is clear and crystal and the temperature of when the sun and mood collide. Deep underneath lurk creatures of great sizes that could kill a land mammal quickly and easily without a break in their stride. I was looking over on the land surrounding me, scouting for danger. All that could be heard was the sound of the sky creatures which were propped up on the high trees looking down at the world. They sing the songs of the Afterlife; at least that is what my people foretold me. When you die your soul is disconnected from your body and the sky creature’s song takes you to your heaven.
But I was not disconnected. My body was deep under the water while my eyes were just above the surface, scanning for life. My people had learned to live on land some time ago but still the water brings safety to us. It makes us content and we feel secure and at peace. I couldn’t help but return there as often as allowed. I knew my people would understand for I’m still a youngling in their eyes and the blue colouring of the water is where younglings practically spend most of their life, growing up.
My eyes flashed as I spotted a deer grazing nearby. It was beautiful as it bent down graciously to chew on the grass of the forest floor before jotting its head back up, keeping an eye out for any predators.
I swam slowly through the remaining water that came between me and the riverbank. I was cautious of my movements as I pulled myself up from the water, sliding on my stomach up the bank until I felt myself lying in cold grass.
The deer looked up curiously as it eyed me. The way it didn’t stop chewing on its food told me it was not alarmed by my presence. Few animals are. My skin is the colour of blood mixed with the ocean. When we are born we are small and red and when we grow up in the water our skin turns to violet. Our prey find the colour soothing and jump to the conclusion that we are not to be feared.
But soon my skin turned to green, matching the colour of the grass that I lay upon, so that I blended into the surface and I was now out of sight. If you looked closely enough you could spot an uneven amount of energy floating in the spot where one of my people would be blending. But no one looked that close because when they did they would be dead.
My weapon lay across my back, a sturdy bow and arrow that I grasped with my long, slender fingers and aimed it at the deer. I rested on my bent knees while with my two fingers I pulled back my weapon that was made from crafted bark we had gathered from the trees. The arrow was melted rock, burned to match the shape of the tip of a spear, the fire burning the wood and rock together. It was strong and would pierce through skin without much trouble and if the impact from the arrow didn’t kill our prey the shock would.
The arrow was pulled back over my shoulder as I stared down the deer. It would feed my clan for many days and cold nights; the deer would die with sacred honour from my people.
I could see the tiny fireflies dancing around the deer’s heart, wanting to give the animals a quick death, without pain.
Ready to fire…
“Look at this beauty!” A deep voice hollered through the trees. The deer only took a second to look over the source of the noise before it took off running.
I didn’t look as I quickly scurried behind a tree, pressing my back and arms against the bark and blending into the surface. I could hear four sets of footprints, all of them hard and digging into the forest ground.
“Great going, mate. Ya scared the bugger off!” Another voice shouted. They both sounded male and by the sound of their footprints they grew closer and closer.
I stayed perfectly still. Something I had learned from many of the trained hunters in my clan. Moving even an inch would cause my blending to purge and it is quite painful when your skin suddenly becomes available for the eyes.
I heard the strangers and they were so close. I could hear them breathing right behind the tree where I stayed blended. I wanted to dare a look but by the sound of their voices I could guess what they were.
They were a race that lived far outside the Betalish forest and we never worried much about them coming this far into the woods. I had only heard stories of the Gatherers and what they plagued onto this Earth and our people. The elders told us when we were young and still finding comfort within the water, that the Gatherers looked much like us but we weren’t to be fooled by the strange resemblance. They took our people away, locked them up and tortured them. They took them away from our homeland and we never saw them again.
“What scared him off was probably looking at your fat head.” I heard one retort. There was some laughter and then I felt someone on the other side of the tree, kicking it lightly with their foot. “Think we can get some fruit from this thing?”
The kicking stopped. “Come on, man. You know we can’t eat anything that grows on plants. They’re probably all poisonous.” A third voice spoke up. It sounded younger than the rest, almost childlike and innocent. Slightly begging the older man to stop kicking the nature.
Someone scoffed and there was some shuffling. “I know that. Just wish we could get a decent meal once in a while.”
And then one came into my line of view. My breathing hitched as the male gatherer looked directly at me. For a moment I battled with myself if he could see pass my blending or if I was even still blending on the surface of this tree. I was motionless as he looked over me, his eyebrow quirked as if contemplating if what he was seeing was real.
Then he looked away from me, up into the tree branches and green leaves. I blew out a breath in relief. He hadn’t seen me, I was still blended. He looked interesting to me. The Elders weren’t lying when they said the Gatherers looked like us. Their skin was different toned. He had light, creamy skin, a colour I had never seen before. He was tall, about the same height as some of our greatest hunters. His hair was shorter but mostly looked the same to mine. It was spiked up but the front of it wavered over his bright green eyes.
When I finally tore my eyes away from his face, I noticed the weapon he was holding in his hands. It was big and black and he cradled it close to his chest, holding it casually yet gripping it with enough force that he would be able to use it if a threat arrived. I had seen something like it before. One day when the hunters came back they carried with them a black weapon much like the one that Gatherer is carrying, except it was much smaller. I don’t know how you would use it as a weapon, the Elders ordered us away from the strange device.
Anything that is not known must be banished.
Soon the other Gatherers joined the one I had feared had spotted me. There were four of them, as I had suspected. All of them looking moderately the same except for slight differences. The hair, face and eyes is what I noticed to be the most different between them. They were all male and they all held the black weapon in their arms.
“We should keep moving,” the green eyed one decided after some time. He looked to be the one in charge of the group. The chief hunter. When our hunters go out to get food for the clan there is always a chief. He watched over the other hunters, usually scouting for danger and overseeing the kills.
There was some light discussion with the others before they humbly agreed and started walking north, thankfully, away from my clan. We always have some of my people watching each direction for enemies or anything that threatens the clan in any way. They sit high up in the trees with a bow and arrow in their hand, never closing their eyes for too long. They could easily see these four Gatherers making their way to the clan and one of the Seekers would take them out with one swift pull of their bow. But if any of them made it passed our defence who knows what kind of damage those weapons they carry could cause. I would have to run ahead and warn them.
I cry out when I feel a sharp pain course through my leg. I look down to notice a viper hasn’t taken kindly to sharing its tree. It quickly slithered up and through the thick branches, hiding between the leaves. I grabbed onto my calf and cursed at the small amount of blood that traced my fingertips. It’s lucky that snake bites don’t draw much blood but it gives a nasty sting that’ll drive a hunter mad if it goes untreated. We’re not affected by the poison; our skin is too strong for the venom to reach our veins. But even if I was it would be the least of my concerns right now. I had stopped blending when the snake struck me and all four Gatherers had turned their heads at the commotion and were all looking directly at me.
I made the first move, retrieving my bow and arrow and running. I could hear them arguing behind me and then I felt the ground vibrate with their steps. They were chasing me. Of course they were, it was their job to eliminate any nonhuman species. But I knew from experience that they didn’t really kill my kind, they kidnapped them and took them to an unknown location. They would want me alive which gives me an advantage. They’re also on my turf, another advantage!
I knew these Gatherers would give me no choice but to kill them. They were too close to my clan and now they’ve seen me they would think there would be more nearby. Usually we hunt in packs but I came out by myself against my clan’s will and knowing to hunt alone. I preferred the solitude but right now I was wishing for Mohakani’s bow skills and Trempai’s sword tactics. The shots fired right when I rounded a large tree and started to double back. I was fast and able to confuse my enemies. Speed overpowers strength. They were shouting and cursing insults which means they were filled with more fear and rage, unable to think.
I could hear a set of footprints slightly faster than the others and I took my chance. I sharply turned left and raised my bow, an arrow already stationed and ready to be shot. I pulled back and, without much aim, fired. I shot the younger one right in the heart. He was dead within an instant. Now I could feel the rage in the others radiating off them in waves. I didn’t spend too much time staying still as the machines in their hands were firing tiny spearheads at me. I retreated to the other side of the branch and shot another one of the men in the stomach. He groaned and fell to the floor with the others surrounding him.
Only two left.
A dagger was kept in a small belt that rounded around my hips. I gripped it between my fingers and waited for the men to move directly underneath the branch I was blending in. They were startled and confused. Their weapons raised and both looking for me. One of them stood at a perfect angel with his back to me and I silently dropped to the floor, raised the dagger and slit across his throat. A nice clean cut.
The sounds of his moans and gaggles made the other turn and he instantly began to shoot at me. One of the spears landed on my right shoulder and I clenched my teeth at the overwhelming pain that begins to consume me.
Without much of a thought I spin the dagger into his knee and he falls, clutching it, red liquid oozing out between his fingers. I stand up and walk towards him as he tries to move back while on the ground. I raised the arrow and prepared for the final kill until something happened.
His green eyes stared right into mine and I felt a foreign presence. Something I had never felt before. I could sense fear of death; hear his ragged breaths as he looked at my weapon and back to my face several times.
I was feeling something strange and new and then, for an unknown reason, I lowered my bow and walked away.
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