Part 8

Another morning. It’s not as cold as the last one, though I think that’s down to the lack of rain. My things aren’t as frozen together and climbing down the first few branches of my tree, which has blue leaves under the light of only one sun, is almost easy. That’s where my luck seems to stop. The hog is still there, it’s sleeping so I have some chance to get away but I will have to do it quickly. Very few animals stay sleeping under the light of both suns. I proved my jumping skill to myself last night, I’m just going to have to do it again and launch myself into the branches of the next tree. I can do this, I know I can. I’m the best war dancer that Teaghais has ever seen. If I think about it much more I’ll never manage it so I close my eyes and throw myself from the branch. As much as I must have only spent a moment in the air it felt like much longer while I was waiting for my hands to find something to catch my hands on. Sadly what eventually found the tree was my face, which is why I am now sat trying to stop my nose from bleeding before moving on. At least I’ve managed to escape the hog for the time being.

There are a lot of bloodied leaves in the tree by the time I begin to climb down. Even the world worst tracker could see that there had been somebody around from that so I have to move quickly. I don’t think there’s someone following me but you can never be too careful about these things. I can’t see the hog from the lowest branch of the tree so I have to assume that it’s got bored and wondered off to look for something more delicious that me to eat. There is an obscenely loud gurgling from my stomach which reminds me that I’ve not eaten either. I need to find something today or I won’t make it much further. Walking down the riverside is still peaceful but I’m much more wary than I had been. If I can’t defend myself against an animal
then I wouldn’t be much use against a person. I don’t think many people will be happily danced into submission; it just doesn’t work like that.

A particularly large ground bird runs past me, it would be enough to feed me for a few days if I could only find some roots to eat it with. Oh, and I have to catch it. It’s running incredibly quickly into the bushes and while I want to stay by the riverside I want to eat rather more, so I take off after it. I’m about ready to collapse by the time the bird stops to look at something to its right. I don’t need to know what it’s looking at, this will be my only opportunity. I take my bow from over my shoulder, notch an
arrow into it, take as careful an aim as I can and loose. Twang! Thud. I’m dumbstruck, my first clean kill. Admittedly it was from about two feet away from the target but still. I’m proud of myself. I think Eric would be proud of me too. I want to rush ahead and prepare the thing for cooking right away but the memory of that bitterly cold night stops me. Feathers, I need the feathers. Cutting them all off won’t work this time. I pick up my kill, sling it over my shoulder and make my way back the way I came, following the faint sound of running water.

I have never seen such a bird. On closer inspection it is not at all like the ones we catch for the village. It is larger for a start and instead of the short dull feathers that I am so used to seeing it is adorned with long plumes of red and silver. Our birds have short legs, the kind that are hardly worth eating, and fat little bodies. This magnificent bird has larger strong legs; I believe the meat on them will be so much better than that of any bird our hunters bring in. It has no claws but its beak is as long as my forearm, curved like a sickle and probably as sharp. I’m not going to get close enough to it to find out. I cut off the head before I start plucking, it’s not
usually good to eat on any bird and I really don’t fancy trying to work around that beak. I decide to keep it to investigate later on but it’s not an important part of the current job. Plucking. Legs first seems to be the way to go, the feathers there are smaller and are coming out much easier than I had expected. They are all wonderfully soft; I can see why mountain folk use feathers for warmth. The tail feathers are harder to remove. They’re stiff, tough, and won’t be any good at insulating my clothes during the long nights. It feels such a shame to waste them by leaving them behind so they get thrown into the bag as well.

The End

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