For Glory, For Empire
Hunting for Trouble
Talis and Hirase entered the dugout after returning to the village from the hike to the lights and drums. It had been a weird night.
The sounds and lights had seemed so close, but after hiking for hours carefully, the hills in the distance might have been reached after sunrise; a very long hike for what? What would the group confront, find? Were they ready for that? If there was trouble to be found, it would be best to find it as a group, a team, a unit like the group Talis had in Flen.
For a moment Talis felt homesick for her friends, Fithian, Jani, and Mortimer. They were her team. Having a team made her feel safe. It was time to start making her new team.
“Hey, Hirase,” said Talis, “what do you think we’ll find at the fires on the hills?”
Hirase looked up from cleaning ‘ol’ Betsy’, "It’s hard to say, Talis. Could be almost anything. Though I would think some kind of “people,” hopefully friendly, but that’s what I keep Ol’ Betsy here for," Hirase pats her musket and gives a small laugh, “Maybe they would even be willing to help this colony grow who knows.”
“That musket looks pretty old. You sure she still works?” Talis asked.
“Ah, in the right hands, ol’ Betsy, can function right well. Heck, back where I’m from, I used her to take down a charging Rhinoterox. Ever seen one of those?”
“A Rhinoterox. Them’s things is meaner than a rooster in a sock! You get too close and it’ll charge and pin you with it’s great spiral tusk that grows up out of it’s nose. Right scary, it is. But ol’ Betsy made short work of it.”
“Wow, I can’t wait to see it in action.” Talis shook her head in amazement. “I’ve always been amazed at those boomsticks, but I much prefer my weapons, especially this,” Talis unsheathed her Greatsword.
Hirase whistled in praise as the gleam of the six-foot blade caught the firelight. “That’s a lot of blade to keep sharpened. Seems like a lot of work to keep it in working shape.”
“Not at all,” Talis replied. “Bestrahlen here keeps her edge. She’s sharpened by the Light.”
Boom, exclaimed ol’ Betsy.
“You see just like that. It’s easy as pie.” Hirase handed the musket back to Talis to try once again. “Now, go through the reload, just like I showed you. Be careful with that powder now, any spark’ll set it off, and then you’d be sorry.”
Talis followed the instructions as Hirase ordered, and after a bit, ol’ Betsy was supposedly ready to fire again. Talis sighted as instructed, pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. Evidently, these boomsticks are a bit of magic. Talis sighed in displeasure.
“Ah, now, don’t you get down,” Hirase consoled. “It just takes the right touch.” Talis handed the musket back and was startled by a strange, throaty bellow from off down the shore line. Hirase saw a figure stumble out of the jungle foliage and flop on to its back in the sand and the vegetation shuddered as something big ran away.
Hirase and Talis ran forward to find the High Priest Bon gasping for breath as he lay on his back. Talis quickly looked for injury, and Hirase looked towards the fleeing creature, making sure there weren’t any immediate danger.
“Are you alright, your Royal Blessedness?” Talis asked.
“Think so,” replied Bon.
“What happened?” asked Hirase.
“A beast,” replied Bon.
“A beast? What did it look like?” Hirase asked while scanning the vegetation so they were not ambushed.
Still a bit shaken up, Bon looked up with grateful eyes, “it had big claws, and mouth full of sharp teeth. I’m lucky you two were here.”
“Are we safe here?” Talis asked Hirase.
“For the moment yes, but whatever that creature is, if it could attack Bon, it could attack any of us. I say we go take care of it, so it can’t hurt anyone else. Bon gets back to Westgate as fast as possible, and tell them what happened.”
Bon nodded his head in agreement, but Talis wasn’t so sure.
“We should all go back and then gather a hunting party to take care of the creature instead of running off on our own,” Talis said thoughtfully.
“Ack! If we take the time to go back to town and gather up a party, the creature probably will be long gone by the time we get back, and we may never find it again,” Hirase emphasized the point with a hand on Talis’s shoulder and a knowing smile.
“You do what you feel is right, if that’s going back to town and gathering up more people to go after the creature, I’m not going to stop you. I’m going after it right now, and if you want to come along, you’re welcome to. Bon get back to town as fast as you can.”
With that Hirase squeezed Talis’s shoulder and then took off at a loping sprint through the underbrush after the creature that attacked Bon.
“Hirase, no!” Talis groaned and looked at Bon, “get back to town now. I’ll find Hirase,” and hurried after Hirase’s hot trail.
Bon shakes his head in dismay, and then hurries back to town to tell Commander Duellos and to warn everyone else.
Hirase quickly finds tracks of what could be a leopard and follows them until they disappear. She stops and listens but hears nothing, as the jungle grows quiet and still. While attempting to locate the creature, it leaps out and swipes Hirase in the right side making four deep gashes. Hirase screams in pain.
Talis can barely hear the scream from Hirase, but breaks into a run in that direction.
Hirase musters up the strength to bring Ol’ Betsy up and takes a shot with a thunderous report and strikes the leopard in one of its shoulders. The leopard roars in pain and then lunges at Hirase who manages to block the attack with her musket and throw the leopard off balance, but looses grip and drops Ol’ Betsy.
Spinning around for another attack, the leopard jumps at Hirase. Pulling out her Naginata just in time and planting it firmly in the ground just as the leopard was about to reach her, it’s blade sinking deep into the creature’s chest. It howls in agony and then is silent.
Between the exertion and the loss of blood, Hirase is barely able to push the leopard to the side. As it falls off of her, Hirase sees Talis emerge from the jungle just before she passes out, a wan smile on her scratched, hunter’s face.