Chapter 8: The Huntress and her Father
I woke up, and immediately regretted it. My back and arms ached from having to lift the wood to build the shelter even into the light. I stretched as silently as I could, arching my back and reaching forward as far as I could. And even that wasn’t enough to wake me up fully. I reluctantly stood up, leaning on the wall and watching it closely. It was much more sturdy than I had expected it to be, and I felt a little bit of pride that I’d helped it.
I glanced over at Storm, who was curled up with his tail under his head and his wings keeping his arms and face warm, and at Rune, who was lying partially on his stomach with his shirt under his neck for support, revealing the thick coat of flame-colored hair on his back going down to where he once had a tail. But that was so long ago that even he couldn’t remember it. Both he and Storm were completely relaxed and fast asleep. I considered lying back down, but then I noticed a soft light glowing outside the shelter, and I lifted the cloth in the doorway to see what it was.
Scout had made a fire pit a few lengths away from the shelter, and had covered it in sand and rocks from the beach. He had already lit a fire, and as I walked out towards it, he was yawning as if he had only just woken up himself.
“Hi, Scout,” I said, walking towards him and kneeling next to him. He blinked slowly, and then smiled a little.
“I guess. Wish I had slept for longer, though.”
“As do I,” he admitted. I noticed that he had a few thick and long sticks in his hands. Two of them had an end that was fashioned into a point, making a spear.
“Are those for hunting?”
“Almost. I’m assuming you’ve never gone fishing?”
I blinked, and then scowled. “No, and I’m not sure I want to.”
“Hunting is easier.”
“Not if you can’t find game.”
“And have we checked around here yet for game?”
“Not completely, but I do know that animals out here can still be contaminated by the dust. I’ve gotten sick from them before more often than I have from fish from the ocean.”
I sighed, and took one of the spears. “I guess I can try to learn…”
Scout smiled at me. “I’m not going to force you, but it is a useful skill to have.”
“Yeah, I know, Scout. I’ll try. But if I get frustrated, this spear is going to go in the first animal I find.”
Scout chuckled, standing up. He set down the two sticks that hadn’t been sharpened, and held the one remaining in his good hand. “Luckily, the shore isn’t too far from here. You can go down and watch the fish for a while. I’m going to put out the fire and be right down.”
I nodded, and started walking. As I got closer to the shore, I looked up in the sky at all of the stars and dark grey clouds. I lowered my gaze to the horizon, and could have sworn that I saw a shadow in the far distance move on the water. As I looked, I could see something floating there. I felt my hair stand on end, and my grip on the spear tightened, and my eyes focused completely on it as it moved. I couldn’t see much of it as it drifted across the ocean; and as it seemed to get smaller and smaller, it became harder to tell what it was.
I heard Scout’s footsteps behind me and turned to face him.
“Scout, there was something in the distance.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was something really big floating on the surface. I don’t see it any more though…”
Scout narrowed his eyes a little. “It may have been a human ship…”
“Why would they come here?”
“They’ve probably noticed the dust. I’m surprised we haven’t had many encounters with them, to be honest. I think that the ones beyond the mountains fear the dust, though, and the ones who have ships… I don’t know what their motivation might be, but I doubt it’ll be long before they try to come here to find out what’s happening.”
My stomach felt like it turned over. “And what’ll happen when they come here, then?”
“It’ll be… hard.” Scout sighed, and waded into the water, motioning for me to follow him. I did so, and couldn’t help but get a little irritated with the salty water soaking through the fur on my legs. “Nobody here really likes humans. But at the same time, they’re not all bad. All of us who were alive before the dungeon were human, and not every human would approve of what was happening in the dungeon.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I’d believe it when I saw it, but not before then. In the meantime, I decided to focus on the fish that started swimming around my feet the moment my hooves were planted firmly in the sand. The moment I tried to pull my foot up to take another step, the fish all swam away as quickly as they could.
“I don’t think you’ll find fishing too hard, Gray. You’re a good hunter, and fishing is like hunting, but with smaller targets.”
“And that’s exactly why it’s going to be really hard,” I growled.
“It just takes getting used to. You have to be quick to catch them, and you have to keep your legs perfectly still. Hold your spear at the ready to stab at one the moment you find a good one, and do it as quickly and forcefully as you can without falling over.” As if to illustrate what he meant, he quickly stabbed the spear into the water below him. When he pulled the spear up, there was a large silver fish whose thrashing around had been quickly cut off. Scout began to wade slowly towards the beach again. “I’ll lay out a cloth to put the fish we catch on. We shouldn’t need too many for now.”
“Good idea,” I muttered, turning my attention fully to the water in front of me. Part of me wanted to attack the fish that were swimming around my hooves and messing with my fur, but that was just asking for me to miss and hit my own leg. So I looked out, at the larger fish that were swimming closer to me, away from Scout as he moved. I braced myself to strike, waiting for them to slow down, and then thrust the spear into the water. It barely missed the fish I was aiming for- maybe it just brushed against the fin, and all of the fish swam away from me.
“Keep trying. You’ll get better at it, Gray.”
I managed to catch one single fish in the end. Right at the end. And it was a bigger one than any of the ones that Scout caught- any of the six that he caught. He seemed proud that I’d caught one- even though it was probably easier due to its size.
“These will be more than enough for us to eat well,” Scout said. “I’ll get the fire set up if you can carry all of them back.”
“Scout, do you fish a lot?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“How are you so good at it?”
“Experience and practice…” Scout glanced to his side sadly. “Before the dungeon, even. It came naturally to me when we got out.”
“And… did it take you a long time to learn?”
“Probably.” We were both silent for a little while as we walked back towards the shelter. “All I remember about learning to fish was doing so with an older man teaching me. Maybe my father, I don’t know, and there’s… probably nobody alive who would recognize me outside of our lands.”
I nodded slowly. I hadn’t meant to bring up his past, but also knew that if he hadn’t wanted to talk about it, he wouldn’t have.