It's like hunting, but easier

RO

POSTED: Fri Jan 31, 2020 5:02 pm

Backdated to January 14th, on the western edge of Camp Gagetown near the north border. [+1,650]
Clipped wings, I was a broken thing

Falcon trudged through the snow, tugging her cloak’s hood—and a lot of long, dark hair—forward to better protect her face. It was cold, even with the sun shining, and she didn't want to freeze her nose off. The sparse, snow-covered forest was quiet except for the soft crunching of snow underneath her feet—and everyone else's feet, of course.

Brom patted Jenny’s side as they walked, a coil of rope tied to her pack. If and when they found something worth butchering, she’d drag it back to Hee Haw Orchard for them. Jenny hadn’t seemed quite sure of the tack they’d put on her, like a cart halter without a cart, but she’d gotten used to it after some schmoozing; the Elkenfrey wasn’t a big fan of horses, but she loved this mule. She’d pulled lots of supplies for Ezra’s papermill, she rarely kicked up a fuss after a long workday, and she was so sweet. That was more than she could say for some of her packmates.

Falcon chuckled at the thought; today was going better than she'd expected. A sunny day and cloudless night had passed since the storm, though a flurry had blown through this morning. Their losses had been few, mostly in the form of damaged buildings and downed trees, but something told her they’d been luckier than most. If the wind, snow, and biting cold didn’t chip away at them, it had to have chipped away at someone else; blizzards like that didn’t leave places unscathed, unfortunately.

She had a new leak in her roof, but Sedona was coming by to fix it tomorrow. Maybe they’d tear the whole thing off in spring and replace it with thatch.

Jenny paused, tapping her feet lightly against the snow. Falcon couldn't hear or see anything out of the ordinary, not in all this white, but she scanned the area anyway. A fallen tree, a big pile of snow, a broken rack of antlers…

Wait. Antlers? The green-eyed woman grinned and darted forward, unable to keep her hopes down on the ground where they belonged. It could be attached to an old skull, or have been shed before the storm, but it could also lead them to a deer worth dragging home. Digging through the snow with gloved hands, Falcon gasped in delight. "Brom, there's an entire buck under here!"

Brom hummed his approval and led Jenny as close as he could get her to the buried carcass. "Maybe there's only half a buck under there," he quipped, reaching up to pet the mule's head. "What's gotten into you, Jenny? It's just a deer." The tall, white-furred wolfdog sighed and turned back to Falcon, who was still digging incessantly.

"That's still more than no buck. It's still fresh," she said, having revealed a heavy-looking head beneath the broken antlers. There were no signs of injury yet, much less mortal injury, but Falcon could feel the gauntness of its neck as she dug it out. Not starving gaunt, but still gaunt. "I think the storm took it out somehow—it's thin, but it didn't starve to death." The buck didn't seem particularly old either, and it didn't smell sick when she pressed her nose to it; hopefully there wasn't anything too bad hiding inside it's meat.

"You haven't even uncovered the whole thing, Falcon," Brom said, padding over to crouch down at her side. "Something could have ripped its stomach open and you'd have no idea." Did Brom he to disagree with everything she said? Falcon huffed and elbowed Brom in the ribs, hard enough to make him grunt between laughs. "Okay, now I know I’m right."

Rolling her eyes, the Elkenfrey tried to ignore Brom—even though they were shoulder to shoulder—and kept digging. After doing a whole lot of nothing for a moment, the pale-eyed Builder stood and started excavating the buck's back.

"There's an arrow in here," Falcon said, her arms covered past her elbows as she groped the deer's buried side. She could feel the heavy shaft in her hands, but it wasn't in quite the right spot; she wasn't much of an archer herself, having paid more attention to Naya than her lessons, but she knew where to shoot a deer. Pulling a handful of snow back out of the pile, Falcon frowned at what she saw. It was stained red, just like half the slush on her gloves, which wasn't good news for their new friend. "I can't tell if it was a clean kill, but it was a gut shot. I just know we’re going to find a lot of red snow under here."

After brushing off her hands, Falcon sighed and pushed her long, dark hair back under her hood; she hoped the poor thing hadn’t died too slowly.

Brom's ears perked at that, the man abandoning his post to come dig next to Falcon instead. "Poor bastard," he said, lamenting the deer’s presumed suffering as they worked to reveal its bloody wound. The arrow had felt big, like it wasn't meant for a deer this size, and it had landed at an odd angle. Wouldn't have gotten the heart or lungs, just the deer's gut without punching through. The stench of stomach contents hit them then, even frozen, and Brom recoiled. "Jeez, this wasn't clean at all."

Falcon nodded and patted the buck's cold face. It was probably shot before the blizzard and the hunter didn't bother making a kill shot—or sticking around to let it die on its own. That didn't sit well with Falcon, but the deer's loss was their gain. It had a handsome pelt, too; at least it wasn't peppered with arrows.

Brom yanked the shaft out with a grunt and a twist, before marveling at its horrible-looking head. "Oh Gods," Falcon said, staring at the strange, metal spike; it had extra hooks on the sides, as if it wasn't supposed to go through at all. She supposed that would make it bleed more, or help arrow recovery, but why? Why forge something like that when regular arrows did the job just fine?

And what kind of bow had even fired it? It looked like it could take out a bear without much trouble, if only it penetrated deep enough.

”Oh Gods is right. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Brom turned the arrow over in his hands and cocked his head to the side. If the Elkenfrey didn’t know any better, she’d assume it was a tiny spear. ”I bet we could still fire this if we brought it back to the Vale, let everyone get a kick out of it—I don’t think it’s damaged.” He handed it to her and went back to digging, revealing the rest of the large, thin buck. Falcon wasn’t particularly superstitious, but something about the arrow felt wrong to her. It… It almost felt like it carried some of the suffering the animal felt as it died, some of its hunger, confusion, and pain. It was hurting, and it was dying, but not fast enough.

The Wood Women didn’t reuse arrows that didn’t make clean kills, not until they cleansed the heads in fire and put them on new shafts. Falcon snapped the wood near the head while Brom wasn’t looking, his face half in and half out of the snow, and buried it; the Vale would have to remount it if they wanted to use it. The Builder lifted his head to stare at her, now only carrying the metal arrowhead, and raised an eyebrow. Old superstition,” Falcon muttered, dropping the ugly-looking spike in her pack

She did all sorts of weird things because of her upbringing and most of her packmates were used to it.

Brom nodded, knowing better than to ask; the Elkenfrey kept most of that stuff close to her chest. ”Got it. Anyway… I think we’re ready to drag this big, dead boy home. What do you think, Falcon?” he asked, standing up and trotting over to Jenny’s side. He smoothed his hands over the mule’s gray-brown neck, attempting to soothe the nervous animal, and kept an ear out for Falcon’s answer.

”I don’t see why not,” she replied, offering Brom a small smile. It’s not like the buck was going anywhere without them, but the sooner she could get out of the cold, the better. Falcon tugged her gloves off and shook out the snow as the Builder returned, a coil of rope slung over his shoulder. ”Need me to do anything fancy, or will basic knotwork do?”

Brom snorted. ”Basic knotwork will do, Falcon. You don’t always have to show off, you know.” He stooped down next to her and started dragging the cold buck into a better position. ”Everything doesn’t need fancy loops or bows just because you can make them.” His tone was blatantly teasing, even though he clearly didn't get it.

Falcon laughed and stood up to help him wrangle the carcass. ”Maybe you need a fancy bow—I bet you’d look really handsome for Saga.” She wiggled her eyebrows at him through a curtain of loose hair. Something shifted in Brom’s expression, old embarrassment burning across his face, and he pushed the green-eyed hybrid over into the snow. Falcon wheezed with laughter, and so did he, and then they actually did their jobs like the grown adults they were.

had a voice, had a voice but I could not sing
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Note: Falcon uses he/him pronouns publicly (i.e. to most packmates, acquaintances, and strangers) and she/her pronouns privately (i.e. to specific, close friends).
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With great distinction, I carry on They stole my dirty socks... :( Spring Spree 2020

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