Teach me the meaning of precipice,

Shackle me to the edge of abyss.

I want to flirt with oblivion,

Let my soul and eternity kiss.


From the window of the round stone hut Anise sees the dark cliff edge silhouetted against the falling sun. She imagines standing with her toes at the very edge looking out over a yearning new world which beckons her to tumble headlong forward. A red moon rises to the south above the bay. She can see far down below where the small wooden boats lit with torches venture out on the darkening waters into the unknown of the ocean.

Here on the edge of the veldt, the rich grass plains between the cliffs and the jungles, she finds a pertinent analogy in the setting sail of the small crafts. What seas will she sail? What weather will she face? What perils and bounties await? A shore breeze flicks at her hair and she shivers; her naked skin prickles with bumps and she resists the urge to rub her hands on her arms knowing the ceremonial clay still wet.

"Come child, you hunt this night. Sit. I must finish your markings." The old woman is exasperated. She has been applying the technical, intricate patterns to the young woman's skin for hours.

"Crone, I am betrothed and in my eighth year of blood; surely you can call me Anise. It is my name..." she grumbles from the window.

"I pulled you from my own sister's womb; I shall call you what I please." The old woman stirs the clay and ochre with a flat wooden stick. Adding some pungent oil to ward off biting things she more softly offers, "Still, daughter of my heart, all names aside, this night you hunt. Your Mother would be as proud as I."

Anise's eyes roll. "Gnrrr... These old customs."

"You are the crone's daughter, betrothed to the chieftain's son... People expect a little ceremony even in these-" she almost spits the word, "'modern'... days. Anise dear, all hunt to seal their vows. You will follow the old ways."

"Naked, my mother's kin. Naked!"

"My hunt was made as the gods clothed me. Your own mothers hunt was something of a spectacle. She wore a belt to hold her knife and earned the displeasure of the gods."

"Superstition. Pah." Anise bows her head to her palms, "My stupid boyish form tore her apart. I've heard it spoken... My shoulders tore her. I'm not made to please men. There is no cushion on my chest for a man to rest a head and I have shoulders like the veldtbeast. No soft middle to bed babies on. My legs are tree stumps. My backside! Pff." She throws her hands into the air. "Who would bed such a thing?"

"Shh child. There was some small tearing. No more than normal. There were other things at work that night." Cradling her nieces face and letting her sobs wrack into her neck, she strokes the auburn mess of tiny curls. "You are made the same as I, the same as your mother and the old lines. We were warriors first and women second. We are the true daughters of the clans; not the cream fed cattle that are fashionable now. We are beautiful. Do not forget that daughter. We are as the gods made us and tonight you shall glow in their eyes."

"What if he doesn't like what he sees?"

"He likes you plenty. I've seen him drop his tools in the blacksmith shop and lean on a post to watch you walk through the markets." She places a tender kiss on the young woman's forehead. "His eyes cannot conceal what he is looking forward to most about this evening's hunt."

"Eww... Must you? Gods, this is the worst of it. I have my bloods crone; my bloods!"

"It is the way of things."

"It's gross! I hide in the huts these few days a month and pack myself with hemp." A fresh stream of tears shakes her shoulders, "And now I hunt? I hunt naked with my bloods."

"Shh... Shh..." In a low even voice she continues, "In the light of the blood moon, when the goddess has her bloods, they hunt. They offer their naked hearts in the sight of the gods and join truly in the sight of the clan."

"I hope I'm killed in the hunt."


Red lights the sky and it matches the fire of his passions. Tonight, he hunts. His prize, Anise! Beautiful Anise. He is watching the clouds lit orange and gold and the horizon licked with fire when his father speaks.

"You will not embarrass me boy!" bellows the shaggy behemoth.

"Father... really? I've scouted well and I'm prepared."

"I know, but I've seen the tiny weapon you're packing..." a sly grin creeps across the old, deeply scarred face.

"Oh gods, you are relentless you old bastard."

"Bahahaha! Still enough strength in these shoulders to flog the impertinence from you, leaf-spittle." It's a childhood endearment of sorts, earned by Groth's sun-browned skin and its likeness to the Cacoran leaves the clan chew before battle.

"Let's not test that and leave you with some dignity."

"Ha... I do admire an optimist. Come let's get you painted. Your step-mother is quite skilful with a brush, perhaps she can camouflage the lack of... um... length to your spear?"

"Fuck off father. I've seen the tiny club you bludgeon her with."

"You mean 'the mighty spear of Regthar O'Dea.' As spoken of in hushed whispers filled with jealousy and fear."

"Thank the gods we're blacksmiths and can make proper spears. You'd harm none with that blunt tool."

"Bahaha. Sometimes, I think your mother shit you out instead of birthing you." He claps his son heartily round the shoulder, "Come. Paint. And is your spear truly sharp?" he is suddenly serious, "This thing you do boy... This is ambitious at the very least."

"Father, I have watched it now two moons or more. I am prepared."

"Oh, I hope so." His brow deepens with worry.

"Honestly, old man. I've watched it's hunting patterns. I've learned it's ploys. I'm ready."

"I thought so too, son. When I hunted the great white bear that gave me these, I thought so too." The older man rubs the deep scars on his chest that itch all the way to the end of them near his ear. "Just kill a pig, lad. A boar. A big one even. All you require is the heart of it."

"Father, we've done this."

"I know. I know."

Silence holds them in the osmosis of fathers and sons all through the land.

"Just... Just sharpen your spear one more time for me boy."


The fires are lit; great towers of drift wood and fallen storm trash. There are four of them. One for each of the winds. The roar of flames and crackling of timber is punctuated by drums which pound a steady pulse, deep as eons and foreboding. The clansmen sit and scratch and chug at giant mugs of mead. Voices drone in hum. No words are required for this ceremony. The meaning is in the emotive depths of the nasal choir.

She steps from the stone hut at the head of the fires. Red flames lick her naked body. Her skin is liquid gold in the fire's lights. Ochre, olive and tan twine like breeding snakes across her lithe form. The colour of the clays swirl in carefully painted lines on her honeyed skin. Two snake's heads face each other beneath her collar bones and their artfully painted bodies coil, exaggerating her breasts but lending her an ethereal camouflage. The ginger 'v' at the centre of her hips is trimmed and shaped as a tongue of flame.

The drums stop as she takes her place between the Northern and Eastern fires. There is a mumbled gasp as people see the belt around her waist. She dares the gods? She is her mother's child. Unnaturally tall for a clanswoman, her spear reaches only to her broad shoulders as she breathes deeply and raises her chin to defy the assembled crowd.

She can feel her skin prickle with the eyes of hundreds. They see her thatch of curled red pubic hair. They see her breasts. She can feel their eyes all over her skin. Their eyes crawl in private places. "Is there blood on my thighs yet?" The pupils of the people probe her intimately. The truth of her; all the things she covers and disguises are displayed honestly for all the people she has ever known. This is naked. "This is as naked as a girl can get," she thinks and then his eyes touch her body.


His own nudity is a little odd. It's cold on parts of him that are usually warm. He can feel his balls bristling with goose bumps in the cool night air contrasted with the warmth of the fire's glow. The spear he holds seems diminutive in the gaze of all these people. And then his eyes touch her.

He sees the vulnerability in her eyes and the pride in the tilt of her jaw. He watches the rise and fall of her breasts in heavy breath and sees the determination with which she faces this moment. She finds his eyes and holds them tightly with her own. He wants to run to her and hold her. Cover her in his arms to protect her. Shield her from this ceremony and these people. Wrap her in his protection like a warm skin near a fire.

And then doubt creeps in with the air around his testicles. "Am I enough for this woman?"


A voice wails above the drone of hummed old hymns. "This is my child."

"We see you crone," is chorused.

"This is my blood. She is from my blood..."

A deep silence acknowledges the loss of the crone's sister and the depth of the sentiment.

"She needs a man... She is ready to hunt."

"Let her hunt!" they chorus wildly. These people love her. Their love sounds in the syllables and the joy of the combined voices.

"This is my son..." There is a gravity to the voice of the chieftain.

"We see you Regthar O'Dea."

"I fear clearly for him, but he is ready for the trials of marriage."

"Let him hunt!"

A sonorous vibration starts in the ground and grows into the air. The horn of the clan sounds through the hills and all know the hunt is on.

Groth O'Dea, still holding her eyes like the most delicate treasure should he drop them, steps through the flames shadows and takes her wrist to lift it to his mouth.

"Let us hunt, Anise Morrigan." The words curl around his tongue like honey spiced wine and she finds a spark kindled in a strange knot of nerves somewhere betwixt her navel and her knees.

"Let us hunt." She stammers and they walk hand in hand into the shadows.


They have been silent since they left the village. The night and all its pomp has faded behind them. The noise of the voices and song and the crackling of the fires given way to their softly padding feet. Moonlight, lights them only.

"You're staring." She ventures. There is a playful lilt beneath the accusation.

"I am." He admits. "Your aunt is extremely talented with a brush. The moonlight is catching the orange and..." He trails away with his eyes.

"Oh?" She looks down. "Oh gods! I look like a rent wife."

"No... I never... Holy..." He stumbles on his tongue. "I mean, you look just.. lovely."

She grips his hand quickly. "Thanks, now shut up."


"Besides, I think he's letting me know what you mean." Her fingers are cool and they trace a line down his ribs to his hip and then run along the length of his rigid cock.

"Oh shit."

"It's alright. It's kind of you know... flattering."

"Oh... My father tells me it's small." For a moment, he wonders why he would blurt something that stupid.

"Small? Hmm... I've only seen a few angry like that and he's bigger than most."

Silence finds them again for a moment. They realise they are still holding hands and drop their grip.

"So... what now?" she ventures.

"Well. Um. One of us is supposed to lead the first hunt. You want me to go first? I've scouted and I'm ready."

"Alright, if you want. I've scouted too. I've selected prey. I hope you're... You know. I hope I'm good enough."

"I think the point is that we hunt together. We work as a team."

"True. Perhaps we can get mine done first. I may have been a little ambitious and will need your help." His interest is piqued by her assertion of ambition. Most women hunt the waterfowl with bows. It is said to represent fertility and bode well for the union.

"Of course, Anise. What do we hunt?"

"Come, you will see my husband to be." She takes bearings from the distant fires and looks to the top of a nearby hill. "This way. Follow."

"That should not be difficult." She catches a curious sass to his tone and over her shoulder she sees him smiling at the sway of her naked hips. "Remind me to thank the Crone for her artwork."

"Pah. Be serious. Be quiet now. Here..." She takes two Cacoran leaves from the curls of her hair and hands him one, bringing the other to her own lips. "And watch that you don't trip on that." He's hard again. He accepts the brown leaf and is thankful for the paint which hides his furious blush.

Silently he follows her. The crone has masterfully painted this beautiful creature, his true prey this night. The colours swirl on her skin, highlighting every curve in the moonlight but blending her expertly with the tall grass. He marvels at her fluid grace and skilful stealth. Soon she crests a low ridge and motions for him to stay low and join her.

The Cacoran courses through his nerves, his senses sharpen and he coils in tense readiness beside her where she squats and points ahead. He can smell her skin, the oils in her clays, her hair. Her sheer proximity has him hard again and she smiles at his discomfort. He can see her eyes, wild with the thrill of what's to come, "She will be along this way soon my Groth. Do not move or make a sound. Down, quick."

They lay flat in the fallen pine needles for long minutes waiting. His heart beats hard in his chest and he tries to still his breathing. Things crawl on his naked skin. "Ants most likely," he hopes silently. Beside him Anise peers long into the shadows along the ridge and then points. He squints hard but sees just a darkened ridgeline until the moon shadow moves and starts to take a shape. A much larger shape, that continues growing until he recognises the Ursula. He looks in disbelief at his betrothed -- most men would not attempt this hunt. She simply smiles and nods in confirmation.

As it passes, just thirty foot from them, they can smell its shaggy fur and see the goat it carries with one front paw. It shambles along with its bloody prize and he can see that it limps on one rear leg. "An injured matriarch. This gets better all the time." He thinks in a mix of fear, excitement and pride. If they can pull this off, there will be stories told of them for many years. The massive animal stops mid-stride and noses the air. Their breath stops as one. Their hearts beat in their ears and he tightens his grip on his spear. Her hand finds his and holds it still.

Suspended in time they wait and watch the massive head sniff earth and wind and then growl hatred into the night. The Ursula's teeth drip blood from her kill and he believes from here, he can smell it. With grumbled distaste and angsty mutterings, the ancient mother bear stumbles off with its prize.

"She is injured." Anise finally whispers. "She has been taking stock from my uncle's holdings. Her den is along this ridge in a dug-out ravine. I have been watching her for many months now. She is becoming dangerous, hunting closer and closer to the farms. It is a kindness I do her this night. She can no longer run or stand."

"I thought she was going to charge."

"She smelled man. We will use that shortly." He eyes her curiously. "In this thing, you will need to trust me. I have placed a circle of rocks on the ground at the entrance to her den. When the time comes, you must stand in that circle. Because she cannot stand, I cannot spear her effectively. There is just one chance so you must do as I say."

"I will be your bait?" Groth knows it is common for men to be used as decoys in hunting predators, but it is also quite common for them to be injured and often killed.

"Naturally." She smiles, "she is still female, she will want you as much as I."

"Yes, but she wants to eat me."

With a cheeky glance at his naked crotch, "That's occurred to me this night as well. Now come along. We go quietly along this ridge. When I signal to you, I will take position. You will then count a full minute and walk into the circle." He is looking along the shadowed ridge after the massive beast. "Are you paying attention? This is critical. Tell me you understand."

"Already you are like a wife..." He smirks, "Yes, I understand. Wait a full minute, walk into the circle."

"Stay inside the circle."


"Now shh. We hunt." She passes him another Cacoran leaf and chews one herself. "Be prepared."

He takes it wondering if he really needs it. The adrenaline still courses through him without the stimulant. Compliantly, he puts it to his mouth then follows this wild woman into the shadows.

They creep on pine needle damped footsteps, stopping only now and then for her to reach down and check for the blood trail from the goat to assure herself the crafty matriarch has not doubled around behind them. They come suddenly into a clearing where the moon throws its red light fully through the canopy. In this moment, his heart near leaps from his chest. She appears bathed in blood. The moonlight falls on the painted ochre swirls and they writhe like living things on her sweat sheened skin.

She looks back at this man standing naked in the light. So suddenly aware of her vulnerability, she resists the intense drive to cover herself and offers her proud neck with a lifted chin as if saying, "If you must look, then look well." He does; drinking her until he's fully sated.

She sees his lips form to speak and raises a finger to her own. He walks to her proudly, and takes her in his arms. They fold around her shoulders and pull her close. Their lips meet in heat and question. Shall we live? Shall we die? Should we just take this moment? Tongues touch and lips slide. He tastes the Cacoran on her tongue and she, his. The stimulant mixes between them fuelling this need and lust.

Lust for blood. Lust for flesh. Lust for each other. Lust for life. They are simply animals themselves briefly in this night of unknown venture and consequences. Between them, his cock hardens and she feels it press against her sex. Growing forward into the melding of their flesh for just a small moment the tip of him slides almost inside of her and they freeze.

"No..." she mouths, unwilling to speak. The proximity of their prey and the nearness of their defeat in the eyes of the gods both equally daunting.

"Soon." He mouths silently.

"Yes." She smiles.

"Now. One," she holds up one finger, "minute." She nods in question.

He nods back and takes the spear she offers him with a raised eyebrow. She pats the knife at her waist in answer and smiles, holding up a finger. "One." She mouths again and is swallowed by the shadows.

Alone he feels naked. It's strange, but in her presence the shared vulnerability seems natural but now, alone, it fills his awareness. The moonlight dapples his painted flesh and insects bite him. A rising need to hide in shadows compels him as he slowly counts his minute out. Fear creeps on the heels of the adrenaline and stimulant that pound through his beating heart. His nervous hands smooth his flanks and slap at stinging things. The sound startles him as sharply as a breaking twig would.

He deliberately puts his slapping hand firmly onto the spear he holds to keep it occupied and sees upon it blood. "Am I injured?" He checks himself quickly and finds blood smeared from his groin down his thigh. Empathy shames him. Here he is feeling exposed, resenting insects while his betrothed, this gorgeous creature he should be protecting is running through the jungle naked on her bloods; denied even the dignity of padding at the time of her flow. Bleeding freely, just for tradition and for the sake of the gods blessing on their union.

"Has it been a minute?" He's lost count and frightens himself. "Oh gods, let me not have fucked this."

He counts another thirty just in case and then wanders forward along the moonlit pad through the clearing. It closes like a funnel into an arch of leafy vines. Just past the arch, he spies a crude circle of rocks roughly three foot across. And into the unknown he strides, clothed only in good intention. Holding only their spears and their hopes.

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