Ogres and Ogresses Ch. 05bystubborn_dreamer©
Chapter 5: Broken trust
Zyra had managed to force 6 hours of sleep upon herself before restlessness seeped into her bones.
She grabbed her weapons and laid them before her. Carefully she selected the best knives, spearheads, and daggers. Taking her cutting stone, she slowly sharpened each point to perfection. Sighing, she fingered the glossy buffed tip and winced when she pricked it. Zyra put it in her mouth, the copper dot staining her tongue.
Good, it was perfect.
Grabbing three spearheads she wrapped them in a deer hide satchel, and put that in her travel sack. She took her main spearhead and slowly tied it to a new staff. Then she put one end of the leather in her teeth and pulled until the strap shook. Knotting it, she weighed it in her hand. It was lightweight, but durable. She fastened her other weapons to her body and began to put on her hunting attire. Turtle shell guards, extra straps, and long soft boots.
Her hunting skirt ended at her upper thigh, but she ignored it's appropriateness. This was a hunt, she needed to have freedom of motion. She wore a brown underpant that covered her more vulnerable areas and made sure to bind her breasts three times. Finally, she donned her brown hunter shirt and drew the sacred markings of victory and peace upon her shoulders. Since this was a mission of death, she drew them in black. When she had finished her preparations, the sky was beginning to lighten.
Kyzu was lying beside Ginger. They were curled around each other like children seeking one another's warmth. She tried not to think that this might be the last time she saw them. Sighing she left the tent. If she could leave before they woke, that would be for the best. She made her way to the stream and found Rell already there. He was bent down collecting water in a large skin. She bent next to him silently and filled hers. They said nothing, acknowledging each other's presence, but each focusing on the journey ahead. She stood and saw Rell was looking at her.
"Zyra?" he asked. "Are you sure about this?"
His blue eyes glinted with seriousness. He knew as much as she did how foolish this might be.
"Yes," she replied. "You don't have to..."
"I know," he interrupted. "But I will come anyway."
She could only smile at the kind fair-haired man.
Then she went off to rouse the other. She went first to Gharla's tent, only to find her and Enui packed and prepared the same as she.
"Huntress," Gharla said giving her a smile that vanished as quickly as it came.
She was testing how taunt her bow string was. A length of spares corded around her shoulder.
"We are prepared to follow you Huntress Zyra," Enui said giving a small head bow to her.
Her six impressive short spears were slung on her back like a wooden fence. She was wearing a huntress skirt as well, her firm milky muscles curving in around her short but curvy legs. Cropped brown chestnut-colored hair curled in waves around a cupid face, her warm brown eyes giving her an air of innocence. She was open-hearted and people flocked to her as a result. Despite her appearance, she was very strong and capable, able to use her short spears to take down prey twice her size.
Gharla was almost the opposite. Her sharp sky blue eyes watched warily at every movement that was made. Her body was a collection of attractive long lines that extended through her arms and legs. She stood about a forehead taller than Zyra. Gharla constantly tracked her surroundings, her keen eyes missing nothing. This was one of the reasons her archery skills were second to none. She could shoot the wings off of a bee.
Gharla also had a nasty habit of not trusting people.
Thinking on it, Zyra realized she was likely to be wary of the men whom would accompany them.
Surprisingly, Gharla's hair was long. Most hunters preferred to have it shorn. A long blonde braid secured by many leather ties lay over her shoulder. Her skin was a honey color, dusted by the sun's rays. Together they would make a formidable force.
The pride she felt looking at them could not conveyed in words. Her love for them consumed her like fire; the love for her village, for her sweet Kyzu and sweetest Nima. She would not fail them.
"Meet by the forest's edge. I shall round up the Ursies and meet you there."
"Their presence is not necessary," Gharla scoffed slinging her full quiver on her back. "We would be better off to leave them."
"Gharla please," Enui pleaded. "We have bigger challenges ahead."
"I agree," Zyra said smirking at them. "Do not worry, I have already promised to abandon them should they prove to slow us down."
"It is good."
Zyra left them bickering and went to find Hanto. Being a warrior, she hoped he was ready as well. Heading towards their tent, she saw Hanto and Rell speaking to their father in hushed tones. Rell gave his father a hug, his large cumbersome pack made Zyra frown.
How would he be able to move in such a thing? How would he be able to defend himself?
Looking closer she realized he had no weapons. It suddenly occurred to her that Rell had no intentions of fighting at all. Even the healers of her village could fight need be.
Rell would need to be protected?
Doubt began to cloud her mind. Perhaps Gharla was right, kind or not these men might be burdensome. Hanto knelt in front of his father and received his blessing. The Chief's face was set in stone, but his eyes held deep sadness. Zyra took a deep breath trying to calm her nerves. She would be responsible for them as well. She made herself known to them then.
"The hunt begins. We wait at the clearing," she declared quietly.
She bowed her respects to the Chief whom to her surprise went up to her and clasped her hands.
"Take good care of my sons Zyra. I entrust them to your wisdom."
"I shall," she said squeezing his old hands back.
He gave her a nod and released her. "Hanto, Rell!"
He gave them stern looks. "Take care of this young woman. And Hanto, you are to listen to her. Do not let your pride come before your sense."
Hanto frowned but answered him. "Yes sir."
With that, she led them to where Gharla and Enui were waiting. She tried to ignore the heated looks she felt from Hanto, and even Rell, as she made her way to the forest's edge. She tried to have patience with them. Now would be the time for compromise, not fighting.
Gharla and Enui were found resting by a large tree. Enui was tightening her moccasin boots, but Gharla had seen them several steps back. She made no motion to greet them and Zyra could see her jaw clench in irritation. When they arrived she glared at Rell and walked up to him rather fiercely.
"Do you intend to live with the witches?" she asked mockingly.
Rell, startled by her animosity frowned.
"No, why would you—"
"Then why have you brought all of your belongings with you? Does the ground strike such fear in you that you would bring your tent for a four day hunt?"
Rell's eyes widened and Zyra bit back a curse. She wanted to chastise Gharla for her behavior but in a way she was right. The Rovians went on hunts that could last for full moon cycles and did not bring their tents. To them the tent was a sacred thing. It signified safety and home. The Ursies believed differently. They saw tents to be a temporary shelter since they were by origin nomads, and so brought their tents with them. It was simply a difference in culture.
"We have each brought what we felt necessary," Zyra interrupted.
She looked between them folding her arms.
"As long as we can carry our own, there should be no disagreement."
Without another word she headed towards the clearing where she had met the strange beast. Gharla and Enui followed automatically but the Ursies hesitated for but a moment.
"I move quickly," she shouted from ahead. "If you are not on my heels, you will fall behind."
She halted and turned to see her sister running towards her.
The air was forced from her lungs as she wrapped her arms around her. Her hair was undone, she wore no shoes and she was garbed in her sleeping gown.
"Zyra," she cried. "Sweet sister, please be safe. Please return soon."
Zyra's throat tightened and her eyes watered, but she blinked back her pain. Wrapping her arms around her she clung to her with all her strength.
"I will sister," she replied raspily. "Please, wait for me."
"Always. Forever! I love you Zyra."
Goodness, this is why she had wanted to avoid this. If she did not leave now she would be undone. Prying her sister's desperate arms from around her she held her shoulders firmly.
"I love you too Kyzu. You must be strong. No matter what happens, you must take care of the village."
Kyzu let out a sob and shook her head. She was falling back into the hole she had made as her escape. Though it hurt her to do so, Zyra shook her.
"Stop. Do you hear me Kyzu? You will not do this foolishness."
Kyzu looked at her as though she was being victimized, but Zyra hid her feelings behind a mask of duty. Bending to her sister's ear she whispered to her in a gentler tone.
"You have to be strong. For me Kyzu, I cannot do this if I do not know you will be strong."
They heard a rustle and turned. Kyzu saw that Enui and Gharla were bent on a knee before her.
"We will not fail you sweet Chieftess," Enui uttered quietly.
"Your pain is our own," Gharla said stiffly, obviously fighting back her own feelings.
Kyzu ran to them and picked them off the floor encircling them in her arms. They clung to her like children.
"Forgive me my sisters. My love for you has not been forgotten. Come back safe my dears."
Zyra looked to see Rell looking away respectfully. Hanto stood watching the display in surprise. When they separated, their eyes were dry. Kyzu went back to Zyra and gave her a weary smile.
"Thank you, for everything."
"Yes my Chieftess."
With that she bowed before her and led her team away towards the clearing. From then on the mission took on a more serious light. There were no teasing or arguments, only cooperation.
Zyra and Gharla took the lead, Gharla tracking the land while Zyra kept an eye out for danger. Rell and Enui took the middle. Enui had non-verbally offered to be Rell's chaperone and Rell seemed to fall in easily beside the brown haired girl.
Hanto had generously offered to take the flank and Zyra gave this to him. She understood he needed to prove himself and likely would be of good strength. They moved silently, stopping whenever Zyra noticed a member seemed to need a break. When she saw this, she made sure to never point that person out. It was another reason for why she was well respected.
The sun had reached the highest point in the sky, but they were well concealed by the large green foliage that shrubs, vines, and trees offered them. Zyra saw a trickling stream and decided there, might be a nice spot to refill.
"We'll take a break now," Zyra said leading them toward it. "Try to get your second wind. I intend to make the border by nightfall."
Her hunters nodded and sat, drinking their full from their skins before filling them again. The men ate bits of what appeared to be dried meat. Zyra thought to advise them that they might cramp if they ate while on such a journey, but left them be. To each their own. Then she took Gharla to the side.
"Suppose we follow this stream. Do you think we could make camp by it?"
Gharla crouched by the sediment beds and shook her head.
"No, I do not think it runs so far out."
Zyra nodded settling beside her, trying to think about how they would find future water. She sucked her finger and put it in the air. There was no wind to dry it; the air was thick with condensation.
"The air is moist yes?" Zyra asked to confirm her thoughts.
Gharla looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "We are by a stream."
"No I mean, with the trees. You suppose they might collect dew?"
Gharla grinned as the idea dawned on her. "We can collect leaves in the morn and store them for chewing when our water runs out."
"What a great idea you have," Zyra chided.
Gharla laughed but her happiness died as she looked beyond her. Turning, she saw Hanto had been staring at her again. She soon realized her hunter skirt had risen up in her crouch, and was showing her upper thigh and the crotch of her underpant. Gharla growled and stepped to sit in front of her, blocking Hanto's view.
"Ack na trussa et" Gharla whispered roughly.
Zyra grimaced. It had been a while since they had needed to use the hunter's code. "I do not trust him," she had said.
"Ack na. Zu ha, Feyta Gharla" "I do. So, have faith Gharla."
Gharla shook her head in disagreement and waited to rise only after Zyra had risen.
"Don't worry, I see everything," she exclaimed in common speech.
She gave Hanto a dirty look and went to find Enui. Zyra sighed heavily and sat down, bracing her back against the tree. She crossed her legs, a meaningless act, but one that should help Hanto regain his focus. She sat there for a few moments in meditation until she felt strong again. Silently, she stood up and starting gathering her things. The others followed suit and they ventured on again.
Sooner than she expected they reached the border. It was an undeniable distinction between the two areas. The Rovian land was heavily forested. Where the forest ended abruptly was where the land of the creatures of magic dwelled. The grass with literally greener, a lighter color that shined too brilliantly to be real. Looking out she saw a few sparse trees laden with fruit, some familiar, some strange. There was not an animal in sight, and the sun was setting. She thought about camping inside of the border, but instinctively rejected the idea. Overzealousness would do nothing to save Nima.
"Let's make camp," she said firmly.
There were several trees that they could sleep in and a wide enough clearing to dig a pit for a fire.
"I was thinking the same," Hanto said smiling at her.
She nodded and went off to mark off their camp ground. She took some wild berries and smashed them in her hand. When her hand was a sticky mess she marked the trees 20 steps around their camp, 4 in each direction. It would help them to catch their bearings should they get lost at night. They could feel the trees and once they felt the sticky seed would know to head straight in the direction of the tree for 20 paces. When she returned, Enui had found a water source and Gharla had killed three birds.
Zyra tried not to wince at the thought of such clear separation between them.
"The male hunts," Gharla said, seeing her disapproving look. "They will eat alone."
Zyra sighed and began to help Gharla clean the birds for food. Rell came over and handed them some herbs which Gharla grudgingly accepted with a mumble of "thanks." Rell winked at Zyra, obviously amused by Gharla's hate. In his pack, Rell had a series of vegetables and herbs. Enui led him to the water source and he came back with a bowl full of water.
"He brought a bowl?" Gharla asked incredulously.
"Gharla leave him be," Enui snapped.
They watched curiously as he dug the pit for the fire. He started it without assistance while they set up their nets in the trees. He put the bowl on the edge of the pit by the hot blackened embers. The water did not appear to be heating quickly, but when it did the bowl would not be broken. Rell looked at them with a smile and resumed to make his own camp. He pitched the tent, cut his vegetables, and then put his herbs into the water. The aroma took Zyra and the others off guard. It smelt wonderful, divine even. He appeared to have bread as well and was slicing up a loaf while they watched. Gharla cleared her throat, her eyes watching the soup lustily.
"Would you like some meat for your soup?"
Rell grinned. "Would you like some soup for your meat?"
She gave him an dirty glare and turned from him.
Enui laughed and gave Rell a sign of respect. Rell simply stirred the soup with a cleaned branch.
"Do not worry Madam Archer, I intend to share," he quipped lightly.
She gave him a distrustful glance, but Zyra noticed that she seemed to be less agitated with him. Perhaps like Zyra she saw him as no threat. Night had fallen by the time Hanto came back. The fire was bright and the birds were turning on a stick.
Looking from the distance, Zyra saw that Hanto had come back empty-handed. Zyra felt for him. There was nothing that brought more shame upon a hunter then being unable to find food.
"Were the animals too quick for you?"
Gharla glared at Hanto with contempt, any respect she might have had for him gone.
She made a point to take the stick from Enui and turn the three fat birds over. They were now brown and crispy. Appalled by her behavior, Zyra stood up and grabbed the stick off of the fire. The heat bit into her gloves but she ignored it. She bent down silently and using her knife, cut pieces of her intended bird into Rell's soup. When only the bone remained, she tossed it into the fire and replaced the spit. Rell promptly produced another bowl and filled it with soup and meat. He handed it to her and she nodded in thanks. With that, she took her spear and went into the forest.
Zyra was unaccustomed to disagreement. Hunts were a time of focus and solidarity. She could not truly reprimand Gharla because it was their way. None of the hunters would return without food, meat or not. They would rather be searched for then come back empty handed. It was fear that drove them, the fear that the village could starve.
The Ursies were primarily a planter society. They harvested and never hunted out of need. That was why they could never understand. Looking around in the darkness she found a tree and rested against it. She simply needed to clear her mind for a while.
She didn't need this.
Her body tensed with anxiousness as every inch of her skin screamed that she had to go, go now over the border. Nima lay dying and here she was, eating soup. She ignored it. It could lead to her death.
Her soup was gone before her stomach realized it. She was still hungry. Perhaps she should catch a small creature or...
A noise jolted her out of her thoughts. Hearing heavy footsteps she knew that someone was coming near.
She willed her eyes to pierce the darkness, one hand on her spear. A sliver of moon lightened the face as he passed and Zyra relaxed. It was Hanto.
He sat beside her and she closed her eyes, sighing heavily.
"Thank you," he said softly. "It was very kind what you did for me back there."
"I did my duty. I am sorry for what occurred," she sighed.
He handed her a piece of bread and she finished it quickly. There was silence between them until she felt him shift again. Opening her eyes, she saw he had come to kneel before her.
"I...really appreciate and respect you Zyra."
He put a hand on her thigh.Her eyes widened in surprise.
"What are you..."
"Zyra," he whispered.
He held her hand, rubbing the back with his thumb.
"We go to the border soon. I know we may not return, surely I have shown you..."
She pushed his hand off her thigh. "What? What are you saying Hanto?"
Hanto stared at her then before she could react, bent over and kissed her. Her eyes widened as he pressed his lips to her. She froze like a deer and he pressed harder, trying to get her frigid lips to respond until she felt him bruising her.
Angry, she pushed him off and stood up.
"Hanto, my niece is dying, my sister is on the brink on insanity, my village may crumble and all you can think about is fucking?"
He stood, huffing and sputtering in rage before to her shock, he grabbed her wrist.