Chapter 4 – The Hunt
He laid in waiting as his eyes tracked the deer back and forth in the darkening clearing. His pupils constricting and dilating with every movement the animal made. Frozen of any movement of his own high in the tree above the animal, the only sounds in his ears were those of the prey and his own slow heartbeat and breathing.
His left leg screamed in agony from the damage it had taken in the heat of battle with a Gatherer and still, he made not a movement or noise. Ignoring the raging pain in his leg, only gritting his teeth silently as a cramp came and passed in his left thigh. The deer below him jutted its head upward with flaring nostrils, sniffing the air occasionally for any telltale signs of a predator then went back to grazing on the tender shoots of grass at its feet, unaware of the cat-like eyes in a humanoid body staring hungrily at it.
Now Chokan shifted slightly into a crouch in the tree, getting ready for the death blow he meant to administer to this strange and foreign prey. He paused only briefly to sniff at the air himself, wanting to make sure no other predator would foil his own hunting excursion. Least of all another Gatherer that might be nearby and making its own plans for the meal on hooves he himself was eying.
His muscles clenched into coils of pent up energy, he could feel the tension in them gaining steam. He waited patiently all the while staring down at his unaware prey with the thrill of the hunt balled up in his throat. This was a third attempt at capturing one of these skittish animals, they were quicker than he had anticipated and much more agile than they let on to be. It was proving challenging more so than he could have imagined. He even envied their cunning considering they had no defensive weapons of their own.
Chokan sniffed the air a final time, leaving go of the branch with his left hand as quietly as possible only tensing briefly when the deer snorted but continued to chomp and chew at the grass shoots before it. Then all at once, as if primal instinct were driving him, he launched from his perch in the tree and on top of the back of the deer, grinding his primary claws into its thick neck while wrapping his legs around its torso and yanking hard to the left.
He drove the deer to its side in the clearing, both of them landing with a thud as the deer toppled over with him on its back. Growling low and quiet Chokan ripped at its throat, opening up the arteries present there and spilling the deer’s lifeline into the grass. Spraying the green of the grass a sickly red, the deer heaved and bucked in its dance of death, mouth gaping open and closed and eyes bulging with fear-stricken surprise.
Chokan didn’t miss a beat when the deer tried to buck him off and kick at him, he held fast, grinning like a fool and growling with triumph. Finally, he had made his mark. He sniffed enthusiastically at the smell of the prey’s blood while it flowed freely from its confinement within the deer’s body. Chokan grunted and rolled to his left as the deer made a final attempt to kick at him and then lay still as it gasped frantically through the gaping wounds in its throat.
It gurgled desperately in an attempt to breathe through its drowning lungs. Closing its eyes it gasped futilely for the last time then lay still at Chokan’s feet. He crouched, sniffing at his prey, purring with the triumph of a hunt finally gone to his favor. This beast would feed them for at least two to three days, just enough time to heal and continue on their mission.
He gathered the deer by its legs and threw it over his shoulders intending to make his way back to the cavern where he had left the human female Layla. Smiling, he trotted with the deer strung across his shoulders back the way he had come. Sniffing the air, he traced his way back to the edge of the bush near the clearing of the cavern and beach. The hunt had been challenging and so it had been vigorously good. He felt strong and virile as he trotted past the bush line into the sandy cover of the beach then towards the cavern. He stiffened then growled as an unfamiliar smell hit his flared nostrils. It smelled the same as that yellow creature that had tried to attack the Gatherer in the bush near Layla’s home, the creature she had called Belle.
It was a smell that irked him in a way he couldn’t understand. They did not have creatures such as these on Ravnos, nor did he know what to make of them. Friend or foe he did not like them at all. It made the hair on the back of his neck and head rise uneasily. Slowly he approached the mouth of the cavern and peered cautiously in. He saw Layla crouched at a makeshift fire, fanning it into life. Beside her was a gray creature, sleek and long but large. He gruffed in Chokan’s direction and cocked his head to one side with his ears straight up. It made Layla turn quickly on her haunches to look back, she visibly relaxed realizing it was Chokan standing there and with food in hand.
“It’s about time, what took you so long” Layla teased.
“These deer prove more challenging than I thought” Chokan growled, “What is that thing and why is it here?”
“This is Mr. Grey, he’s a greyhound, a dog” Layla chuckled. It seemed Chokan was uneasy with the dog’s presence. She figured it might be instinctual and he didn’t realize it. She was anticipating his reaction to being like a cat and it was exactly as she had anticipated it.
“I want it gone, that creature is only a burden on our mission” he snarled as he dropped the deer next to the fire Layla had started. The dog snarled back at him as if to say I don’t like you either but didn’t budge when Chokan tried to shoo it away.
“Oh come on, he’ll grow on you,” Layla said.
“He will not,” Chokan growled back as he eyed the dog suspiciously.
Mr. Grey eyed Chokan just as suspiciously, his tail and ears straight up. The dog began pacing back and forth around Chokan, sniffing at him from time to time, testing how close he could get without invoking a swat from the mans foot or hand. Mr. Grey bore his teeth then lifted his leg and proceeded to piss on Chokan’s feet. When the dog was done he trotted back to Layla and plopped down beside her keeping a weary eye on the man. Layla stared at the dog then back at Chokan trying to decide whether to laugh or to be shocked.
“It seems he doesn’t like you either there Chokan” Layla said trying to stifle her laughter while Chokan shook his head and sighed with a defeated look on his face. It seemed he had lost both the battle to get rid of this dog beast and to assert his dominance as a male within the group. His irritation showed on his face as he stared bewildered at both the beast and the female. Never had he dreamed to fathom that he would not be in the dominant position in any group he may have been a part of, it was unheard of in his culture for the male to be the submissive and it was not only insulting but rage-inducing. He growled menacingly the joy of the hunt ruined by the indignities this fragile human female had imposed upon his sensibilities. Indeed, they were different, how would they get along if they could not assert who was the leader and who was a follower. She is a stubborn hard-headed female who did not know her place and Chokan meant to put her in it, he would bear this indignity until the time came where the female would find her place either by gentle means of a more aggressive nature.