The crowd roared excitedly in anticipation of the violence to come. In honored positions among the crowds were the fellow clan leaders. Unlike most spectacles used to train the young or to display one's prowess, this was to decide clan leadership. These events have often resulted in death for one or even both participants. Both honors and lives were at stake, the challenger's and mine, the one who dared to challenge me in open-council. If this youth had only challenged me in private, then this matter could have been settled discreetly, maybe in a simple sparring match and no blood would be spilled.
Trumpeting of the horns signaled that all was in readiness. The arena was ready. The arena was a great pit, some ten meters in diameter, some three meters deep. As the atmosphere within the pit was cooled to allow better visibility of the participants, a thick fog of Carbon Monoxide and Methane formed to blanket the floor. Although the challenger had the better speed and strength, I had the experience. For I was challenged, I was given the choice of weapons and style. I chose bare carapace and knife on knife combat. This youth, as most young, was trained in the modern methods, to depend too much on field processing effects of the Prism Shield to deflect all but the direct blows. Also, the youth was most likely dependant on Wrist Blades, Bolt Casters and Burners. My second handed me the knife, as the challenger was given a blade. The blade was light, saw-toothed and lethal, seeming to be made of unbreakable Plasteel. The drums sounded, signaling the crowd to be silent.
Standing, the Master Hunter addressed the crowd and the combatants. "May the flowing of blood, justify the one who shall lead this clan and let honor guide your path."
Drums sounded again, the battle began. My opponent and I approached the center of the arena. I assumed the Scorpion stance, knife hand back with the blade held wrist-ward. The youth lunged, swinging his blade in wide arch. I parried, down and to the right, countering with a forward open palm punch to the youth's right Thorax. Stunned the challenger retreated, a few steps to assess his wound. Again the youth lunged, leading with his right arm as if it were wrist-bladed.
Expecting another ducking parry, the challenger arched the blade downward only meeting a solid block by my blade arm. Turning my wrist so that the weapon's edge was toward the forearm of the youth, I then pivoted using my opponent's own arm for leverage, driving the razor's edge deep into its flesh. Normally drawing first blood means victory, but the youth reacted in anger. The youth approached slowly, body hunched, mandibles splayed and arms spread wide. There was no mistaking the aggressive intent. The youth screamed for my death. This is a death struggle. Something deep inside me screamed that there was something wrong. Why was this youth pressing a fight that was already lost? Such a display would warrant death. Then I realized there was no rage heat in the youth, this must be a ruse. Why? The youth was goading me into the kill. Why? This youth was no mere trainee, but a blooded warrior. The blooded would never present such a display. That would disgrace the Clan. I remembered that the youth sprang from a large and powerful family, and a few of them were the youth's friends. They would never allow such a death to go unavenged.
The crowd now yelled for more violence. They cheered for the death of this ill-mannered youth. With the knife now in its left hand, the youth swung again with the blade. I parried, only instead of avoiding the knife, the youth spun and delivered a back kick to my jaw. Stunned I fainted back, finding that the wound was more painful than serious. The youth seemed to be favoring his right arm. I may have delivered a far deeper cut than I intended. Staying toward the youth's right side, I approached, knife in right hand, held close. It was visible to all that rage began to grow in the youth, and I could taste the musk sent produced from the excitement. I tried to suppress the anger growing within myself, according to the teachings of Talon, "Anger gives one strength but often leads to fatal mistakes." The youth again swung with the blade, only to be blocked by un-bladed arm. I countered with a knife jab, which due to the speed of the youth, was avoided. Spreading its mandibles and inner jaw into a sneer, it hissed "You are too slow, old one." The Youth spun as it jumped bringing its left arm crashing down. Instinctively I raised my arm to block, only to find the hand was empty. Its knife was shifted to its right during the jump. During this distraction the youth countered with a knife jab, which I barely managed to avoid. The injury to its right arm was not as severe as I was made to believe. "Your path ends here, old one," the youth hissed.
The rhythm of the drums increased with the pace of the melee. Again the youth attempted another spinning round house kick only to strike emptiness. I dropped and swept kicked the youth's foot, taking it down. Standing, I asked, "Do you yield?" As the reply, the youth attacked with a scissors kick, striking my knee and ankle. Off balance I fell. The cool fog along the floor hid the move until it was too late to avoid. Regaining his footing, the Youth stood before I was able. Upon hands and knees I attempted to stand. The youth lashed out with a kick, striking me square in the abdomen and then another, each time I tried to stand. The crowd chattered as the beating continued.
Standing, disgusted with this challenge, turned brawl, the Master Hunter spoke. "Enough! Hold for judgement... It is noted that there is no clear victory in this challenge. The Youth has displayed a lack of respect and skill, both qualities needed for leadership. Although the elder has drawn first blood, the combat raised doubts as its ability to lead. It is the opinion that the abilities of the elder are to be assessed through a Trial Hunt."
I have chosen a small, relatively unexplored planet in the Solaris Star System for the range of my hunt. Solaris' principal star is a modest yellow star in a failed binary system that is located on the edge of one of the great spiral arms of this galaxy. The system is composed of four vapor giant proto-stars and five solid bodies and several minor planetoids. Only the third is capable of supporting advanced life. Few hunts have been held here.
As the bearer craft passed over the terminator, I performed the required pre- drop checks of the equipment and then the A.S.D. system was armed and set at T minus seven rotations. When we reached the correct orbital path, I signaled the pilot to detach the pod.
There was a chill in the air as we watched the strange spectacle that filled the night. It was as if the Sun fell from the sky. The tribal chiefs agreed that this was an ill omen. Soon the white seasons will come, and it has been a lean hunting season. My last couple of hunts gathered only enough meat for one. The tribal chiefs thought that this was due to my age.
I knew, when I was summoned before the tribal chiefs that it was the time for me to leave. As it was with our fathers and theirs, as it was as far as the tellers could tell when our usefulness to the tribe came to an end, we would be quested to perform the Walking to relieve the tribe of our burden, only to return when worth can be proven. I have seen many start on their travels but none have returned. It is said that those who did not return may have met the spirits and having displeased them were destroyed.
I know this to be true. In my youth I found the body of one tribe elder in the cave of a God Bear. The sky gave birth to a new day, as I set forth on my Dream Walk.
Personal Log: Day one, Principal star is at fifteen degrees past dawn over landing site.
I have fashioned a makeshift shelter from the remains of the drop pod, although there wasn't much left after crashing through the trees. It is just as well, the pod was designed for only one descent. According to my charter, the Bowanna will arrive in seven days. Seven days to survive. Seven days to prove that I am still one of the best. The Council thought that my charter was ill conceived, forsaking the traditional equipment for the more primitive. They also disapproved of the range I have chosen. Little data is available on this world. It has an Oxygen rich atmosphere, 1.5 times home world standards, and is composed of Nitrogen with traces of Methane, Ammonia, Hydrogen and other Nobel gases. Although there is no indication of any poisonous elements present in the analysis, high Oxygen levels can cause Oxygen narcosis, slowed reflexes, or even euphoric mania. I must avoid hyperventilation.
Following the tradition as prescribed in the Parables of the Talon, I blessed my weapons, compound bow, knife and spear, and meditated, trying to become one with the nature of this world. Donning the ceremonial clan death mask and partial plate armor, I set out to track the spoor of this hunt's first quarry.
It was about midday when I found a small equine-like creature. From the shape of its head and the sideward set of its eyes, it was only a 1st degree prey animal, a simple herbivore and not much trophy value. It was then, I saw the remains of a second small equine, a fairly fresh kill. I could feel my head swim as my excitement grew. With upward and leftward movements of my mandible, I slightly increased the power to the reducer unit in the mask, compensating for changes in my reparation. I decided to spare the small animal and find this carnivore.
The meat of the small three-toed horse was a welcomed catch. I do not remember the last time I had so much to eat. The setting Sun reminded me that I must seek shelter from the cold. I hate the night and its cold blackness. Finding safety under the hollow of a fallen tree, I managed to drift into sleep, only to be interrupted by the howls of great wolves baying at the moon. At once the howling stopped, suddenly cut short and then only an unnatural silence was heard. I rested uneasily throughout the rest of the night. There was a feeling of dread that persisted me through the next morning. I had an unshakable fear that there was evil in the forest. The birds were unusually quiet and there was a strange smell in the air. Late that day, I watched several scavenger birds circling over a nearby hill. Thinking that there may be food, I made my way up to the clearing at its top. What I found was terrifying.
It was a beast, as tall as a God Bear. Its skin was the color of leaves in the snow and it smelled of the swamp mist. It handled strange and oddly shaped stones as it rended the heads off of several great wolves. It made strange clicking sounds as it worked. From the look of its camp it seemed to be alone.
Personal Log: Day two, Principal star is at 180 degrees past dawn over landing site.
The primary star is setting. Hunting was good last evening. I dispatched six Canids - Dire class, in single combat with just my spear at star minus sixty degrees before dawn of this location. Ritual vivisection of one's trophies is a dying art. It requires skill, time and most of all patience. The more common technique among the young was to make two parallel incisions up the dorsal section along the spinal ridge from the Coccyx to the Skull. Then using brute strength to separate the Cerebral-Spinal column from the carcass. I disdain this method, it is wasteful and often damages the trophy. I have spent much of the time preserving the meats, cleaning and polishing my prizes.
Suddenly I was distracted by the sound of a twig snap. Reeling around and down into a crouching stance, I waited, my knife drawn, waited for my eyes to adjust from the change from fire heat to cold darkness. As my eyes adjusted, I saw, some twenty meters distant, a vague figure trying to hide behind a tree. I sprang, closing the distance in only three leaps.
By the gods, it was fast. It was upon me before I could raise my weapon. With one clawed hand, it grabbed my spear, wrenched it from my hands. Dropping its strange weapon, the Demon grabbed me by the throat, raised the spear to my chest and just as it was going to make its fatal thrust, it hesitated.
I was surprised and angry that it would not end my wandering. Bearing my chest to make a clear clean target, I screamed "Kill Me!" I was already dead to my tribe. This seemed to puzzle the Beast. Lowering me to the ground, it then reached out and touched my tooth necklace. It knelt down, red eyes still fixed on mine and picked up its edged weapon, turned and walked toward its camp. I followed, having nothing to lose.
Personal Log: Day two, Star at 190 degrees past this Location.
I was intrigued by the actions of this savage. It showed no fear even though it was unarmed. Even stranger was the fact that it followed me back to the camp. Using the primitive's pointed branch, I managed to coax the savage closer by staking some meat just within the area of warmth provided by the fire.
I was awed by the strange and wonderful powers this demon spirit was able to command. It seemed able to command light to do its bidding. The Demon seemed to laugh at the pain I felt when I tried to touch the red - yellow glow coming from the pile of twigs and leaves. From a distance I studied its spear. I wondered at the tooth shaped head mounted at the end of the shaft. It seemed to perform the same purpose as the sharpened point on my spear. I watched the Beast as it made strange markings on what looked like a flat stone. It seemed to ignore me as it continued to work with its strange and magical things. Then it performed a great miracle. The Demon pulled what looked like a small spear, straighter and thinner than any I have seen before, from a shiny small skin at its side. Then it placed it on a strangely shaped bracelet on its wrist, and then with a loud twang the spear threw itself deep into a tree. After resting for a while, I remembered my flint knife.
The Demon reached for its spear when I started to reach into my skin sack. I stopped. When the spirit seemed more at ease, I slowly and carefully poured the contents of my bag on the ground. Taking care to keep its point facing away from the Beast, I had the idea to tie my knife to the end of my spear.
I found it hard to fall asleep, being around this strange Beast. It seemed to take little notice of me, concentrating its attention on its work. Its constant clicking noise was almost chant-like. It adorned the strange shiny skins it wore with the great wolf skulls, tying them to itself in much the same way I did with my spear. Its mannerisms were barbaric, but somehow wondrous. After partaking of the wolf blood, it painted strange patterns on its brow and weapons.
It was growing very dark and I must have drifted off to sleep for when I awoke, the ground was giving birth to the Sun and the Beast was gone. From its tracks it seemed to be heading toward the tall rock grounds. There was much danger there, for that is the land of the God Bears.
Personal Log: Day three, I broke camp at Star 30 degrees before dawn over landing site.
I noted that the savage adorned itself with the teeth of a large carnivore. They matched the type found on a large Smilodon. Previous parties found such mammals in mountainous areas. The traces of dried flesh that clung to the root ends seemed to indicate that the teeth were extracted less than a single planetary revolution ago and this savage did not seem to wander far from its home range. The most likely locations for this type of tiger are the mountains.
The mountains were about a rotation's travel from the landing point. Still having almost four and one half rotations between now and termination-point, I decided to walk at an easy pace, conserving my breath. At Star 90 degrees I decided to make camp on a nearby hill. I noted a heat source some kilometer in distance north of me. Enhancing the image, I found that it was the savage. Still curious about why this savage was following me, I started a signal fire and waited for the savage.
Personal Log: Day three, Star at 180 degrees.
I decided to deviate my course via a local marsh. I needed water to refuel the micro-fusion generator of my wrist computer. There is too little avant moisture present to adequately power the atmospheric reducer unit and other equipment. Also, the Methane will ease the discomfort of breathing through the mask.
The Star was at 200 degrees when I reached the swamp area. The sky was growing colder as I filled the fuel chamber. It was becoming harder to see without the spectrum shift enhancer. It will take several degrees for the systems to recharge enough to function properly. While gathering some wood to start another fire, suddenly I felt searing pain in my ankle.
I tried to warn the Beast of the serpent, but it was too late. The snake struck, driving its poisonous fangs deep into the Beast's flesh. Instantly the Beast reached down and grabbed the snake and threw it some distance away. Within only a few heartbeats the Beast staggered and fell.
I knew that I had to act fast. Using my knife I tried to cut the bite, but it was useless. I needed something sharper. Remembering the Beast's strange weapon, I emptied its skins and found the weapon. It was long, thin and sharper than the finest flint. Effortlessly it cut through the Beast's hide. Finding some dry mud and moss I fashioned a poultice and packed the cut, hoping that the moss and mud would draw out the serpent's evil and heal the wound. Fearing that the Great God Bear would come for the Beast soon, I stood over its body, spear in hand and prayed. I was ready to fight any God Bears that dared to take the body of the Beast. It was a night and a day before the Beast began to stir. Feeling that the worst was over, I decided to find food for us. I have not eaten in days.
Personal Log: Day five, Star at 45 Degrees.
According to the chronometer, I must have been unconscious for about 405 degrees, forty-five minutes, seventeen seconds. The savage was gone, assuming I was dead. Only 675 degrees till the termination point. The Bowanna should be increasing its altitude to a safe orbit in 660 degrees. I have until then to complete the hunt. I decided to continue toward the mountains, noting that the spoor of the savage also led that way. The savage only had a few Degrees lead on me. It was Star at 105 degrees when I reached the savage.
I found the savage facing the mighty tiger, alone, spear in hand. Its dark gray-green flint point was already bloodied from a first successful strike. Unfortunately this only served to enrage the cat. With a pounce it over powered the savage, sinking its saber like fangs deep into the savage's flesh.
Preparing a grapple bolt, I took careful aim and fired. With blinding speed and accuracy, the bolt functioned as designed, tearing through the flesh of the great cat's shoulder and exiting through the side of its neck. With the sudden jerk of reaching the end of the attached cable, the front of the bolt unfolded, locking the grappling hooks deep into the tiger's flesh. Restraining the tiger by attaching the cable to a nearby tree, I tried to gain its attention. In its rage, the tiger continued to strain at the cord, trying to maul the savage. Drawing my knife, I approached the animal, unseen. The cat's attention was fully set upon the savage. I was only five meters distant when the tiger sensed my presence. In one fluid motion it turned and pounced. Reflexes still slow from the bite from the viper, I was unable to parry the assault of the tiger. I was over bearded by its weight and the uncertain footing of the rocky ground. Pinned but arms free, I managed to fend off the cat's deadly fangs by forcing the climbing cord up under its massive jaw in garrote fashion. Using all my strength, I was able to throw off the tiger with my legs. As the great tiger struggled to regain its footing, I managed to leap beyond the cable's length and out of range of the great cat's claws. The savage, now standing, was yelling and waving its arm, attracting the cat's attention.
The tiger's response was fast; the savage barely had enough time to plant its sharpened branch as the enraged tiger charged. Leaping, the tiger struck the stick at full force, its inertia driving the branch deep into its abdomen. Having reached its extent, the climbing cord snapped the tiger's head backward severing its neck in a technical decapitation. The tiger twitched as it hung balanced by the cord and the impaling bough. Its neck broken, it died instantly. Neither the savage nor I fared much better. Battered and bleeding, the savage collapsed. Taking the four spring loaded suture clamps from my med-pack; I sealed the deep gouges in its shoulder. I knew that the wounds were deep and would require further care. My own wounds were also deep. The catís rear claws raked me as I escaped. The muscle in my left thigh was torn. Taking some of the climbing cord, I tied off the blood flow to my leg. Using my knife and the savage's flint, I attempted to build a fire to heat the binding agents in the first aid salve. The polymers in the salve must be heated to close to 1500 Thermals in order to adhere to the partial carapace of my leg and seal the breach.
Awareness came to me like a thick fog. I managed to pull myself up from the darkness. The Sun was high in the sky. About an arm's length away was the Beast kneeling above a small pile of moss and leaves. Small flashes of light fell upon the pile as It struck my knife upon its strange weapon. It repeated this strange activity until the pile glowed as before. It was then, the Beast noted that I was awake but took no action, It seemed to be waiting. After awhile it picked up its shiny skin-sack and removed a small bladder, emptied its contents upon its strange weapon and then held it above the glowing leaves and branches. When the tar-like mass started to sputter and melt, with a scream, the Beast then began to cover its wounds. Its scream was unlike all animals, loud and frightening.
I knew what I had to do next. I removed my respirator unit and adjusted it to combine two atmospheric elements, Oxygen and Nitrogen to form the soma gas Nitrous Oxide to sedate the savage. Having studied the effects of Bolt Caster discharges upon Mammalian tissue, I knew that extreme heat would cauterize the blood vessels and stop the bleeding. Again I placed the blade into the fire.
Suddenly the Beast came at me. Weak and agonized, I was unable to defend myself. It grabbed me and forced a strange leaf-shaped object over my face. There was a strange sweet coolness in my mouth and the Beast's clicking took on the sound of bats echoing in a God cave, growing more distant as if in the great canyon. I felt no pain as I found myself drifting into the darkness of sleep.
When I awoke, my shoulder and head hurt. I smelled of the meat the Beast gave me nights before. I was no longer bleeding and the wound looked as though it had been overgrown by thin binding vines.
Personal Log: Day five, Star at 300 degrees.
During the rest of the night, the savage continued to drift in and out of consciousness. I have honored him with the mark of my Clan. Spending the time cleaning the Smilodon, I have prepared the skull for the savage. The night was calm although cold. The only sounds were the distant trumpeting of mammoths, lending a strange counter - point to the silence.
Off in the distance I could see the thin vertical beam of the Bowanna's infrared laser marker beacon. I knew that I must reach that point at least fifteen degrees before the 7th dawn, for at fifteen degrees minus termination-point, the ship must start to increase to an altitude of 300 kilometers to escape the one kilometer blast radius and electromagnetic pulse. Arriving too early would be regarded as cowardice. Computer-scans of the soils still show traces of Iridium fallout resulting when the small Caravan class Vorka was destroyed so long ago. That failed hunt almost ended all life on this world. The landing location appears to be about 315 degrees run from here. I will set off at dawn. Now I need to rest.
Personal Log: Principal Star is at fifteen degrees before dawn over landing site.
It is just before dawn on the sixth day and it appears that the marker beacon is almost a full rotation's run from here. I must reach the Bowanna within 360 degrees from now. Termination-point is in 375 degrees. I must now leave this strange savage.
I awoke just after the sun was born only to find that the Beast was gone again. From its tracks, it was heading out of the tall rock lands. I decided to follow. From the distance between its tracks, the Beast was running as swift as a long horn. As I continued to follow, it seemed that the Beast was slowing. Although I was becoming tired, I followed the Beast through the day and into the night. I began to find along with the tracks were stab marks in the ground, as if it was using its spear to steady itself. When I found the Beast's spear lying beside a pool of yellow - green liquid, I started to run, following the tracks.
Personal Log: Principal star is at thirty degrees before dawn on the seventh rotation.
My leg wound was far worse than I first thought. The strain of running reopened the wound. I can no longer run and walking is difficult. The computer already sounded the thirty-degree warning tone. I began to doubt that I would make it to the landing site in time. In fifteen degrees the Bowanna will be gone. Still, honor demanded that I continue. The sky is starting to warm, dawn is approaching. This may be my last entry.
I found the Beast struggling to walk. Bright yellow-green water flowed from the wound that it suffered from the tiger. Limping badly and no longer able to run, the beast pushed me away and said "Kill Me!" Stumbling to the ground, it yelled "Kill Me!" as if trying to be heard over the strange screaming sound coming from its wrist. Again it tried to push me away when I attempted to help it stand. It seemed to want to be left here, it wanted to die. Looking straight into its eyes I said "No Kill!" I grabbed it by its arm and helped it back to its feet. The Beast nodded and then pointed toward the hills. Supporting its great weight, I tried to help it as it tried to walk. The screaming kept growing louder as we hurried northward toward the hill country. Again the Beast stumbled and unable to steady it, we fell. Again I helped it to stand, only this time it sheds itself of most of its skins and weapons as if to make itself less of a burden. The Beast directed us toward a hilltop clearing as we tried to run. God Bears must have favored us, even though the Beast's great weight was difficult to bare and the strange screaming was growing painfully loud, we managed to make it to the edge of the clearing.
We arrived too late. Surely the Bowanna must have left. There is only less than a degree left before the termination point. Although it seemed pointless, I adjusted the controls on the computer and engaged the com-link function.
Upon activating the recall signal beacon in my wrist unit, the smell of Ozone filled the air. With a deafening Hum and several arcs of static electricity, like massive bolts of lightning, the huge Safari class vessel shimmered and became visible as it powered down its prism field generators and de-cloaked. The shrill shriek of the timing mechanism grew to an almost unbearable pitch as I staggered into the clearing.
There were deep moans and grating, metal upon metal as the massive weight of the craft stressed its landing struts, pressing deep rifts in the soil as its bulk slowly touched down. Its landing ramp descended and six hunters, their full plate armor gleaming in the light of dawn, debarked and encircled me.
Kneeling before the Hunt Master, with my arms out stretched, head down, I awaited judgement. Calmly the Master inserted his code key into the unit and turned. The warning tone went silent as the auto - destruct sequence was aborted with only a fraction of an angular second to spare. Now came the time of judging. Taking the knife, the Master would now decide my fate. If the hunt was deemed successful then my knife will be returned sheathed, if not, then tradition demanded the ritual of Shikkar, the disembowelment. The decision was made. The Master commanded to raise my gaze and look upon him. Standing with his arm out stretched with the blade in his right hand. Covering the lethal razor thin sharpness of its length was an ornate scabbard. Responding to a nod from the Hunt Master, the five observing hunters climbed the ship's gangplank and there was a loud hiss as the ship's mighty engines were powered to life. It was then the Hunt Master faced and approached the savage to examine its marked brow. After examining the mark, he turned and asked "Prey?" "Hunter," I responded. Nodding once in respect to the savage Hunter, the Master turned and I accompanied him into the Bowanna. My honor was restored.
They left as quickly as they came, without ceremony, without farewells. The large bee thing lifted straight up and then with a roar louder than many lions, flew, bird-like, toward the birthing Sun until it was out of sight. After retracing my steps, I was able to find most of the beast's strange tools and weapons. Its spear was too large to hunt with, and most of its stones I could not understand. Imitating the magical movements of the Beast, I found that I could make the branches glow by striking flint upon flint. I also learned to make the small spears fly and with practice, I was able to bring down the swiftest long horn. With the Beast's gifts I was able to survive the white of the cold season. Two moons after the white - cold's passing I wandered back to the valley which I left so long ago. I did not know what to expect. No one has ever returned from a Dream Walk before.
The Chiefs were in meeting when I entered the Great Cave and stood before them. Garut, my rival, the holder of the Great Chief's ear, was the first to speak. "Why have you returned? The White - Cold has claimed many people, and a God Bear took four of our best youths in the last Right of Passage Ceremony. You have become long in the tooth and dim in the eye. You can hunt no longer." Turning to the Chiefs, he urged them to kill me for I was an evil omen.
Standing proudly before the Chiefs, I pointed my spear at Garut and said that if Garut was right, then let him kill me. I challenge him to fight for my life. It was agreed.
It was midday. The sky felt strong upon my face. The whole tribe encircled. Garut and I were standing at its center. Our wrist bound to the other's ankle. I knew that given the chance, Garut would kill me. Just as the Chief said for us to fight, Garut swung his fists, striking me in mid stomach and knocking the breath out of me. As I fell, Garut moved to take advantage of this. As he raised his foot to stomp, I noticed that one of the leather cords was tangled around his other foot. I rolled, pulling upon the cords with all my strength. I succeeded to pull his leg out from under him. Toppling backward, unable to gain his balance, he fell. I clamored on top of him and tried to wrap the strapping around his neck, but he was too strong. Using his strength he managed to roll on top of me, and our positions were reversed. Garut managed to grab my throat and tried to strangle me with his bare hands. Remembering the fight with the tiger, I grabbed Garut by the beard and hair and used my legs and arms to throw him off. I regained my footing and stood only to find that Garut had also. Seeing that there was no decisive winner, the Great Chief ordered us to stop. A spear was brought into the ring and set some distance away. Again the Great Chief ordered us to fight. Garut pulled the cords trying to pull me off balance, but this time I was ready. I threw myself into Garut, throwing him off balance just enough so that I was able to use my weight to push him backward closer toward the spear. Unfortunately, Garut managed to regain his footing. We both lunged for the spear, only Garut was faster. Grabbing the spear, Garut charged wildly, throwing his weight into his run. Just as Garut was about to strike me with the spear, I threw myself down into his legs, tripping him. He fell forward uncontrollably, dropping the spear and landed face first in the dirt. It was heartbeats before Garut stirred. As Garut, stunned and winded, tried to stand, I picked up the spear and approached. Garut, on all fours, was still attempting to stand when I kicked his arm out from under him, sending him back into the dirt. Garut rolled over and bared his chest, allowing me to make a clean deep thrust with the spear. Raising the bloodied weapon over my head, I proclaimed "I live!"
Many seasons have past since I have returned to my tribe to tell of my tale. I feel few believed me. They say that there are no demons, only God Bears. Whether they believe me or not, it does not diminish the gifts I brought.
I sit now by the fire telling our young ones the history of our people, whose images I adorned the walls of this God Cave. There are many children now. Armed with the bow, our hunters are able to bring down larger prey and provide much meat to dry over our campfires. The cold seasons are less to be feared as respected for there is much food and warmth. Our shelters are much better now that we have occupied the caves. My people have given me a new name, I am called Teller of Red Bear. If our people meet the Red Bear spirits again, I hope they find us worthy.
- Epilogue Ė
I will not tell of my adventures with the savage. Honor demands that is for the telling of others. My life and honor scars are proof enough. I have regained my position as a clan leader and the distinction of being still a brave and effective hunter. I have survived on a hostile world without Shift Suit or powered weapons. Few others are able to make that claim. When I asked the Hunt Master why the Bowanna was not ordered to leave to avoid being caught in the impending thermal-nuclear blast of my self-destruct device, the Hunt Master replied simply "Respect for your courage and the old ways." I will return here to hunt again for the savage's race seems to be promising Prey. The ones called Human will be included in my next charter. I will return soon.
There was a new specie of mammal discovered on Solaris Gamma. It is an erect biped similar to the great apes found on the previous hunt. Currently I would rate it as an -1 on the Darmok Threat Scale of Prey for they have no congenital offensive or defensive adaptation, However they do seem to be fairly intelligent and are able to fashion simple tools and weapons. They learn readily and are prone to mimic one's actions. I believe that they may develop into a more viable game species with the introduction of selective technological advancement. It is also recommended that a few are regularly included in future chartered hunts in order to monitor their progress.