Chapter V: Blow



We hunted.
I’d learned hunting from my tutors, but some details were different on the surface. In the sky you could exhaust yourself and fall to your death, or drop your prey and lose it forever.  But the basics hadn’t changed: every predator had its own unique skills, own way of hunting its prey.  Without a lot of strength, or any deadly venom or really big claws, you had to rely on teamwork and better senses⁠ ⁠—⁠ your eyes, frills, and above all else, your tongue.
Hunting on the ground was so much safer, so much more secure, than what I grew up on; the surface had a ton of flightless prey, like so many easy pickings.
For example: the ape I now hunted. Not just injured and exhausted, it also lugged around a corpse, and there was no thought at all in tracking the fear and sweat.  How could these creatures survive in the first place?
I flew low and slow, in a bounding flight, holding my breath for the ape to relax or stop moving⁠ ⁠—⁠ and for Hinte to finish bandaging her tail.  It was only one wound⁠ ⁠— the first fight with the apes was worse.  I couldn’t help the knot of worry in my stomach, but I could think.  Hinte would be okay.  She had to be.

Chapter IV: Melt

i – ii – iii


Kinri.  Do you smell that?  I smell blood.
I flicked my tongue and whirled its forks.  After a beat it was pressed against the roof of my mouth, and I only smelled the evil sulfur of the Berwem.  I ignored it and grasped for the tastes at the fringes.  Grape and chamomile?  No.  Boily crab meat?  No. Faint sweat and blood blowing in from the distance⁠ ⁠—⁠ there it is.
What had happened?  The lake was stingy with life.  And for what it did allow, none were mammals.  Was it something wandered and lost in the lake?  Had it come here on purpose?  Why here, and what did it want?  Was it dead?  Had something attacked it?  But why⁠ ⁠—
“Follow me.”  Hinte’s voice stole into my fluttering mess of questions.  The command to do something felt so simple, so commonsense, almost not worth giving.  But it worked.
Then I waved my tongue.
“Hinte?”  I saw her turn back to me, fangs bared.  “Are we going toward the blood?  It might be⁠ ⁠—⁠ it’s dangerous.  We should head back to town and⁠ ⁠—”