Let It Rain: The Marked Ones (piece3-part2)

May 30, 2011
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He ignores my probing stare, and I watch intently as the far off look in his eyes begins to fade. He turns back to me, and I observe the recognition that flickers across his face. Sensing that he’s returned from long ago memories, I continue to fix him with a glare demanding an explanation. He slightly shakes his head as though to rid himself of clinging thoughts and I find that I must contain myself from groaning in frustration when he speaks again.

“Come, we’ve wasted enough time. Pack up and ready yourself for the hunt.”

For a moment I ponder refusing to demand an answer from him, but notice that a sheathed sharpness still lingers in his words. Clearly this is not the time for prodding into the past. I slowly rise from my sitting position and go to recover hunting supplies from my room. As I push aside the fabric walls, I hear the dull clank of the wooden plates being collected. The rush of air and the soft click of the door shutting informs me of Zahir’s departure. I know that he’s going to the bathing room to wash the dishes in the water trough. He won’t return for at least a half hour, while he recovers fresh water from the river. I sigh quietly as I find my deer-hide sack and begin to fill it with provisions.

When Zahir is in one of these rare moods, I have found it best to leave him to his own thoughts. It’s moments like this that force me to realize that he’s lived a hard life caring for me and that like any other person, he needs his space. I know he tries his best to conceal his loneliness, concerning the loss of our parents from me, but I can’t help feeling irritated when he refuses to speak his mind. I don’t completely understand his feelings since I’ve grown up being raised by him alone. I never knew our parents, and I feel lost when Zahir enters this state of melancholy. It’s as though he is a completely different person from the one I’ve known my whole life and when I discover him contemplating his past, I find myself intensely interested in who he actually is. It’s as though he’s hiding everything about himself from me, and I sometimes fear that in doing so he is actually concealing the reality of his true nature from me.

I pause in my packing as an unnerving thought fights to be recognized. Does his actual identity have to do with the dawn incident? I feel the all too familiar nausea rising in my throat and force myself to swallow the bile that has accumulated in my mouth. I focus on taking slow, deep breaths and try to distract my fearful thoughts by resuming my packing. It couldn’t be; after all he claimed it was a bear. I tie the rawhide strings into a knot so that the sack is held shut and toss the baggage over my shoulder. The contents within rattle loudly together as they collide against my back.

Before rising to my feet, I grasp my bow and quiver filled with arrows that are leaning against the cabin wall. I step outside my room and pull the cloth curtain closed behind me, swinging the quiver over my other shoulder. I turn and walk toward the door, stopping to adorn my feet in reindeer hide boots lined with soft rabbit fur inside. I pause, recognizing that they are the only items that Zahir has ever bought for me from town. Memories surface of a time when I was about four that Zahir first took me to the market. I let a rare smile slowly ease the tension from my features and put aside my doubt concerning Zahir’s intentions. I return my thoughts to the task at hand and decide to get a head start on the hunt. I step outside and inhale deeply, the vision of taking down my first kill alone replaying in my mind.

Chapter 2: The Hunt

I start my trek down the dirt road to the lake. The golden afternoon sun reflects blindingly off the surface of Soul’s River to the distant east and the sky above is a shimmering blue gem, bearing hardly a smudge of white cloud. But despite the peaceful scenery, I soon find myself once again submerged in dismal thoughts. I remember that morning, and I wish I hadn’t.

An old owl hoots fearfully in the crisp, autumn night. I stir and sit up from the sleeping sack within my room, an odd feeling pressing at the edge of my sleepy thoughts. What is it? I just want some sleep before tomorrow’s training. Rubbing my eyes, I lean forward to pull back the fabric curtain. I freeze, the odd feeling protesting against this action. I recognize the feeling slowly as it develops from being an annoyance to an alarm. I suddenly sense the choking grip of silence over the night. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong. I listen intently for the owl’s hoot and am met with an atmosphere of malicious intent.

I’m fully awake now and my instincts have started to kick in. Reaching under the head of my bedroll, I quietly pull out my dagger and remove the sheath. The deadly silence is deafening and I am sure to take special care in removing myself from the sack. The air is frigid and for a moment I ponder returning to the warmth of the sack, but the alarm is stronger now, forbidding me to succumb to the pleasurable temptation. I crouch in front of the curtain and just barley brush it to one side, allowing a small slit to separate the fabric. Moonlight pours into my room from the small gap as I lean forward to survey the cabin.

The coast is clear. Zahir would be so proud. A smile slides easily across my face, but then I remember that focus is of the utmost importance. I observe the scene once more, being sure to take in every shadow and scan for any movement. There is a full moon tonight which allows me to see almost as well as if it were day. The pale moonbeams filter through the window, bathing the entire interior of the cabin in milky light. Satisfied with my observation, I slip out of the curtained room and tip-toe towards Zahir’s. Tentatively, I peak inside expecting to find him already alert. The room is utterly still; not even the soft breath of his sleeping form stirs the cloak of darkness. Moving inside, I kneel beside his bedroll. I could tell from the moment I entered the room that it was vacant, but I feel I must confirm this. I place my hand under the wool blanket of the bedroll and detect a small hint of warmth. He must have left around a half hour ago.

The crackle of leaves outside disturbs the unnerving silence. I jump to my feet, dagger raised in a defensive position. Adrenaline is pumping through my system, heightening my already sensitive senses. My body is rigid, muscles taut and poised to spring into action at the slightest hint of a threat, while my lungs working laboriously as I breathe in short, rapid gasps. Forcing myself to step outside the curtained room, I slowly make my way to stand a few feet from the door. I make sure to keep my position in check to avoid getting boxed into a corner. The beating of my heart is pounding so loudly in my ears, I almost fear that the intruder will be able to pinpoint my location with ease. I can’t help but fear the unknown. Suddenly, something slams against the outside of the door, causing me to leap backward. I wait for the door to burst open and ready myself for the attack.

I am met with more harsh silence and must force back my strengthening impatience before I do something rash. Two minutes…four minutes…five… I feel my sense of control slipping. There must be something I can do that doesn’t involve me waiting, trapped like prey. I make a quick decision, knowing that Zahir would completely disapprove of my recklessness that is if I survive to receive his lecture. I breathe in deeply, steadying my frantic lungs, then I lunge forward in one smooth motion and wrench the door open.

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