Clearsky stepped lightly through the thicket of brambles on silent feet. The finger like branches scratched and caught on his skin as he made his way down the invisible path. He is as comfortable amongst the trees as the fish are in water. Mother nature whispers to him with trampled ferns and tracks shaped like waxing and waning moons facing each other in the mud, leading him towards one of her children.
He stalks beneath the oldest oak in the territory, pausing to admire its ancient beauty. He steps over the oak’s gnarled root protruding from the earth without so much as a single glance away from the sudden flicker of movement ahead in the brush. Clearsky moves through the bushes as silent as the oncoming night, a bow made of sleek birch firmly in his grasp. In one smooth practiced motion he pulls an arrow from the leather sheath on his back.
The quiet is like the forest is holding its breath, patiently waiting for him to take aim. The calm serenity of the moment is rudely disturbed by a harsh cacophony of roars and yells that erupts from somewhere to his left. His prey spooks, and with a few graceful bounds it disappears with only a faint rustling of leaves to signal its departure.
Clearsky tucks the arrow back into its sheath, a little v forming between his dark eyebrows in a disgruntled look. He marches off in the direction of the sound, looking to investigate and possibly confront the source of it. He feels for the large hunting knife on his hip just above his loincloth made of tanned buffalo hide. He feels it's reassuring presence in its sheath as he cautiously makes his way towards an open clearing of long swaying grass.
His keen eyes immediately lock onto the form of a large brown bear at the other end of the clearing. It is standing on two paws, massive head and slobbery jaws about nine feet in the air. Another smaller shape is huddled on the ground a few feet from the beast. A man, with pale skin like the moon wearing strange clothes. He is walking backwards on his hands in a desperate attempt to escape the wrath of the twelve-hundred pound monster he has provoked. There is no boomstick in sight, nor blade of any kind. He is defenseless.
Clearsky assesses the situation quickly, but calmly, coming to the conclusion that there is only one thing he can do. He quietly sighs, marvelling at the tremendous amount of stupidity needed for what he is about to do. He kneels as if in prayer, and picks up a fist sized stone. He tosses it to himself a couple of times, nodding in satisfaction when it passes an unknown test. With one last moment to let what he is about to do sink in, he winds his arm back and lets the rock fly. It hits its very big and very angry target with a ripple of long shaggy fur and a loud thwup.
Two sets of eyes freeze and look over to him. One pair is wide and clouded with fear, and the other big, brown, and very unimpressed. Both man and beast are stunned into pausing. Clearsky looks over to the man and signals with a single stern nod that he is here to help. Several things happened at once, as if Clearsky nodding his head had pressed some kind of universal play button. The bear rounds on him suddenly and the man jumps to his feet. The muscles in Clearsky’s legs which have been sculpted from years of hard work and hunting, twitch and flex as if they know they will be needed.
The bear charges with an ornery huff, and Clearsky doesn’t waste a second as he turns and disappears down the hidden path from which he came. His feet are swift and silent through the foliage while the snapping of branches and heavy foot falls signal the bear's presence just behind him. But as he sprints for his life through the familiar forest he can’t bring himself to regret his actions. The grateful look and the relief in the pale man's eyes as he fled in the opposite direction towards safety simply didn’t permit him to do so.
The consequences of his good deed catch up to him three days later. The sky was blue and the sun warmed his already sun kissed skin as he stood on a smooth boulder, net made of twine in hand. It was one of those days where even if the fish swam through his net and eluded him, his spirit would still be contempt. The clear soothing water lapped at his barefeet while he tossed his net out onto the water with just a flick of his wrist. The way the net spread out like an eccentric spiderweb told anyone who was watching that this was something he did often.
The tranquility was something he loved most about the area, but suddenly something felt off. Clearsky’s head snaps up as the hot tingling sensation of eyes on him demands his attention. The birds cease their song and the silence of the forest becomes too loud to go unnoticed. Clearsky reaches for his blade. A calloused hand wraps around the back of his neck and a swift kick to the back of his leg brings him to his knees.The hand moves to his hair and pulls, angling his chin upward and exposing his throat.
The knife at his side is pulled out of its sheath and is held against his jugular. The cold steel cuts into his skin slightly, causing blood to drip down the arc of his neck. The man holding the knife is shouting at him in an unknown tongue. Another man to his right is pressing the cold barrel of a boomstick to his temple while the third man stands to his left and watches him, just in case he attempts an escape. The three men hoot and holler and begin to chatter excitedly amongst themselves like birds over a lone helpless worm.
A fourth voice chimes in, loud and demanding. It cuts through the other voices easily with a few clipped words. The three men fall silent, and the grip on his hair loosens moderately. The man holding the knife says something, his tone is outraged and the knife bites harder at his skin. The newcomer’s reply is short and stern but it gets the man holding his hair to let go and drop the knife with an indignant huff.
Immediately Clearsky’s hand moves to his bloodied neck to find its only a few shallow cuts and not a serious wound. He picks the knife up and shakily stands to confront them. When he turns he sees the original three men disappearing through the woods, and the fourth standing only a few feet from him.
The newcomer has a familiar face, and friendly eyes that reflect lingering gratitude from a few days before. They stare at each other for a long moment, until Clearsky gives the man a firm nod identical to the one before. The man’s lips part in a responding smile, and the corner of Clearsky mouth lifts in the closest thing to a smile that has graced his face in a long while.