Hyroc – Chapter 34 – Readers and Writers Book Club

Hyroc – Chapter 34

Hyroc

Sentinel Flame Book One

By Adam Freestone

Alaskan Writer of Imaginative Creativity

CHAPTER 34

Scattered clouds dotted the pale azure sky, and the air held the cool freshness of morning dew. Hyroc stood on the shore of the stream near his cabin where he normally fished. He studied a grouping of smooth boulders thoughtfully as he held the brain covered hide in his arms. It still seemed bizarre something as repulsive as smearing the contents of an animal’s head on its own skin was necessary to tan hides. A shiver of revulsion ran through his body as he remembered in excruciating detail how the cold, slimy brains had felt squishing between his fingers. If it had been warm, it might not have been as bad. Then to compound the issue, he had thrown up in front of both Svald and Donovan. He felt embarrassed about displaying his weakness in front of another person when he wasn’t actually sick. Now the two of them probably thought his senses were easily offended, and he couldn’t do anything mildly unpleasant without a relapse. He should have been able to handle the work without retching; he was stronger than that. And it stung Donovan had found such humor in that incident. He wished he hadn’t taken the teasing without a single retort. There were so many things he should have said to shut the boy up.

He forced his thoughts away from what had happened. There were more important things he needed to focus on. He knew he would eventually be feeling brains between his fingers again, but he was determined not to let it affect him when it happened.

Looking through the boulders, he found the smoothest one and draped the hide over it. Slowly, he drew the hide back-and-forth across its surface like he was trying to remove a stubborn patch of rabbit blood from his jerkin. As per Svald’s instructions, he did this for his best estimate of an hour. He held the hide in front of him, looking for any signs of damage. Finding none, at least none he recognized, he folded one side experimentally. The hide still felt stiff.

He returned the hide to the inside of his cabin, and then he headed off to check traps with Kit trailing him. The first trap through the fourth was empty. While he examined the trap beside the dirty pool, a robin alighted onto the ground, searching for bugs. Kit entered a crouch and began creeping closer with his eyes firmly fixed on his target. Hyroc stopped his work, remaining motionless as the cub slowly drew closer to his prey. Kit stopped when he was within pouncing distance; a ripple ran from his shoulders to his rear end and he exploded into a run. The robin had unfurled its wings for flight when Kit threw himself on it. He dispatched the bird with two quick bites to the neck. Hyroc exhaled, suddenly realizing he was holding his breath in anticipation.

“You got it!” Hyroc called out excitedly. “Good boy.” Kit glanced at Hyroc happily before turning his attention back to savaging his felled quarry. Hyroc gave Kit a disturbed look as the dead bird’s head flopped lifelessly from side to side as he played with it.

Knowing Kit would follow when he got far enough away, Hyroc headed off. Kit joined him moments later, carrying the bird in his mouth. With a sigh, Hyroc continued on to the next trap, trying not to look at the clump of blood-smeared feathers Kit had in his mouth. The remaining traps were also empty. By the time he finished with the last trap, there wasn’t much left of the bird for Kit to toy with. Kit gave him an annoyed and puzzled look.

“Don’t look at me,” Hyroc said humorously. “You’re the one who tore it to pieces. But enough about the bird, it’s time for us to head back.”

Passing the creek shore south of his last trap, he stared longingly toward the other side. There was a good spot for a trap just across the creek, not far from where he stood, and he finally had time to set one. Unfortunately, he still needed to get Kit back to the cabin. It bothered him to be so close and leave, only to come back after wasting an hour or two he could have otherwise spent hunting. His situation would be more convenient if he didn’t need to go back. He cocked an eyebrow as he wondered why he actually needed to go back.

When he had first found Kit, the cub was still walking in a wobbly crouch to maintain his balance and seemed to spend a good portion of his time sleeping. He was barely in any condition to accompany him to check traps. But he had grown some in that time, stood straighter, lost most of the wobble when he walked, and seemed energetic and eager to explore his surroundings. He obviously knew the basic concepts of being stealthy, the dead robin was proof, so it seemed unlikely he would spook any game they came across. Besides, his presence would make hunting less lonely.

Hyroc looked down thoughtfully at Kit, who was sniffing the sap-strewn trunk of a cottonwood. “How would you like to come hunting with me?” Kit paused, looking toward him absentmindedly, then returned to his investigation of the tree. Hyroc smiled, deciding that could count as a yes.

This time, he remembered to roll his leggings up before trudging out into the water carrying his boots. Halfway across, Kit loudly yowled out in distress. Turning around, he saw Kit at the edge of the shore, cautiously putting a paw forward and pulling it back when it touched the water’s surface. Hyroc gave him an understanding nod. He continued to the other shore, tossed his boots on dry land, and walked back to Kit. Kit seemed glad when he picked him up, but the moment he stepped into the water, the cub began squirming in fear, threatening to drag razor-sharp claws across his arms and chest.

“Kit, stop!” Hyroc said sternly, struggling to maintain his hold. “I’m going to drop you if you don’t.” Instantly Kit stopped struggling. Hyroc gave him a bewildered look; he hadn’t actually expected his words to do anything. Not wanting to risk his luck running out, resulting in much pain, he hurried through the creek. As soon as he stepped out of the water, Kit resumed squirming. He happily dropped him on the ground. After shedding some of the water by shaking his leg, he put his boots back on and unrolled his pants.

“Next time you’re getting yourself across,” Hyroc said irritably. He flicked some lingering moisture off his fingers at Kit. Kit recoiled, putting his ears sideways in displeasure. “You’d be swimming if you had clawed me.” Kit growled in response.

Hyroc made his way up the small animal trail to the opening in the line of trees leading into the clearing where he had been captured. It seemed such a long time since that had happened. He remembered vividly the terror he felt when the net flew out of the ground and flung him into the air. In that moment, he thought he was going to die, but some miracle of kindness from a complete stranger had saved him from what seemed an inescapable fate. He shook his head at what still seemed a strange and completely unexpected turn of events. After every frightening thing he experienced from the encounter, it had actually turned out good for him. He was prepared to make the wilderness his home, and he was glad he didn’t need to.

Putting his back to the clearing, he found the narrowest part of the trail where it ran through the space in the trees. Using the twine he had bought in the village, he began setting up a snare. Kit wandered over and began batting at a piece of twine he had made the mistake of dragging across the ground. He shooed him away, garnering a loathsome look from the cub. Kit tried killing his work materials once more before the trap was finished.

He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, as did Kit. Turning in a slow practiced movement, he saw a brown hare on the other side of the clearing. Carefully, he strung his bow and crept into position to take a shot. Kit came crashing through a patch of brush, excitedly running at the rabbit. The hare dashed off, vanishing behind the branches of a tree. Kit continued forward for a few strides before stopping to stare at the spot where the rabbit had disappeared with a confounded look on his face.

Hyroc sighed, returning his arrow back to its quiver. “You have to be more careful. Otherwise –” he pointed toward where the rabbit had escaped “– that happens, and you have to find another one. Come on. I’m sure we’ll get the next one if you’re quiet.”

When they eventually spotted another rabbit, right before Hyroc pulled the bowstring back, Kit once again spooked his target. He glared mournfully at the suddenly vacant patch of ground where the hare had been before growling in frustration. “KIT,” Hyroc yelled pointedly. Kit snapped his attention to him with an innocently confused look in his eyes. “We’re not going to have anything to eat tonight if you keep scaring everything off.” He sighed, and once his grudging feelings dissipated, he continued searching for food. He found nothing to hunt for the rest of the day. On the way back to the cabin, he rechecked his traps, hoping for something. To his relief, the trap at the bottom of the incline had caught a wild turkey.

Near the creek the next afternoon, Hyroc found another rabbit. He managed to shoot it before Kit could do anything to spook the long-eared creature.

“See,” he happily said as he removed his arrow from the rabbit. “That worked much better.” He slit the rabbit’s throat and held it away from him by the back legs. He sighed as he looked at the hare. “I don’t know about you, but I’m really getting tired of having rabbit all the time.” Kit stared at him, and he took it as agreement. “I know we got a turkey yesterday, but if we got a deer, we wouldn’t have to worry about meat for a while. And I can finally try smoking some venison.” He smiled derisively. “We haven’t gotten anything big enough to even bother doing that with.” By now, the blood had stopped dripping from the rabbit’s neck. He tied the lifeless animal to his belt and left the clearing.

Although Kit’s technique for being quiet while hunting had improved, to Hyroc’s frustration, the cub still managed to spook something at least once a day for the next three. But every time this happened, Kit seemed to learn from his mistakes, doing something slightly different. Over the next week, the spooking incidents eventually ceased, and Hyroc started being the only one scaring animals off as he got into position to shoot them.

Then shortly thereafter, the hide he had been working on seemed finished. He showed the hide to Svald to make sure, and the man confirmed it was finished.

The following morning, when he stepped out of his cabin, he nearly fell on Donovan, who was just walking up to the door to knock. Curtis stood behind his brother, trying not to laugh aloud.

“That’s one way to start the day,” Donovan said with a smile.

“Sorry,” Hyroc said after regaining his balance. He regarded the two boys with a puzzled look. Beyond Svald and Harold, this was the first time anyone had dared visit his cabin. What did they want?

“That’s okay, we’re just –” Donavan paused, looking down at Hyroc’s feet. Following his gaze, Hyroc felt a bolt of fear shoot through him when he saw Kit standing beside him in full view of the two boys. He stomped his foot, irritably jerking his head back. Another secret was out!

Donovan pointed at Kit. “Is that a mountain lion cub?”

Hyroc bowed his head. “Yes,” he said with a sigh. Kit growled, keeping his eyes fixed on Donovan.

“Does my father know about that?”

“No.”

Donovan regarded him thoughtfully, then, with a smile, said, “Don’t worry; I’m not going to tell him.”

Hyroc gave him a confounded look. Why wouldn’t he tell his parents? A large predatory cat – even a cub – should be of some concern to them. “You’re not? Aren’t you worried about him killing your goat and donkey when he gets older?”

“A little, but as far as I know, mountain lions don’t normally hunt during the day, and we always keep Grettle and Packard locked up in our barn during the night. Besides, Dilo tells us if anything we need to be worried about comes near the cabin. So I don’t think we really have anything to worry about from him for a while.” Hyroc breathed a sigh of relief. “And well, you’re the first person I’ve known that has a pet mountain lion.” Hyroc smiled appreciatively. “I’ve never actually seen one up close or dared to. What’s his name?”

“It’s Kit,” Curtis answered.

Hyroc and Donovan rounded on him. “How do you know his name?” Hyroc demanded. How many others knew about this? Donovan’s assurance really didn’t mean anything if everyone already knew about Kit.

All remnants of a smile disappeared from Curtis’ face. “umm…because…Elsa told it to me – I wasn’t going to tell anyone.”

Hyroc breathed a sigh of relief. That was probably okay. As long as her little brother was the only person she told. But Donovan’s reaction indicated even he didn’t know, so it seemed reasonable no one else knew.

“That’s good,” Donovan said malevolently. He indicated Hyroc with a jerk of his head. “Because I’m sure Hyroc here doesn’t want you telling anyone. And if you say anything to anyone, you’ll have me to answer to. Got it?”

Curtis nodded.

There was a long pause. Donovan crouched down and extended his hand toward Kit, then pulled it back. “Does he bite?”

“Not usually, mostly when he’s hungry, but I fed him when I got up, so you should be safe.”

Donovan nodded, cautiously reaching over to Kit. The cub sniffed his fingers inquisitively before allowing him to scratch the top of his head. Curtis came closer, and in likewise fashion, he petted Kit.

“So, umm – what are the two of you doing up here? Not that I mind. You two are the first actual company I’ve had since coming here. I’m just curious.”

Donovan stood. “Oh, I found some deer tracks up by the river north of here, and I was wondering if you’d like to try getting it with us. Our father’s in the village running errands with our mother and sister, so we could use an extra bow. We’ll split the kill with you.”

Getting some venison would free up some time for him to get a few other things done. But he thought he caught glimpses of suspicion in Donovan’s eyes. That made him wonder if there wasn’t more going on here than it seemed. He doubted it was anything dangerous due to the casualness of their interaction. Maybe Donovan was trying to figure something out about him. Maybe he was trying to get a look at his demeanor for himself. And that might be a good thing. It could mean he was in some way curious about him. Curiosity was a lot better than outright fear. It meant his mind wasn’t entirely made up about him. And he could see there wasn’t anything he needed to worry about with him. He just needed to make a good impression.

“Yeah, I’ll go,” Hyroc said.

“I figured as much,” Donovan replied.

“But I’ve still got to check my traps; I don’t want to risk missing anything I might have caught.”

Donovan studied him thoughtfully. “They’re along the east side of the mountain, right?” Hyroc nodded. “Okay, you can check them on the way. The deer tracks are in that direction anyway.”

“And I’ll have to bring Kit.” Donovan raised an eyebrow. Hyroc felt a surge of anxiety at the look. Was he asking too much? Had he already done something to damage Donovan’s evolving opinion about him? “Don’t worry, he knows how to be quiet,” Hyroc quickly interjected.

Donovan gave him an even stranger look. “Umm – I don’t see why not; he’s probably more useful when it comes to hunting than that mutt we have back at the cabin. But try not to take too long. I don’t want to risk the trail going cold.”

Hyroc breathed a silent sigh of relief. No damage done. “Thanks,” he said as he closed the door to his cabin. “I’ll be quick.”

Donovan nodded. “Lead the way.”

The first trap at the back of the valley was empty.

“What have you been catching?” Donovan said conversationally. Hyroc stood after looking his trap over.

“Mostly rabbits and those strange hares with the antlers.”

Donovan and Curtis gave him a perplexed look. “Why are they strange? You didn’t have those where you came from.”

Hyroc returned their gazes with an equally disbelieving look. “No, back in Forna, we only had normal rabbits.” He gritted his teeth, realizing what he had just said. He didn’t want anybody to know where he had come from. If they knew that, they might figure out The Ministry was looking for him.

“You’re from Forna?” Donovan said, sounding surprised. Hyroc nodded; denying it now wouldn’t be the least bit believable. Donovan was quiet a moment. “You came all the way from there, all by yourself?”

“Well, I really didn’t have a choice, and I –” he trailed off, unwilling to admit June’s part in his running away from there.

“Were you running away?” Curtis said.

Hyroc gave the two of them a severe look. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said pointedly, a note of sadness entering his voice. He turned away and headed off toward the next trap. There were too many memories of what he had been forced to leave behind for him to talk about Forna anymore. An awkward silence descended between the three of them to and from the trap at the ravine.

“Isn’t there a cave just over that rise?” Donovan said as Hyroc knelt to reset the tripped but empty trap at the base of the incline. Hyroc nodded. “I hear Jägerin lives in a cave near here. I wonder if that‘s it.”

“She’s not there anymore; she died after I got here.”

“Do you know what got her?”

“Spi –” he sighed, barely managing to stave off a shiver. “I‘m not sure,” he lied. It still seemed risky to tell anyone in the village about those creatures. Donovan‘s eyebrows drew together in a look of subtle disbelief, but he nodded.

“Can we see the cave while we‘re here?” Curtis said.

Donovan sighed. “I guess we could while Hyroc finishes with that trap,” he said. “Nothing‘s moved in there since the mountain lion died, right? I don‘t want to accidentally run into a den of wolves.“

“I don‘t think so.”

Donovan nodded, then the two of them made their way up the incline.

Hyroc had finished with his trap just after they disappeared over the top. He headed up to join them. They were both standing beside the mouth of the cave, looking at the pile of stones marking Huntress‘ grave.

“Did you bury her?” Donovan said when Hyroc came over to them.

Telling them a white tattooed magical talking bear had actually done it seemed a great way to make them think he was crazy. And that wouldn‘t exactly help him. Hyroc shrugged. “I thought she deserved a proper burial,” he admitted. It was true; he would have done it if Ursa hadn‘t for him, so he wasn‘t really lying.

Donovan and Curtis regarded him with intrigue.

“I heard she had cubs,” Curtis said. “Do you know if any of them made it?“

Hyroc looked at Kit. “Only one,” he said with an affectionate smirk.

When they came to the trap at the dirty pool of water, there was a rabbit caught in it. After dispatching it, Hyroc slit its throat and waited patiently for the blood to stop. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Donovan and Curtis staring at him with odd expressions on their faces.

What had he just done to make them look at him that way? All he did was slit the rabbit‘s throat. It seemed absurd to think he could‘ve done anything strange while doing so.

“Umm – Hyroc, what are you doing that for?” Donovan said.

Hyroc gave him a perplexed look. “I’m bleeding it,” he said.

Donavan and Curtis looked at each other as if he had said something unheard of. “We’ve never bled rabbits.” Donovan stepped over to him, holding his hand out. “Let me show you something.“

Hyroc slowly handed him the rabbit, curious as to what the boy was about to show him. Holding the lifeless rabbit by the hind legs, Donovan dropped its head onto the ground. He pressed the heel of his boot firmly down on the head and gave a hard yank. With a disturbing sounding wet crunch, the rabbit‘s head, spine, and organs were ripped from its body. Hyroc felt mildly queasy, but he was almost too fascinated with what he had witnessed to notice. Donovan handed him the headless carcass

“See, much easier,” Donovan said happily. “Though you still need to clean out the inside.“

Hyroc thankfully nodded as he examined the rabbit. After a moment, he tied it to his belt.

“Can I see your sword?” Curtis said.

Hyroc regarded him a moment before saying, “I guess. Just be careful.” With one hand, he slid his sword from its sheath and carefully offered Curtis the bottom of the hilt. “You got it?” Curtis nodded, and Hyroc slowly relinquished it to his grip. Curtis looked upon the blade with awe. His expression reminded Hyroc of the joy he felt the first time he had held a bow. He quickly shied away from that memory.

“Just don‘t cut your hand off,” Donovan said. “Mother would kill me if anything like that happened to you.” Curtis rolled his eyes, taking a few steps back. He swung the sword experimentally, then made a fast downward slash as if slaying an invisible monster. He then turned his attention to the thin stalk of a plant. It made a quiet snap as he sliced it in half.

“Okay, you‘ve seen it,” Donovan said. “Now give it back to Hyroc so we can get going.” Downtrodden, Curtis moved back toward Hyroc and gave the sword back to him.

The trap beside the creek was empty.

“I was wondering,” Donovan said shortly after they started toward the trap beneath the fallen tree. Hyroc looked at him inquiringly. “Those claws of yours – do they by chance help you climb trees?“

Hyroc nodded. “Yeah. I can get up where there aren‘t any branches to grab onto. It really comes in handy when someone wants to beat you up.“

“You had bullies?” Donovan said, sounding surprised.

Hyroc cocked an eyebrow. Why did that always seem surprising to people? He thought his appearance would make it obvious. “You seem surprised by that?“

“Yeah. No offense, but I wouldn‘t want to get in a fight with you – ” he indicated Hyroc‘s hands with a head nod “– especially considering your claws, those don‘t exactly look dull.“

Hyroc couldn‘t help smiling a little at that. Holding his hand up, he said, “I think a few of them discovered that.“

Donovan gave a look of humored empathy. “Well, it seems you can hold your own in a fight.“

“Do you shed?” Curtis said.

Hyroc raised an eyebrow, causing Donovan to snicker from seeing the look on his face. “I might,” Hyroc said. He wasn‘t quite sure if he did or not. All he knew was he seemed to get very itchy during early spring.

Donovan smiled. “Maybe you can stuff something with your hair and use it as insulation during the winter.” Hyroc rolled his eyes.

“Can you track by smell?” Curtis said.

“No, I can only smell things a little bit better than – than a normal person can.”

“Can you see in the dark?”

“Yes, but I still can‘t hunt very long after dark.”

“Do they glow?”

“When it‘s dark.”

There was a pause. “What color–”

“Curtis enough questions,” Donovan interrupted. “Stop impersonating a squawking magpie.”

Curtis frowned. “I‘m not!

Not long afterward, they arrived at the next trap. It was empty. When Hyroc finished with it, he started heading in the direction of the crossing he used to get to his final trap.

“Where are you going?” Donovan said.

Hyroc turned around and pointed in the direction of the crossing. “There‘s a crossing back the way we came.”

Donovan pointed in the opposite direction. “There‘s one our father showed us not far from here up that way. It’s a lot shallower than the one I think you‘re talking about, and I figure it‘ll be easier –” he used his hand to indicate Kit “– to get your cat across.”

Hyroc knew about the other crossing, but he had been purposely avoiding that area after he found the half-liquefied spider kill. But he was reasonably confident even those spiders wouldn‘t attack a group of people even on the off chance there were any. He figured he could safely get away with remaining silent. He took a deep breath and said,” alright. But I‘ve got one more trap on the other side of the creek.”

“Is that where we cap –” Donovan said, looking suddenly embarrassed. “– I mean, where we first met you.”

Hyroc narrowed his eyes in annoyance. It was obvious what Donovan was implying. So obvious he wondered why Donovan even tried to hide it. “Yes, it‘s right about there.”

“Yeah – yeah, that‘s fine, it‘s still on our way.”

Hyroc nodded.

At the crossing, he was still forced to carry Kit to the opposite shore, but other than a few drops of splashed up moisture, the water remained comfortably below the lip of his boots. From the crossing, they entered the trees. Then they came to the hill where he had found the spider kill. As they walked up the hill, he constantly scanned their surroundings with his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it in an instant.

Hyroc started slightly when Donovan said, “You okay?”

“I‘m fine,” Hyroc said, composing himself.

“You just seem a little tense ever since we started up this hill. Did you run into something here?”

Without thinking, Hyroc started saying spider, but after the first two letters left his mouth, he realized what he was saying and, for some reason, said badger, causing him to say,“Spadger.”

Donovan cocked an amused eyebrow. “Oh, a Spadger,” he said smiling. “I‘ve never seen one of those. Are they dangerous?”

Hyroc rolled his eyes half humoredly. He had to admit that was kind of funny.

They traversed the area and turned in the direction of his final trap. In the trap, they found a squirrel. Donovan gave Hyroc some advice on how to properly skin it as he tied its carcass on his belt. From the final trap, they picked their way north until they reached the shore of a river.

Hyroc put a hand above his eyes to block out the sun while he gauged the distance to the other shore. The river seemed to have a moderately strong current, but if he needed to, it looked like he could swim across.

“Is there a way across?” Hyroc asked.

Donovan stared off toward the opposite shore thoughtfully. “I think there‘s one a few miles back, past the mountain, but we usually only cross in the winter when everything‘s frozen over.” Hyroc nodded and turned away, continuing along the river.

They stopped for lunch beside an outcropping of rocks jutting out into the river. Donovan shared some jerky with Hyroc that was flavored with some herb he had never tasted. Kit began nipping hungrily at Hyroc‘s ankles. Hyroc skinned the squirrel and tossed Kit what was left. They waited for Kit to finish play-eating his meal before continuing on their way. Hours passed before they came across some fresh deer tracks. Donovan called for everyone to be quiet while he and Hyroc got their bows ready for use.

“You hear that; you need to be quiet,” Hyroc said softly to Kit.

The tracks followed along the river before sharply curving into the woods onto a game trail running southward. They spooked a wood grouse when they lost sight of the river, but Hyroc couldn‘t get a shot in time through the branches of the surrounding trees.

The tracks then turned east, leaving the trail and spiraling through a tiny clearing pockmarked with thorny raspberry bushes. From the clearing, the tracks wound through the forest into a muddy moss-lined stream bed with only a trickle running through a low part at the middle.

After following the stream bed for a short time, over the rise of the leftmost edge, they saw a buck nosing through some undergrowth.

“Stay here,” Hyroc whispered to Kit. Donovan did the same with Curtis.

Silently, Hyroc took to the foliage left of the stream, while Donovan took to the right, making sure to stay out of the deer‘s line of sight. Slowly the two of them crept into position. Hyroc got there first. In a smooth motion, he nocked an arrow and carefully lined his shot up. A twig snapped from Donovan‘s position. The deer wrenched its attention toward the sound, turning away from Hyroc, obscuring his shot to where he thought the heart was. It looked directly at Donovan. Hyroc staved off the sinking feeling that always proceeded watching his quarry disappear from view, keeping his eyes focused on his target. The deer wheeled away from Donovan to bolt off into the woods, re-exposing the side of its chest to Hyroc. He let his arrow fly. The deer‘s feet had lifted off the ground as it broke into a run when the arrow found its mark. The animal disappeared from view an instant later, but a crashing sound seconds later told them it had not escaped.

Donovan cheered as he crossed the streambed. His face was red with a mixture of frustration and embarrassment. “There was a stupid twig under a patch of pine needles,” he said, sounding relieved. “I‘m glad we brought you.” He clapped Hyroc on the shoulder. Hyroc beamed, feeling a warm flood of euphoria coursing through his body. Curtis made his way over to them, with Kit plodding close behind.

“Did you get it?” Curtis asked excitedly.

“Yeah, we heard it fall over there in the trees,” Donovan said, pointing in the direction it had fled.

After relieving the animal of its blood, they set to work gutting it.

“Can I, umm – take the hide?” Hyroc said as he, Curtis, and Donovan began removing the deer‘s innards.

Donovan frowned, leaning back away from the carcass. “We gave you the last one,” he said.

“I know, but I was going to try keeping the hair on this one to make something for me to sleep on. The bare wood of my bed frame isn‘t very comfortable. “

Donovan sighed. “I suppose we would still be trying to hunt it down if you hadn‘t hit it. Yeah, I guess it‘s fair that you have the hide.”

“Thank you.”

“But next time, you‘re waiting your turn.” He smiled impishly. “And you‘re going to have to gut it and smear the brains on all by yourself. And please don‘t throw up this time.”

Hyroc glared at him.

Adam Freestone is an Alaskan author and writer of the Sentinel Flame series. He writes fantasy stories but also has a talent for the unexpected. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering he has been coming up with stories his whole life. But apart from his writing skills, he isn’t quite what most people would expect. He is a near quadriplegic man afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy, confined to a wheelchair and dependent on a ventilator, but despite everything he has going against him, he never lets it stand in his way. He is a go-getter, animal and nature lover, MDA participant, and smart minded writer. Everything that goes into his stories is carefully considered, nothing he writes goes down casually. His stories are never quite what they first appear to be.

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