Kruzz was led into the forest. Elder Worg was guiding him. He seemed to be following a path, but to Kruzz everything looked the same.
Worg stopped and turned to face him. "Give me your right hand."
Kruzz obliged, taking his spear into his left hand to free his right. Worg unsheathed a knife and slid the blade across Kruzz's palm. He knew it was coming and tried not to flinch, but Worg's smooth, quick actions surprised him. He bit his lip to not utter his pain. Blood began to spill from the wound.
"Place your hand on every fifth tree that we pass. This will be the guide for your animal. Some brood's have predators that follow them and some have easy prey for them to kill. Now is the time for you to hope and wish for one or the other." Worg chuckled. "Though it may make no difference. In the end the animal will choose you."
He turned around again and continued leading the way. Kruzz marked every fifth tree that he passed. It stung, placing the open wound on the bark of the trees, but as his heart pounded faster and faster, pain seemed to become meaningless. His mind was more focused on what Worg had said. Did he wish for an easy Hunt like Dax's owl? Or did he want a dangerous fight against some predator like Grim's bear?
He worried that if he had to fight a bear he would lose. Grim had been older and bigger when he had gone on the Hunt. Kruzz was the youngest brood in generations, maybe ever. Was he even capable of defeating any predator in this forest? Maybe it would be best to hope for easy prey.
He didn't like where his thoughts were going. He wanted to be a strong grunt like Grim. To prove his strength he should have to fight something dangerous. The grip on his spear tightened. He would not be afraid to fight whatever animal chose him. No matter what it was. Dax said there was a deeper meaning to every Hunt. If it was easy prey or a dangerous predator, it did not matter. It was meant to be, either way.
They had been traveling for some time and Kruzz was starting to get a better sense of their surroundings. It seemed to him that they were walking in circles. Sure enough, he saw one of his bloody hand prints on a tree nearby. Their circles were becoming smaller and smaller.
Worg stopped and raised his arm, pointing to the right. "You must walk this part alone. I can go no closer."
"What must I do?" Kruzz felt unease in his stomach. It was time. He was about to face his destiny. He hoped he was ready.
"Walk through here. There is a clearing nearby with a rock. Make your mark on it. Then sit and wait. Your animal will find you." With that said, Worg left. Not the way they came, in circles, but straight out through the forest, away from the clearing.
Kruzz walked past the last few trees and entered the clearing. The rock was big and covered with old bloody prints. He placed his own hand on it and then climbed on top. He sat down cross-legged and placed the spear over his knees, wincing as he squeezed the shaft with his right hand.
Then, he waited. The forest was quiet. He had never heard nature be this quiet. He worried and waited some more. What animal would come to find him? Would he make the kill easily? Was his bleeding hand going to be a distraction?
It seemed like he had been waiting for a long time. He still hadn't heard a single sound from an animal nearby. His mind had circled his worries as often as he had circled the clearing. This was probably the time most broods would decide to get up and go find their prey themselves. Should he do the same?
What Dax had said about meaning was starting to sink in. What if the action of getting up and searching for your prey was what led you to a predator, because you are like a predator, going on the hunt? And what if sitting here, waiting for prey, let's the easy prey come to you, because you don't look like a threat?
If that was the case, maybe it was up to him what kind of animal chose him. The question was, what kind of animal did he want? As his mind eased into these thoughts the decision was taken from him. A hare jumped out of the forest and rushed into a small bush.
A hare? That was going to be the animal of his Hunt? Kruzz got up on his feet and stepped off the rock with a sigh. He flipped the spear in his hand to be able to throw it. The wound stung with every movement.
Kruzz neared the bush carefully. One step after the other. The hare was probably frozen in shock, trying not to move so that it wouldn't be seen, but Kruzz knew it was there. He took another step and felt the ground shake beneath him.
Before he knew what had happened, there was a loud roar as the earth underneath the bush was torn open. A big grey beast with at least six limbs that looked like a nightmare version of a caterpillar was sticking out of a hole in the ground, where the bush had been. The hare lay twitching in its maw.
Kruzz gulped. His hand tightened on his spear, the pain forgotten. The beast's sharp teeth crunched down on the hare. It was devoured instantly. The creature's insect eyes now focused on Kruzz and another roar escaped its throat.
Kruzz would have stood still and become its second meal, if his instincts hadn't kicked in. He lunged to the side as the beast's head shot forward and buried itself in the ground where he had been standing.
As the rest of its body left one hole to go through the other, Kruzz was shocked to see several more pairs of limbs. All with sharp claws that could probably cut through stone and could easily pierce through him. The thought made him falter. He should run. Get away from that beast as quickly as possible.
He couldn't though. This was his Hunt. The beast chose him and he would have to kill it to become a grunt. To prove his strength and worth. Kruzz resisted the urge to run and tried to think instead. How could he defeat a beast that was crawling through the earth?
The earth shook and Kruzz jumped aside as the beast burrowed through the grass where he had been just a second before. It knew where he had been standing even though it couldn't see him. The creature dove straight at him again with an earsplitting roar. This time Kruzz tried to stab it with his spear while dodging.
The spear slid into the monster's flesh as if it were made out of jelly. Kruzz landed in the dirt with a grunt and looked at his spear. It was covered in a white goo that smelled like rotten eggs. The creature screeched in pain and instead of diving back into the ground it turned and lunged at him again.
Kruzz was still on his back and could only try to roll aside. The beast rushed past him and sliced across his left arm with one of its claws. Kruzz cried out in pain as it disappeared down the hole it came out of.
The wound in his arm was deep and bleeding heavily. He couldn't stay on the ground though. The beast would come back up any second. He had to think of something. He remembered Grim's Hunt and that he climbed a tree. His arm was burning but he would have to do the same.
He quickly found a good tree to climb and threw his spear up with force so that it would bite into the wood. Then he used only his right arm to climb. So far the ground did not shake and the beast did not come out of the earth. He was up in the tree and had his spear back in hand. Now, all he had to do was wait.
The forest was silent. No birds, no more hares. It was just him and the beast. What was it waiting for? Did it know that he was prepared? Did it feel his footsteps on the ground and know that he was in the tree?
The pain in his arm wasn't getting any better and he could feel his body weakening. His heart was still pounding strong, but he was bleeding a lot. How long could he play this waiting game before he would lose consciousness? He had to do something.
He pulled off one of his boots and chucked it at the ground with his good arm. He hoped that would be enough to get its attention. He waited and wished that it would come. Time seemed to drag out into an eternity. He lost all hope and didn't know what else to do. Maybe the beast had left after being wounded.
The tree shuddered as a rumbling went through the forest ground. The monster broke through the surface and devoured his boot. Its back was turned towards Kruzz and he did not hesitate to take his chance. He jumped from the tree onto the back of its head and rammed his spear through its soft skin as deep as it would go.
The beast shuddered and screeched. Its limbs twitched and it scrabbled towards a hole in the ground. Kruzz held on tight and pulled out his spear to ram it in once again. And again. And again. Until the creature stopped moving completely.
His Hunt was over.