Katib Twice Strong

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Cammytrice, Aug 25, 2013.

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  1. Feth was up well before the light of day reached the floor of the town cavern. The shaft that stretched to the surface not only provided light and air to the town, but it also helped them to follow the weather outside and it kept plenty of water in the well that stood beneath it. The well would be at the center of the celebration tonight, and Feth was sure he was going to be one of the Minedi standing proudly on its wall. Today was Katib's Festival, the yearly celebration of the god of the hunt.

    Every year, adult and able-bodied Minedi men gathered in the town square to pair up for the annual rat hunt. Katib first hunted the great rat, making the world safe for the Minedi to live in, and now their duty was to maintain that safety. Young men were paired with the oldest, most experienced men who would teach them to hunt and to use their owls. Those pairs had already been selected from Lina's Festival many months ago, when the oldest children became adults, and the newly recognised men were given their first owlet to raise and train. Their hunting mentor would guide them through their first two years of hunting, and his last.

    But for the rest of the pairs, that was up to the elders to decide. They usually chose a pair that would balance each other. Together they would work to the best of their ability to bring back the largest rat. The pair who managed to do so would gain the honours of the festival, one of which was standing on the wall of the well, above the heads of even the elders, and also have a place at the head of the banquet table.

    Feth thought of all of this as he rubbed his teeth clean, brushed his fur until it was sleek and smooth, and fed Lelaph and Paha, his kangaroo rat and riding badger. He didn't feed Beli, his owl, as he wanted him to be hungry for the hunt. Instead, he put his leather shoulder pad on, and tied Beli's hood before placing the trusting owl onto the pad. Wrapping up some leftover dinner of roasted seed, carrot and grub and tucking it into a pouch strapped to Paha's harness, he left his dwelling and made his way to the well where he could see other men now making their way from their own dwellings with their badgers and owls. The excitement and joy of the occasion was already in the air as the decorations for tonight's feast had already been strung up around the town. Katib's Festival had begun!
  2. A Minedi youth was supposed to look forward to the annual hunts, and to the honor that he might bring his family. Nuka was of farmer stock, and thus some might say more a child of the earth goddess Lina than of her husband Katib; even so, his father would ride today with the hunters, and so must Nuka.

    The trouble was that Nuka was not adept at bringing honor to his family. In fact, he was sure that he brought much the opposite.

    The last two hunts- Nuka's first two- he'd been more of a hindrance than help, he knew. Gebhardi, the greying draft badger that had been with his family for many years, was a cantankerous mount... and Nuka was not the most graceful rider. He'd slipped from his saddle more than once. Truth be told, Nuka was no less ungainly on his own two feet, and the accidents were not only of the riding variety. That first year had been the worst. His mentor, Djan, had lost patience with him when he'd dropped his spear and lost it in a limestone pool, and sent him back directly to town. He'd had to wait in shame while the girls whispered about him in the square, until he grinned at them and joked that they'd sent him back for fear he'd scare away the rats with the sound of his constant tripping. They'd taken to that one immediately, and come up with a million ways that a rat might mistake him for something more threatening. He hadn't even needed to chime in much.

    Last year went a little more smoothly. More prepared, Djan had been kinder. He gave him tips on how to keep his seat, and looked the other way whenever Nuka stumbled. With Djan's experienced guidance, they'd brought in a large male rat together- not the biggest, but near to- despite Nuka's clumsiness.

    This year, he would have no elder hunter to cover up his mistakes. He would be paired with another young Minedi, and he would have to pull his own weight.

    At least he looked the part. Shaki, his owl, was alert from her perch on his leather shoulder pad, and his cinnamon roan fur was gleaming under the rays of sun filtering down from overhead and the soft glow of the lichen lamps strung about the square. Nuka was an early riser, since the family crops of moss, lichen, and mushroom were as easily tended to before dawn as after, and so he'd been one of the first to find his way down to the well that morning. As long as he didn't move or speak, he was the picture of an attentive young hunter, just like the rest.

    He wondered which of the men around him might be his partner for the hunt. Lost in thought as he contemplated some of the possibilities, he lifted one footpaw to scratch at the ankle of the other, and immediately had to grab onto Gebhardi's fur to keep his balance. The badger grumbled and snapped at him; someone behind him snickered. Nuka laughed loudly and kept his hold until he'd scratched away his itch, even as his face burned. Slip-ups like that were far fewer lately, but it had yet to occur to him just how few and far between they'd really become.
  3. When Feth spotted Nuka, he quickly looked away. Something about the young man who was only two years his junior made him edgy. He couldn't figure out what it was, but it was enough to make him keep his distance. As awkward as the youth was, there was something about him. Maybe it was his personality that made up for his clumsiness, or his fur... Well, whatever it was, something made him stand out from everyone else, and not just as the clumsy oaf around town. Feth preferred not to think about it. Instead, he chatted with a few of his friends, taking bets on how big the winning rat would be, and which of them would have the biggest between them. They were all boasting and cajoling each other until the elders came forth from the council room.

    When the elders emerged with the list, everyone went quiet. This was an important moment, and one didn't want to miss their name being called because they were busy gossiping. As soon as your name was called, you were free to start the hunt, and every minute counted. Although the days were long, the largest rats lived farther from their surface entrance.

    As was tradition, the newest men and their mentors were called first, followed by the second years. Once they were out of the way, the tension in the air ratcheted up as men strained to hear their names, hands on their badgers' harnesses, ready to swing into the saddle and head off.

    Feth waited anxiously, and his name was called about halfway through the list. He held his breath and waited for his partner's name.

    "...and Nuka."

    A lone snicker was the only sound that broke the silence beyond the droning of the names.
  4. Nuka was not sure what to think of being paired with Feth.

    They'd rarely spoken to one another directly, though they were close in age. Feth was well-liked and admired, a promising young hunter, and he was always surrounded by his throng of friends. Nuka wasn't the sort to approach anyone directly, even if he'd wanted to, and Feth projected the sort of untouchable aura that made it impossible for Nuka to imagine trying. They didn't even live close to one another; Nuka's family dwellings were clustered close to the town center, scarcely above the cavern floor, while Feth's burrow was up in the surface tunnel. In short, the two moved in very different circles.

    Of course, Nuka had noticed him. How could he not? Feth was everything a male Minedi youth ought to be: handsome and strong, confident and masculine. He was shorter than Nuka by an inch, not being so unreasonably tall and awkward while still standing above their peers. His fur was sleeker, not so oddly long and wild. He was not riding an old hand-me-down farm badger.

    For a moment, he stared at the other young man, paralyzed. What were the elders thinking? What use was it to put Feth with someone like him?

    He was keenly aware of the smiles and stares turned his way. They were a little different than the sort he was used to; disbelieving and skeptical as well as derisive. Some were even downright unfriendly.

    Then Shaki let out a hungry little shriek beside his ear, and Nuka started. As soon as he tore his eyes away, he was clutching tightly at Gebhardi's harness, yanking the stubborn old badger in the direction of the tunnels. He could only hope that Feth was following, because he could not swallow the lump in his throat nor turn his head to look over his shoulder and check.

    Katib's Hunt had begun for him, whether he liked it or not.
  5. After a frozen moment, Feth cleared his throat and swung up onto Paha's back, and the younger badger eagerly snuffled his way towards the tunnel again. Feth wasn't sure what to think. Was he still even excited for the hunt now? He had heard all the stories about how Nuka was during the hunt. The young man probably never even hunted outside of the rat hunt. Was it a compliment that the elders had matched him with someone like him, or insulted that they had been forced together. He didn't speak much beyond grunting a greeting to him as they fell in step with each other.

    "I hope you can keep up."

    It was up to Katib to see what this day would bring.

    As the pair reached the surface, it was a bit crowded and slow as the teams milled about, trying to decide their direction. As a regular hunter, Feth knew the layout of the surface around the entrance almost as well as the eldest hunters. He looked over his shoulder to make sure Nuka was still with him in the crowd before he pointed to the way he wanted to go.
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