The summer sun had been beating down on their skin since the hunt began. Both of the hunters were parched and neither had eaten anything since last night. Their feet were tired from traveled miles and stepped on thorns. Neither one was in a good mood, but they needed to bring food back to their village. This dry season was exceptionally long; the whole area was beginning to feel the effects of the heat. With most of the animals leaving for greener pastures, the village was having a hard time catching any food.
Today they were tracking a boar through the plains surrounding their village. The plains were made of lush verdant grasses that stood taller than any woman in the village. They found the tracks during their morning scout of the watering hole, if you could even call it that. It had dried up from a massive lake of clear blue water, to a puddle of mud surrounded by a large shore of salt. Several unfortunate animals had died of thirst while digging in the mud looking for any meager puddle of salt water they could find. Their desiccated corpses were scattered and half buried in the mud.
Tiri had found the tracks first, which wasn’t really a surprise. She had the sharpest eyes in the village, keen enough to pick out a grouse hiding in the grass. She called Roj over to look at them. Standing next to each other their differences were glaring. Tiri was lithe and nearly three meters tall, slightly taller than the average woman in their village. Her hairless green skin matched the tall grass around her, making it hard to distinguish her silhouette. On her back a quiver held three hand-made arrows. Nearly two meters long, these arrows were tipped with napped glass heads. Six large brown feathers were tied to the nock end of each to keep the arrow stable in flight. She held a very large bow in her left hand. From end to end it was four meters long, strung with the tendon of the strongest horse in the village. It was Tiri’s pride and joy.
Roj was only a meter tall, making him the tallest man in the village. Although he was much shorter than the females, his body was almost all muscle. His unusually pale skin had been freshly covered in a red-brown pigment to protect him from the sun. He wore handmade shoes of braided straw, a simple leather loincloth, and strapped to his back was a wooden frame that he used to carry all of the extra supplies. The frame was nearly as large as Roj was, made of wood and woven grass it could hold far more than Roj could support. Standing next to Tiri, he looked like a bumpy red boulder covered in furs and hunting supplies.
Tiri looked down at her stumpy little friend. Roj could see the excitement on her face. She was a woman that loved the hunt, the kill. It was her job as well as her hobby. Many of the villages technological innovations came from her experiments with different clubs, snares, and arrows, all in an attempt to put more food on the village table.
“This one must be really big!” she said as she pointed to the muddy footprints. Roj thought they were enormous for a boar, almost too big, but he’d never question Tiri’s tracking skills. If she said his own footprints were boar tracks, then he must be a boar.
“How old?” Roj asked.
“The tracks look like they’re a day or two old.” She replied.
Roj dropped the wooden frame off his back and pulled out the two large water skins. One was completely filled while the other was almost empty. He held the two water skins up to Tiri and in his rough, bass-heavy voice said,
“We have water for two days most. Think we kill in time?”
At this a large smile spread across Tiri’s face. She loved a challenge and nothing was more challenging than hunting when the risk was high. Roj had learned the meaning behind this smile many years ago, she didn’t even need to answer him. He sighed, knowing nothing could be done to convince her it was a bad idea, and he packed his frame back up. Once he had pulled the rough fiber straps over his calloused shoulders he gave her a smile back.
“Which way we go?” he asked.
“The tracks show that the boar went early-sunwise until it got to the grass. I’ll have to check the grass for signs once we get there. As big as she is, it won’t be hard to grass track her.” She turned her hand palm out and stretched her arm towards the sun. Doing some quick addition she figured sunrise would be in five to six hours.
“Are you ready to go?” She asked Roj.
“Always!” He replied.
“We’ve got five hours of day tracking, let’s make them count.” She said.
She took the lead and walked with a slow and easy gait. The beginning of the track was the hardest and therefore the slowest. Once Tiri saw the typical traces that a particular animal left then she would go faster and faster, until she was running through the grass following a glaringly obvious trail of traces. Starting slow was also helpful for Roj. With his short muscular legs, starting slow gave him a chance to warm up and stretch his muscles out. At Tiri’s slowest Roj jogged to keep pace, at her typical hunting jog he would sprint to keep pace.
After six hours and several miles the sun was dangerously close to setting. Traveling at night was far too dangerous, so they didn’t have to argue about when to set up camp. Tiri spotted a cluster of thorny locus trees near a dried up river. She went ahead to scout out any potential dangers and after a short time she came back to tell Roj the area was safe.
Roj followed Tiri to their camp and laid their supplies on the ground. It included sleeping furs, a fire spindle, two water skins, bundles of pemmican, pigment for Roj, glass heads for Tiri’s arrows, a stone knife, and spare cordage. It wasn’t much, but it should be more than enough for this hunt. Roj picked up the fire spindle and began making the fire, while Tiri walked around the trees, easily picking fruit and cutting off some of the larger locus spines.
Roj had the fire started by the time Tiri returned from gathering fruit and spines. She laid her haul down on her sleeping fur and offered one to Roj.
“Thanks.” he said as he took the offered fruit. It was a deep maroon in color with very tight, curly fur all around it. The hair was too short to braid with, but it absorbed moisture from the air. The village had a huge mass of this fur in a large net between the three large tents at the center of town. Squeezing the net produced the water that kept the village alive.
Roj bit a piece off the fruit and pulled the skin off of it. The flesh was yellow orange and very firm. This piece of fruit wasn’t very ripe, but the hungry can’t pass up food. The seeds of the fruit were smooth and black. They were very small and evenly dispersed throughout the fruit. Every time he tasted one of these fruits he was reminded of the time he made his son remove all of the seeds from a fruit as a punishment for striking his daughter. It had taken all day, but when Roj had eaten the seedless flesh he was dumbstruck. It was so sweet he thought he had been poisoned. After tasting the seeds he discovered that they were very sour, and when the fruits were eaten whole the seeds mellowed out the sickly sweetness of the flesh. The village loved the sweetness of the separated fruit so much they had allowed his son to marry one of the chief’s daughters. It made him feel proud just to remember it.
While Roj was lost in his reminiscence, Tiri was toying with the locus spines she had collected. She wasn’t sure how she was going to do it, but her plan was to create a new ranged weapon that was like the little straws she and her sisters had played with when they were children. If she could make a bigger straw, then she thought that she might be able to shoot a spine like shooting a spit ball. She looked up from her work and looked at Roj.
To be continued…