Author : Skyler Heathwaite
The moonlight bled through thick overhead leaves and massive drosera. Lokshin blinked away sweat, peering up into the seething body of the forest. Sarant was up a tree nearby, much too long in coming down.
The fighting of the flying things had stopped three mornings past. Lokshins ears still rang.
He peered out through the trees and pools of light as far as he could see. A clear night, with large gaps in the canopy. Kasprey would come. He’d heard them every night, beating their great wings in the dark. They knew the hunters were below, somewhere.
Off in the distance a skittering, a scream and a snap told him a brush beetle had found prey, more softer scrambles that it was of breeding age.
Suddenly Sarant fell to the forest floor in front of him, a meter from a damning pool of moonlight. He crawled close, a mixture of excitement and concern on his face.
“Did you keep under the top branches?” Lokshin asked.
“Yeah. I saw smoke, other side of the valley, two plumes.”
Lokshin clenched his jaw, relaxed. “Can you get us there?”
Sarant nodded emphatically.
Lokshin gestured “Okay, lead on. But keep out of the moonlight!”
Dawn broke a few hours later, photosythetic fungi shifting with their mother star and exploding into color. The two hunters lay flat on the edge of a small plateu, looking down into a further depression of the valley. In the center were two flying things, their mirrored bulks shining.
Lokshin scanned the skyline. He looked at Sarant, who’s eyes remained fixed on the flying things.
“Some, small enough to carry.”
They made their way to the bottom of the plateau without incident. A few fallen trees, broad as a man, made the passage across the occasional raging river easy enough. Overhead flying shapes circled, too quiet to be flying things, too slow to be Kasprey.
By midday they arrived at the grave of the flying things. Smoke no longer curled skyward, but only because the parts that would burn, had. The hulks still threw off tremendous heat. There would be no relics today, only steel.
Steel. Lokshin dared not even to breath so holy a word.
Lokshin scanned the clearing, and the skyline once more. Nothing. He looked to Sarant, who looked back ernestly. Lokshin nodded, and they jogged out into the clearing.
Rolling, flipping, sifting and piling. Piece by piece the scraps they could carry made their way into their deerhide scrap bags. In less than an hour they were finished, Lokshin’s bag full to burst and Sarant’s nearly so.
Sarant laughed. “We’re going to be rich!”
Lokshin allowed himself a small smile “Yes, I think we are.”
“What do you think you’ll buy first?”
“a better bag, probably.”
“Yeah, that does-”
A single beat of damp air against his back, then silence. Lokshin turned slowly, seeing the sixty pounds of of Kasprey digging into Sarant’s back. His head was twisted, neck broken.
Sarant scanned the sky again. Only one. Only one. A male, gathering meat for chicks. A day hunter, no plumage. Lucky.
The Kasprey pulled a beakful of meat free, one claw digging into Sarant’s back. It eyed Lokshin, shifting one side of it’s head forward, a peach pit sized eye as blue as clear water. Lokshin kept still, and after a moment it lost interest, returning to it’s meal.
He looked down at Sarant, pulled his eyes away, and turned into the forest. Three days home, and he’d be a rich man.
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