The Snake Hunt
When the pain came it came from a blow to the side. That alone surprised Shima. She thought the fangs from above would have gotten her. In the following second after the blow, Shima was pulled off her feet and into the air.
"That was too close, I think I lost some of my feathers."
"Feathers . . ." Shima opened her eyes. The desert sands were no longer under her feet. In fact, nothing was under her feet. She was in the arms of the winged elf, Seanu.
"Sorry, Shima, I probably bruised some ribs when I hit you so hard. But, I didn't have the time to slow my dive."
** You pulled me from the jaws of death. I shall not forget that debt.**
Seanu opened her wings and hovered over the Cobra. ** You owe me nothing. I did what you would have done for me. **
** What are you doing here? You should have stayed with our Chieftess. **
** I knew hunting was going bad for the tribe, so I asked Onsha's permission to join you. **
** Does our Chieftess know of the food shortage? I told the others not to tell her, so she wouldn't come concerned. **
* * No, I don't think she knows . . . I listened to your sendings and figured it out. I just told her you needed my aid, so she told me I could come.**
** Well, I am forever grateful you did my friend. **
Shima turned around so she could see what was unfolding below. The hunters with spears had used all they had, and were now just trying to regroup with the archers on the dune. The Sand Cobra suddenly let out a loud roar and Shima saw its stomach begin to swell.
**What in the two moons . . .** Seanu wondered.
Shima spotted Jasha. The young Rockshaper was on his knees, exhausted. "I think it was something she ate," Shima answered with a smile. A lone elf ran over to where Jasha still sat.
**What is the little one, without sight, doing on a hunt? ** Seanu questioned.
** She's fine . . . though I would feel better if the both of them were a little further away from that snake. Nothing seems to kill it. **
The Cobra, with Shima's spear still in its eye, bellowed in anger and pain. ** Seanu, it's getting ready to strike, drop me and get those two out of harm's way. **
** Dropping you from this height would not be a smart thing to do . . . but don't worry . . . they will be safe from harm. **
Shima wondered how, but before she could ask both Jasha and Seeker floated off the ground and into the air. Shima looked over her shoulder at Seanu, who just raised an eyebrow and smiled. ** Do you still want me to drop you? **
Shima returned the smile. ** I forgot you could do that. **
** Flying is fun! ** Seeker cried, with a laugh.
** This is not fun, we have got to finish this serpent. ** FireHeart answered, gently catching the child as she descended. Nirene and Zardesh helped Jasha to his feet after he landed. The Rockshaper was still shaky from his attempt and leaned heavily on Nirene to remain standing.
** What's your plan, Shima? ** Moon Singer asked.
Shima looked around and slowly an idea formed. "Seanu, fly me down to Valash, but don't release me."
"If you let me lock minds with you, it would be easier," Seanu responded as she glided toward the others.
"You can't?" Shima asked, confused.
"You have walls up inside that thick skull of yours that makes locking minds almost impossible."
Shrugging her shoulders, Shima looked over into Seanu's eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about . . . but if you can just hold onto me a little while longer . . ."
Seanu laughed. "I could hold onto you and that ox of a brother of yours, for a half of day."
By now they were hovering over the heads of the other elves. **Valash, your sword, ** Shima commanded.
Her cousin sent a thought of confusion but then tossed his sword up to her. Shima caught the hilt of the blade and then almost dropped it again. She had been unaware of the weight of the sword. She quickly used her other hand to secure her hold.
** Archers, do you have enough arrows to keep the serpent busy a little while longer? **
** I have two arrows left, ** Brekke replied.
** I'm down to three, ** Seelee sighed.
** Together Trebor and I have six shots left. ** Aglo spoke up.
** My quiver is empty. ** Moon Tiger responded.
** And I only have two arrows left, Daughter. ** Ame looked over at Kiin. ** How many arrows do you have? **
"A dozen," Kiin replied with a smile. "I decided it was better I didn't waste mine."
** Okay, make sure everyone has at least four and divide any extras between my mother and Seelee. **
** The arrows are not working, Shima. ** Nirene pointed out.
** Their goal is not to kill but to distract. While they get the snake's attention, Seanu will circle around behind and then I'll drop in with a little surprise. **
** Be careful, Daughter. **
Shima sent her love to her mother with a thought, then she nodded her head. ** Always. **
As the archers went to take their places and Seanu opened her wings to bring Shima to hers, the huntress lock sent to a pair of elves on the ground. ** Moon Tiger, give your arrows to Trebor and get out that slingshot of yours. If this attempt fails use it to deliver Cyraff's little present. ** She got silent agreements from both Moon Tiger and Cyraff. Shima had been hoping to avoid the poison because it spoiled the meat, but she rather go hungry then to leave this snake alive to make her den here in the sands.
Seanu stopped her flight directly above the snake. ** Are you sure about this? **
** Moon Tiger, told me about this trick . . . of course the snake she used it on was a little smaller. Don't worry my friend. **
** I will worry, ** Seanu responded. ** Until your feet are back on the sand. **
Shima took a moment to watch the scene below. The snake was hissing as arrows pelted her skin. ** Okay, archers, on my mark stop your firing. I don't want to end up with one of your arrows in my back. ** Shima took a deep breath. " Leadership is a pain in the neck," she thought silently to herself. "Alright, one, two, three . . . let go, Seanu!"
Ame watched as Seanu let go over daughter. For a moment Shima almost looked like she was flying but then she began her descent. Ame held her breath but Shima's aim was true and Valash's sword found its mark, right between the snake's eyes. The elves around her cried out in excitement but Ame's attention was on her daughter, who still held onto the hilt of the blade.
Seanu flew around to retrieve Shima but the snake violently jerked its head and caught the winged elf with its snout. The blow must have knocked her senseless because Seanu began to fall to the ground.
** FireHeart! ** Ame yelled.
** Got her, ** FireHeart responded.
The falling elf's descent slowed and then she was drawn toward the group. FireHeart caught the unconscious elf in his arms.
** Run! **
Shima's cry brought Ame's attention back to the Cobra. The injured snake had left its nest and was coming toward the band of elves. All around her hunters yelled in panic and began fleeing in all directions.
Nirene and Zardesh helped Jasha while FireHeart ran with Seanu. Ame was turning to retreat when Shima cried out again.
** Azra, forget it . . . leave them! **
Ame spun around and saw the kitling cutting the tethers of the frightened Runners, who were in the path of the raging serpent. She had freed all but one. Ame raced toward the girl as her knife sliced the last rope. Ame had no time to be gentle. Grabbing the child around the waist with one arm, she managed to snag the tether of the Runner with the other. She swung them both onto the back of the terrified mount as it raced away. The ground behind them shook as the serpent landed.
Moon Tiger stared in disbelief as the Cobra again brought up its massive head. "Would nothing kill it?" she thought silently to herself. A hand touched her shoulder. Turning around Cyraff offered her the poison.
** Shima? ** She looked at the elf that still hung onto the sword embedded in the serpent. The cobra had never come close enough to the ground so she could let go.
** Do it, Moon Tiger. ** Shima replied.
The young elf took the bag from Cyraff and slipped it into the pouch of the sling. ** High Ones guide me, ** she whispered. Then she sent the poison on its way. Moon Tiger's aim was perfect. The pouch exploded on the snake's nose.
Shima knew the poison would kill the snake almost instantly, she had understood that much from what Cyraff had communicated to her. However, if she were to breathe in the powder it would only paralyze her for a couple of hours. The huntress kept her mouth closed as the poisonous cloud enveloped her. The serpent shrieked and bucked. Shima cried as the sword was torn from her hands. The cry allowed the poison to enter her body. She went instantly numb; she no longer felt anything. In her mind she knew she was falling to the ground from a height that would kill her, but her body would no longer respond to her commands. She felt a feather-like touch in her mind, and then the world went black as she landed on the desert floor.
Again Ame found herself blocking the mental cries of the elves around her as they hurried over to the still form that lay beside the dead Cobra. She had seen her daughter fall and she knew if Kumo found out about Shima, he might unwittingly unleash the rage inside him. Surrounded by humans, that would not be a good idea.
Valash reached her first. ** She's alive! **
Ame allowed herself to breathe again.
Shima stepped out of her tent and was quickly joined by Seelee and Brekke. "You shouldn't be up yet," Seelee reprimanded.
"You should have let us call Kyara back," Brekke added, wrapping Shima's arm around her shoulders.
"Elves have been surviving broken bones long before there were healers to heal them. The powder Cyraff mixed up only paralyzed me for a couple of hours, though after the numbness wore off I really could have used another dose."
"Where to?" Seelee asked, as she took Shima's other arm.
"The entrance of the Holt . . . the sun is setting."
The trio made their way over to the entry, careful of Shima's broken leg. Then after making sure she was okay, Brekke and Seelee left her so she could be alone. Shima thought about the day's events. Over all they had been very lucky. Except for her the only other injuries reported were scrapes and bruises.
Seelee had filled her in, on the events that had followed, after she had been knocked out. While she was unconscious, Ame and Brekke had determined the extent of her injuries. Her shoulder had been dislocated and her right leg broken. Using the shafts of spears they had set her leg and then Trebor had yanked her shoulder back into place. Her arm was still tender. Shima was glad she had been out cold for that part. Those were all the injuries she had, from a fall that should have killed her. Thanks to Seanu's last minute mind lock. Shima had already sent the winged elf back to town after making sure she had recovered from her fall.
After tending to her wounds an argument had broken out about what to do and who was in charge. Her mother, Ame, had stepped in and declared herself in charge because she was the oldest of the group. Shima smiled, that was the first time she could remember her mother admitting to being an elder. Cyraff then informed them the meat of the Cobra was ruined, which caused a lot of harsh words to be said. It was decided the eggs could be salvaged and eaten until the herds returned. The hunters had lost all but one Runner and were getting ready to hike back to the Holt when Pip and Yaramon showed up with a group of Runners. The others had come concerned after the herd returned without riders. Yaramon and Pip had collected the strays and then went searching for the hunters.
All in all not a bad hunt, her Chieftess would have a tribe to come home to and Shima's leg would heal. She just hoped Onsha would hurry. Leadership was a pain . . . a pain in the neck . . . a pain in the shoulder . . . a pain in the leg . . .
Shima smiled and watched as the last rays of sunlight faded. The setting sun silhouetted a lone figure. **Halban? **
** Just saying goodnight, Shima. **
** Don't worry, she'll be home soon. **
** I'm not worried . . . yet. Your brother isn't back. **
Shima sent her confusion as Halban turned to walk back toward her. ** Why are you concerned for Kumo? **
** I'm not worried for Kumo. I'm worried about myself when he finds out that his baby sister got hurt. **
** Well, to get to you . . . he has to go through me. ** Shima responded with a slight growl.
By now Halban was close enough to look over the battered huntress. "Suddenly, I'm filled with confidence," he replied with a hint of laughter in his voice.
Shima laughed aloud as she pushed herself off the rock she was leaning against.
"Are you ready to go back?" Halban asked.
Shima searched the star filled sky and nodded her head. The taller elf gently picked her up in his arms. "It has been a long time since I carried you in my arms. You have grown into quite the huntress, Kaze would be proud. Onsha will be also."
"Everyone did well today. She will be proud of them all, storyteller."
"Aye, and what I story I'll have to tell her when she gets back."
The two of them disappeared into the Holt as the doorway magically sealed behind them. The only sounds that could be heard were the soft music and laughter from within. Outside a striped deer scrambled across the sands.