Viresse again awoke with a start. But the last time
she did that, she had smacked her head and then killed
a man. This time, she was nestled into a cozy pillow, and didn't have to kill
anything unless she wanted to.
She rubbed her eyes, then looked toward the direction of the
altar, for it was dark. The candles were out, and
there was no light entering the small quarters under the massive tree.
She'd have to tell Sifl about its candles.
She arose from her sleeping area, tried to straighten it up and exited the
tree-home. She looked around. She
must have slept in, for things were already quite lively. People were bustling
about with their days - some were already returning
from hunts, a few ladies were pinning up laundry so it would dry tomorrow.
Viresse didn't know where anyone she knew was. She'd
be on her own for the evening until she recognized someone. Viresse walked a few
steps- and gasped when someone walked up beside her and took her arm. She
quickly looked over, and found Tristen, with a bright smile on his face. He lead
her toward the clearing, keeping a slow pace that allowed for conversation.
he said in an carousing manner. He seemed thouroughly amused with his
trick, and his smile continued to radiate across his face while she answered.
"It's decent - but I warn you
- do not sneak up behind a Coór'hém
- they will turn about and stab you in the gut so quickly
you don't even know you've been stabbed until you've lost your continence
- and your life." She smirked smartly at him
and set her hand on her dagger, then patted it lovingly.
"Well - I thought you were Ifer'hém!"
he said smartly.
Viresse's eyes widened. "Well - the Ifer'hém
are a small tribe integrated into the Coór'hém.
We are different tribes but live together. "She nodded
her head once, as if that answered the question.
"So what makes you different than some Coór'hém,
hmm?" he asked.
"Well, for one - we cook our meat. Two,
we feed our own children. And three,
we dress better." She
smiled. "And that makes us superior in every way that matters."
She was totally lying on the last comment, but
Tristen did not have to know that.
"Coór'hém don't cook?!
How..." He paused as he thought of it. "...how
perfectly delicious!" He smiled and laughed. "You eat
where you catch! What a brilliant idea!"
Viresse smiled, and knocked her shoulder into his -
tossing him a little off balance, and he took her with him. They careened across
the path, almost colliding into a woman with a basket
full of corpseberries. Both Tristen and Viresse apoligized with giggles in their
voices and smiles on their faces, as they continued to walk.
Viresse was momentarily reminded that she had to ask Tristen about
the Arvins Festival, but at the moment, she was
enjoying herself and pushed the thought aside.
"So... Tristen," she said
"Yes?" he said in the same tone.
"Terquan tells me you enjoy hunting."
He laughed loudly, causing several elves to look in
his direction. "I do - I don't think I've met a single
person who doesn't." He looked at her out of the
corner of his eye. "Don't you?"
She looked down as she walked. "Not so often - I don't
really know how."
Tristen stopped dead in his tracks and relinquished her arm, and looked her
square in the face, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "You
don't know how?! How terrible!" He took her arm again
and continued to walk. "Well, we will have to show
you. It's not all that hard. You look for tracks. You follow the tracks, and
eventually they lead near an animal. And as soon as that animal knows its hunted
it either stays very still, or
runs!"He took a small jump and began to run a few peds,
dragging Viresse along behind him.
"And if they run, you chase them, and if they fight you move in until you can
hit them easy or they run. Fight or flight. It's not
that hard at all, just tedious at times."
"How often do you catch something?" she asked.
"Well, that depends. You have a better chance of catching something in a group
than you so alone - but some people,
like Terquan, totally skew that dynamic."
He sighed. "About one in ten, I guess."
"So, Terquan is a good hunter,"
she stated, with a note in her voice that implied a question.
"When he hunts, he is. He's always off doing something
else - I kind of know what but I don't care cause it's
his ass either way." He looked toward the ground. She
seemed to hit a nerve.
But Viresse was curious. "What does he do?"
Tristen continued to look at the ground. "He has another teacher."
He lifted his head, in almost a sign of arrogance. "Not many heed him,
but sometimes those that are looking for an extra
boost in their game go to see what he has to say
- and sometimes... things change."
Viresse looked to the ground. "Sorry."
Tristen turned to her and forced a smile on his face. "Hey, it's all right. You
didn't know, and besides - if I lied to you about it
it'd be stupid of me. Because then I'd be lying to myself."
He relinquished her arm again and took a step back.
"Well, it was nice walking with you,"
he said and grinned.
She smiled back. "You know, I've heard you're nuts. In a bad way,"
she said. "I don't see that."
He smirked, his face cruelly twisting into something
sinister and unfamilar to the young man she was talking to. "You've never been
hunting with me. Things will change when that happens. Just you see."
He bowed his head again - and the face of the
young man who she had enjoyed a cheerful pleasant
conversation with just moments before returned to the surface. He made a small
wave at her, and departed.
Viresse stood for a few seconds, watching
him leave. He was odd. Very friendly. But odd. She was
thoroughly confused - how on earth could he be so
civil, and such a maniac elsehwere. Well, she didn't know him so well, she
couldn't judge his character from such a small meeting. She shrugged. She'll
pick it up eventually - and then she can be scared.
Right now, she felt a little enamoured. Which wasn't
so bad, but never very good.
She was alone again. She looked around the clearing, trying to see if there
was someone she knew. She also remembered her point of being here
- for research. But again her thoughts drifted to her lack of familiarity
among the people. She didn't
feel right just showing up and being intrusive without
letting people know her first. They would be more candid if they knew her.
But Viresse was getting deeper than she had imagined. Was it because they were dark
elves? She suspected it was. But she was sure Artimidor would understand
least she hoped he would. He was a bright man, surely
he would. Why not? Everyone needs a vacation sometime. And Viresse was just
going to take it easy
the next few days - then get into the swing of things. It just made sense that
Viresse shook off her thoughts and looked around the clearing for a familiar
face, and found one just across the way.
Taluen was sitting near the fire, his hounds Bane and Strut flanking him as he
cleaned and sharpened his dagger. He didn't seem too heavy in thought, in fact
he looked kind of bored, so Viresse walked over and sat down beside him.
"Bored? "she asked, and scrated Bane around the ears. Bane quickly set his head
in Viresse's lap and rubbed his head against her hand to receive more
scratchings. Viresse complied, then looked back to Taluen.
"Well, not really, just busy work. You can't really double-job weapon cleaning,
Coór knows I've tried."He laughed to himself, then set down the whetting stone
and showed Viresse his palm - it had a deep rut in it that definitely looked like
a scar, but the center was discoloured. She shook her head slowly and Taluen
retracted his hand. "But I can talk okay while I'm doing this, but I have to
stare at it pretty hard. So I don't lose my concentration."He honed his knife
against his whetting stone with a calm precise rhythm. "I don't usually need my
dagger - Bane and Strut are great hunters, and when I'm hunting with Tristen he
likes to do the kill. But I do keep it on me - just in case I need it."
Viresse nodded and watched his rhythm and then noticed that she ws scratchcing
Bane in the same rhythm. She smirked to herself. "Who's the best hunter out of
all three of you?" she asked.
"Well, that kind of depends. Bane and Strut are great at pursuit and tracking.
Tristen is just a monster when it comes to the rough and tumble
- I don't know if
you've noticed, but Tristen's got a thing for Pain..."
Viresse smirked. "Oh, I've noticed. Are all of the Eophyrhim like that?"
paused for a second. "Not to mean that you're not like that..."
Taluen smiled. "No - I'm not anything like Tristen when it comes to hunting. He's
in his own world when he hunts - which can be kind of
frightening because he gets
so wound up and it takes forever to calm him down."
Taluen looked to Strut, who
began fidgeting in her sleep. "Not a whole lot of us are. But Tristen's an
amazing hunter - some compare him to Dimeye or Gaulivan. He intends to win the
Arvins festival this year, and I don't doubt he can do it."
Viresse looked at Taluen in a confused manner, and the name rung a bell. "The
"Yeah. It's a forest-wide hunt where anyone capable of dragging down a deer is
allowed to join in. They bring quarry from all over Santharia just for us to
hunt. And the one that wins Is considered blessed by Arvins and becomes an
honorary Hunter Cleric." He nodded slowly. "That's how Sifl became one. And
that's why we like Sifl so much. Sifl isn't stuffy or arrogant. He's just a
hunter with knowledge who isn't afraid to
"Speaking of Sifl... "Viresse said, with a lilt in her voice that implied a
Taluen shook his head and laughed heartily. "I can't tell you, we don't know
Viresse nodded, and laughed along with him. It was good to laugh
- the dark elves
around the Paelelon didn't laugh as much, even considering their close ties. It
was weird. She shrugged it off and sat quietly for a few moments.
"What about Terquan?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" Taluen asked back. He finished honing his blade, wiped the
oils off with a soft rag then sheathed it at his hip. His full attention was at
Viresse now, and she shifted uncomfortably.
"I mean... how is he at hunting?" she asked.
Taluen shrugged. "I'm not really sure. When we all hunt together he seems to
restrain himself - when in a group, Tristen and my hounds take down a fair deal
of game. But when Terquan goes hunting by himself
- which he does quite often - he
comes back with some great quarry. Sometimes it's just a tarep, but there's not
a single scratch on it. And when he brings home elk
- which he does - they're huge
and mauled all around the neck like he started hacking at it and wouldn't
stop." He paused a second.
"Terq is... have you heard of bare-handed hunting?"
"No." Viresse answered honestly.
"Okay... Well, bare-handed hunting is basically hunting without weapons. Not
even a dagger. Some can't do it at all, and some are amazing at it. Terq
really good at it. And that gets him a lot of respect. But a lot of people fear
it too. Because that's the closest anyone can get to Coór, Queprur and Arvins
at any one point. It's like being near a living god..."
Taluen shook his head for a moment. "Not to say that Terq's a god. He's just
very different. To the point that no one can explain. "He paused, then leaned
close to Viresse to whisper in her ear.
"He's hiding something."
Viresse nodded. "I know." When Taluen gave her a puzzled look, she explained.
"I've lived most of my life around people with hidden motives and secrets. I can
Taluen nodded. "He seems to think no one notices, but he can't hide it from
us." He raised his hand, a finger extended, and the look in his face changed from
amusement to caution. "But please, be careful with him. He's not a nice guy. Not
Viresse leaned back, and looked at Taluen. This time she wore the confused look.
"but isn't he your friend?"
Taluen nodded slowly. "He has been. My entire life. But something happened to
him on a hunt - or something - that made him dangerous, and now... I don't even
trust him." He turned his face toward the fire and watched the flames. "I
shouldn't have told you any of that,"
he said, and hung his head.
"No, it's okay. I needed to know. And I'm glad you were the one to tell me. If
Tristen had said it, I wouldn't have believed him. And if I heard it from Terq
I think I'd simply blow it off." She looked at Taluen and smiled. "But you're
civil. It makes sense to hear it from you."
"You know. I get that alot,"
Taluen said. He stood up, and his hounds quickly
jumped to their feet. Taluen held out a hand, and Viresse took his invitation to
help her get up. He nodded slowly. "So. Be careful. And if Terquan really
worries you at any point, tell Sifl. Sifl will let you know everything you need
to know." He looked at his hounds. "We have to go meet my mother for dinner, so
I hope I will see you around."
"You will," Viresse said, and watched as Taluen departed.