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She had managed to kill four spring hares today but our family would consume that in less than two days. We had to continue forward, kill bigger prey. We had to set our sights on antelope. The gazelle in this region could run up to sixty miles an hour, kick and buck and were quite a threat to an eagle only half their size. But Bazahra was no mere eagle. I didn’t quite know what she was but I knew she was the most efficient and powerful flyer of all raptors.
From the tip of her beak to the tip of her tail, Bazahra was seven feet long, weighing upwards of thirty pounds depending on the catch. She had sixteen feet of wings, built for the most optimum of flight. They were broad at the base, providing copious amounts of lift. The wings tapered to a fine point, reducing drag at high speed. To add to it all, her tail was relatively short and broad. All of this allowed for very rapid take offs, some of the finest acceleration in the bird world, and no sacrificed speed! Her wing loading was extremely low, allowing her to pump nothing but extreme power with each wing beats. With virtually no drag, she had a top flat speed well over eighty miles an hour. When diving, her speed could quadruple….
Why would a bird need a three hundred twenty mile an hour stoop, you ask? Well considering she weighed thirty pounds, and could be seen coming for miles on those giant silver wings, its best she’s able to close the distance as fast as possible. Her favorite thing to do was to dive so fast, her prey didn’t even see her coming. With that kind of speed, she could easily disappear from sight. Then at the last possible second, she would stretch out her long powerful legs and strike a hole in her prey with a powerful attack called a ‘punch’.
Her size prohibited her to only one big powerful initial strike. If she missed, her prey most likely could escape due to her lack of low speed agility and limited stamina on the flat. Her speed and stealth were truly all she had, particularly when targeting smaller prey. Not to mention, it didn’t help much that we trained all our raptors to punch prey with a lethal strike, not grapple with it. Grappling was dangerous because prey could step on, kick or severely injure the raptor. Punching generally is powerful enough to kill small prey on impact. With larger prey such as antelope, boar and ratites, punching’s effect varies. At best, a good head strike was an instant kill. At worst, a bum strike knocked the prey over, disorienting it and the raptor had to come around for another strike…
Bazahra loved to flip prey, simply because she liked the chase! She’d often knock prey over repeatedly before finally going in for a kill. It truly was a sight to behold! My anticipation steadily built as she soared on a rising thermal nearly out of sight. I only could make out the white translucent blotches on her primaries.
With my stag, I navigated the thick bramble of forest hoping to flush out any hiding game. In the heavy undergrowth, two horns stuck out. The area it sat was one I overlooked many times today. It was hard to tell if this was a gazelle or rather, the remains of one. Gazelles had perfect camouflage in this dense undergrowth. There was only one way to find out.
I led the stag into the dense thicket. Indeed, a gazelle exploded out the bushes weaving nimbly through the forest. The chase was on, the only thing I could concentrate on was trying to get the gazelle out of the forest. However, this gazelle was experienced. It knew just outside the forest, a raptor was somewhere lurking and that the bird was far too cumbersome to navigate the thick woodland. Its best shot was to run tightly in the wooded area in an effort to shake me from its tail.
I stayed close on its tail; the stag I was on was trained for this kind of pursuit. It was not quite as agile as the seventy pound gazelle but was faster. It knew to push the gazelle into portions of the forest where tight turns were hard to make, gain on it and stomp on its tail. If that failed, I had my trusty longbow with about a dozen toxin tipped arrows to take out the Gazelle.
Soon, we pushed the gazelle out into the open, staying as close as possible to the weaving animal, placing ourselves between it and the forest. It constantly tried to make its way back to the forest but was cut off every time by the stag. With no other choice, the Gazelle turned tail, sprinting as fast as its spindly legs could carry it. It now was heading to another patch of forest, moving at a mind boggling pace.
Suddenly, the Gazelle was flipped high into the air, landing on its back! The durable animal got back to its feet disoriented, running even further out into the open. It was then I saw the sixteen feet of wings closing in on a swift glide. Bazahra plunged onto the Gazelle with those heavy talons. Again, I saw the Gazelle tumble through the tall grass. Somehow, the miraculous animal managed to make it to its feet, this time running tight circuits that Bazahra was incapable of staying in.
She knew this, riding an updraft Ankara bayan escort on extremely swift wing beats until she was out of sight from the Gazelle’s poor eyes. She was barely visible, kiting on high atmospheric winds. She was waiting for the Gazelle to begin running straight again. Eventually, the spooked animal took the break for the forest, the raw sprint just unreal!
Bazahra inverted with her wings tucked to her side. She dove straight towards the ground, looking like a bullet as her speed surpassed any of her previous records! I lost sight of her within seconds of her coming closer to the ground. This maneuver was one of her staples though. She’d often dive towards the ground and use to momentum built up to catch up to prey.
Indeed she did, spreading her wings as she glided mere feet above the ground. All I could see was the gazelle tumble and not get back up. Bazahra suddenly ascended into a steep glide with wings and tail outstretched, dissipating speed. She reached the climax of the accent, wafting back down on swift, shallow wing beats. The raptor landed, making her way over to the dying gazelle.
I rushed over on the back of the stag to make sure Bazahra didn’t eat the wrong parts. Leaping off the stag, I ran over, Bazahra sitting atop the gazelle. Her wings and tail were outstretched, covering the kill. I pulled a chukar out from my bag, exciting the gorgeous raptor. She charged towards me quick to snatch the tiny chukar from my hand. She could swallow it in one gulp but she was a finicky girl. Instead, she stood atop the chukar, ripping off tiny chunks to swallow.
I often enjoyed reviewing the corpse to see how Bazahra killed her prey. This gazelle’s head was caved in on the right side. The eye was pulverized and a horn fractured. She must was really hungry because she hit the antelope with a lot of force! Feeling bad for the poor bird, I reached for my dagger. I began cutting off the head of the gazelle, tossing it to her. She meticulously began skinning it with her razor sharp beak.
I started gutting the gazelle, letting Bazahra eat the still beating heart as well as her choice of the entrails. I had to save the hide for ceremonial purposes. It was then I realized I forgot to bless the gazelle before gutting it. I bowed my head, clearing my mind.
“Dear, Cacce, Lords of the Fauna, I thank you for giving me one of your rare and sacred beasts. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to feed my family! With your creations becoming so rare, I feel blessed by your favor! Thank you for your grace…Amen.”
I resumed cutting the venison into quarters, wrapping each portion into preservation paper. I couldn’t help but feel terrible as I did so. The gazelle was one of few remaining in the land. With them becoming so scarce, every kill that was made was a gamble. I don’t know how these creatures became so rare. This land used to be teeming with gazelle, giant antelope, buffalo, wild boar, and ratites. They simply began disappearing from the Blessed Lands…
Suddenly, Rejon, the giant stag, bugled loudly! This was the instinctive wale to call out some impending threat. Rejon rushed in front of me, blocking my view of whatever was coming. Standing up, I looked past him seeing several riders on horseback making their way over to me. My heart sank… For one, horse riders were rare here so that only could mean a handful of things. These people, in a best case scenario could be traveling traders. However, they very well could be slavers… coming right for me! But that wasn’t even my biggest concern. Rejon… hated… horses… I tried to grab his reins but it was too late!!!
The giant antelope charged towards the nearest horse, causing it to rear up, throwing its handler. Rejon did the same, matching it pound for pound. The antelope was ever so slighty taller than the horse. Both of the magnificent animals exchanged powerful blows, with Rejon’s hooves proving to be too much for the horse to handle. Rejon skewered the horse on those five foot horns. The horse fell over, bleeding out on the ground.
Rejon then attacked another horse, lifting it off the ground with powerful neck and shoulder muscles. The horse was flipped onto its back, crushing the handler riding it. Another handler took out a revolver and fired several shots at Rejon… My heart sank to my stomach! The antelope bucked wildly, the bullets painfully piercing his body. He shook his head, blocking out the pain. He regained his focus, locking onto the horseman with the handgun. The raging buck reared up, kicking the armed horseman off of his horse. Rejon then dug his horns under the horse, flipping it onto the man. Not finished, Rejon then stomped the horse, making sure the man was thoroughly crushed.
Suddenly, the distinctive ring of a riffle shook me to the core. Rejon stop in his tracks, turning to the horsman that fired at him. Another shot fired. Rejon turned towards me, limping his way over. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I ever saw! He panted heavily as Escort bayan Ankara we finally reunited, the stag wheezing as blood filled his lungs. I hugged my beloved stag, unsure what to do. My heart stopped as blood filled drool dripped onto my shoulder. Another shot was fired. Rejon grunted out, dropping to the ground. He didn’t move, his eye expressing nothing but confusion. Blood dripped from his wounds, his mouth, and his nose, saturating the ground around him. His breathing was congested, slowing down with each heartbeat. He was dying…
The remaining horsemen made their way over to us, surrounding us. Three of the men leapt off their horses, looking on in horror.
“This is your stag?” One asked. I couldn’t even come to words… The only thing I could do was watch Rejon breath his own blood. This stag and I had been partners since I got him years ago. We were inseparable! Now he was fading and there was little I could do about it. I fell to my knees, getting blood all over them. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I crawled over to him, caressing his head in my lap. His bloody drool pooled on my thighs as I struggled with letting him go. His eyes met mine, seeming to beg for help!
The horseman that shot Rejon, looked triumphantly at the fallen stag. This was his prize! He strapped the rifle to his back, reaching for his huntsman’s blade. The man made his way towards Rejon, gearing to behead him.
“Don’t touch him…” I warned, but the man steadily came. I placed Rejon’s head back on the ground, knowing I’d have to defend my dying friend.
The man stood by Rejon’s throat, grabbing Rejon’s horn to hold his head steady. I swept my leg behind the horseman’s, knocking him to the ground. The horsemen rolled, very dazed from the blow. I rolled, lifting my leg up! Just as the heel of my foot was about to come down over his throat, he caught my leg.
“I SAID DON’T TOUCH HIM!!!!” I screamed.
He tried to flip me over but I pulled my leg from his grasp. I rolled over, quick to get to my feet.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Another said, “That thing just took half of us out!!!!”
“I don’t CARE!!!! None of you belong here! Leave…” I demanded. The two men began laughing as their friend got to his feet.
“Leave? We’re not welcome here? We’re on a mission…” The third horseman said. He had a black stallion and a large black sun hat. Not only that but he was considerably older than the other two men. He most likely was the leader.
“You Westerners don’t respect these lands… You take and take and take making it hard for us Illisians and have not a single care about what’s left in the wake,” I hissed, slowly turning to the the hunter that fired upon Rejon, “And you think I’m going to let you behead… my… stag??? I’ll kill you before that happens…” The hunter closed in, not backing down.
“Westerners?” One asked, with a chuckle.
“Boy, it’s nothing more than a worthless animal you’re defending but if you want to foolishly fight over it, then I’ll oblige you!” Rejon’s murderer responded.
“Worthless? WORTHLESS??? This stag is my way of life! He helps me hunt, cultivate the lands and eek out a living here! There is nothing worthless about that stag!” I said back.
“No one’s sympathetic about that damned creature! It’s vicious and killed many of us! It deserved….”
“THAT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!!!!!!! None of you should be here! Rejon knows this!!! How can you stand here, invaders to a land you don’t understand, and be upset when the land fights back? That’s such an entitled way of thinking! You don’t own anything!!!!” I interrupted, hoping this idiot understood what he had just done.
The horseman with the hat, stepped between me and the young hunter. He knew this would end bad if he didn’t step in.
“We’re just travelers!” The horseman intervened, placing his arm between me and the young hunter. He gave the young man a stern eye, “We don’t want any trouble…”
“Well that’s exactly what you got. My village is gonna come looking for the people that destroyed their only stag. The fact that you don’t belong here and your people have a long history of being destructive, you’re in serious shit…” I warned, returning to wrapping up the rest of the venison.
The three poachers looked at one another, their face lit up with worry.
“Really?” The third rider asked, not liking the way this sounded.
“I don’t lie. Just leave me to mourn with my stag…” I sighed.
“How about this…” The lead horseman began, “We take you with us! We won’t be in any danger if you suddenly disappear, don’t you think?” I stopped, having to look at this crazy man.
“Take me?” I asked.
“I like the sound of this…” The young huntsman said, this gleam in his eyes. I could never forget the way he looked at me. It had so much predatory intent… It was then I realized what these people were.
“Slavers…” I gasped. Then and there, the third rider rushed me, a big mistake… I planted my hands Bayan escort Ankara on the ground, pushing off with my legs. He ran into my feet, knocking himself to the ground. Still partially in a handstand, my feet curled over, planting on the ground. I stood up, the huntsman rushing to his friend’s rescue. He took his rifle off his back, wrapping it around my throat. He was attempting to choke me out.
This wouldn’t fly. I grabbed the gun in my hands, pushing off with my legs. My entire body was suspended in the air, the huntsman shifted off balance. As he fell, I curled over, ending up behind the boy. Now the one in leverage, I yanked on the barrel, sending the butt of the rifle into the boy’s face. It was a debilitating blow but still not enough to drop him. I yanked back again, and again. The young man finally fell to his knees. I threw his rifle in the tall grass.
He still wasn’t out yet. The tough boy grabbed my skinning blade, rising back up to face off with me again. I took the bow from around my waist, holding it by the lower limb.
“I’ll kill you all before I let you take me!” I snarled. Just then, the other rider rushed me from behind. I spun around, the upper limb of the bow careening into his head.
The huntsman rushed me, tackling me to the ground. The force was unreal, this man being an incredible combatant. He struggled for control over my body but I still had my hand on the bow. I swung it, knocking him off of me. I reached for an arrow, aiming at his throat.
“STOP!” The lead horseman demanded. His rifle was aimed directly at me. I did so, placing the bow on the ground. The huntsman got to his feet, looking at me in a complete rage.
I could never forget his face. His eyes were a powerful, piercing gold! They casted penetrating rays of heat. His skin was just as golden, almost radiantly so. But most of all was his hair. It was thick, and curly, draping down ominously over those ghastly eyes. God, he was upset…
“Devari, put your knife down, so we can settle this a more…civil way.” The lead horseman said calmly. Devari put the knife on the ground, that menacing look giving way to something more… perverted. I closed my eyes, knowing this was the start of something very grim.
“Just…” I started, “Don’t touch my stag…”
Devari smiled at me picking my knife up off the ground. He rushed over to Rejon, ready to kill him. I turned to watch this idiot start the end of his life.
“Devari…” The lead horseman warned. Devari looked on, saddened he couldn’t kill the stag. It was as though this boy wanted me to suffer.
Suddenly a blunt force to the back of my head knocked to the ground. I was knocked out cold. I woke up in a slaver caravan, unsure where I was. I looked around, desert everywhere! My hands and feet were shackled to the floor. On each side of me were other captured Illisans as well as people from the Nok Cape to the west. All looked terrified.
I looked at my shackles, to the chains bolted to the floor. I wrapped my legs around the chain, lifting up with all my might. Suddenly, the cocking of a gun froze me in my track. My eyes slowly began to look to the platform at the head of the caravan.
“Please, don’t do that…” Devari sighed. He simply sat there, watching over the slaves of this stretch.
“Where are we!” I demanded to know.
“We are…” Devari began, looking around, “In the northernmost stretch of the Zin desert, crossing the Sinai Peninsula into Eurasia…”
“Where are you taking me! TAKE ME BACK!!!!!!” I screamed. He simply smiled…
“I’d recommend you just shut up and sight see! It won’t exhaust you…” He said, “And don’t try to escape again. I will not hesitate to kill you…”
I was so confused! Sinai was over a thousand miles away from Illisia. How long was I out for? It was now the middle of the day, the desert sun beaming into the caravan. There were no turbans and robes to protect myself from the searing heat. I had been stripped down to only the braided tights I wore for riding Rejon.
Many days and night past, the Caravan stopping intermittently to provide the slaves with food and water. Soon, the deserts of the middle east transformed into sparse grassland. The grassland turned into rolling steppes with patches of canyon and desert. I was now several thousand miles away from home. Everything looked alien and foreign. The combination of rolling grassland and rolling sand dunes was just strange.
We were fast approaching a large stone perimeter one, that stretched for tens of miles. I knew exactly where this place was. It was the Oligarchies’ Ziggurats, a network of giant walled ziggurats ruled by a group of kings. We were in the southern Caucasus close to the Caspian sea. Considering we had only run into one giant ziggurat, we were most likely in the remnants of Azerbaijan. The only way I knew about this region was from reading about it in the news. It was a very corrupt place…
“AUDIT!!!!!” Someone screamed.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit…. FUCK!!!!!” Devari said, kicking the paneling of the door. He looked at me, those golden eyes showing nothing but frustration as he disappeared from the platform. I was a bit too delirious from dehydration and my head wound to truly understand what was happening.
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