The Hunt

He could almost taste it.

 

It had been weeks now, slowly savoring the vitae of the animals that Kadir had brought him. It was the only thing that nurtured him, no matter what he tried. The meat of rodents or hares, cooked or otherwise, stuck in his throat, sickened him as never before. Roots or berries was worse, filling his nose and covering his tongue with the foul taste of rot. Only the blood slaked his thirst, Allah help him. This too was Allah's burden, a piece of the prize of serving Him still. A truly minute prize to pay for the Prophet's gift of continuance beyond Death. A chance to serve through eternity, Kadir had claimed. The thought both abhorred and intrigued Aziz still, never leaving his mind, even in dreams.

 

By the low moonlight they were hunting again. The prey still, yet panicked. He could feel its tiny heartbeats hammering close by. The gift of nightly clear sight helped a lot. It was something Aziz could not really rationalize and Kadir's explanation defied all logic. It could only be a further blessing from Allah, although what he had done to deserve it he could not say. The hare sat there, beneath the bush, ears close to its body but the nose taking in whatever it could to stay alive. It was way too late, Aziz knew. Somewhere out there in the dark, Kadir was watching. Whatever the outcome of his hunt, Kadir would return with the prey. Aziz would not live through another such humiliation again.

 

He tensed slowly, adopting what he had been taught. There was no honor in snaring a beast his Sire had told him up front. All that mattered was the hunt. And there was no greater hunt than pursuing and capturing your prey with your own hands. It had taken him the better part of two hours creeping this close. There were many hunting tactics, Aziz knew, but there was something spiritual, almost soulful, about the way Kadir spoke of the many intricates of the hunt. There was still many full layers of stalking and completing a kill that eluded Aziz. That much was clear. The slow, methodical way of hunting smaller prey was something he would soon control. He was sure of it. There had been times when he had, in fact, caught the prey with his bare hands already. Always with the element of surprise and something… …else; a sudden raw urge to catch the inferior thing, to smother it and drink it. The urge drowned out all else, made him focused, ravenous, a true predator. Kadir would smile strangely when he spoke of it, like the man could not decide between pride or pity.

 

He sprang from a crouch, well within striking distance. The hare darted forward instantly. Aziz anticipated this and shifted his weight to close the trap. Suddenly a cry split the night and the hunter's head snapped left. The urge was coming fast in his veins. And there was something in the air. Something unresistable. His right arm made a clumsy swipe after the hare, almost as an afterthought, as his weight shifted again and he was moving away, with intent. There was no need for the moon. His night sight was as clear as it had ever been. He lept forward, ever faster. Bushes and small gnarled trees rushed past. There was a clearness in his mind that was not his. Nothing mattered. Prey was near and there was blood, precious blood, on the air.

He burst into a hollow. The exuberance of the hunt sang to him now, a red fog that somehow made everything clearer. There was something huddled on the bank across the hollow. It whimpered and shuffled. A coterie of jackals were howling, or was that him? He barreled through the reeds at it. He pounced. His prey would fall. There was nothing but the kill now. He ripped at it, sank his teeth deep. The urge was everything. The urge to smother, rip, kill!

 

Then, through the sharpening fog, there it was. Close to him. The panicked gaze of a man. Aware of its imminent death, but unable to do anything to stop it. The soft whisper of a man's last fleeting plea to spare him. The wet sigh of air as the throat was chewed asunder and his life was over. But it did not stop there. The urge would not let it. Piece by utterly delicious and no less horrifying piece, he watched himself tear his victim apart, delirious with equal parts maddening satisfaction and soul crushing guilt. He fed.

 

This, is the hunt, came Kadir's coarse voice from across the hollow in the valley of Zul.

The Hunt

Through the Ages Opochidon