Monday, January 18, 2010

The Archery Master's Children (7/?)

She made a strangled sound. If not for the snake she probably would have thrown a sandal at him.

S’toh retreated back to the crest of the hill. He quickly strung his bow and affixed the hunting quiver. Hopefully if he missed killing it the first time, the snake would be scared off without biting H’tsi in retaliation for its fear.

Slowly approaching H’tsi and the snake, S’toh nocked an arrow and slowly drew his bow. “Don’t move.”

She didn’t even blink.

S’toh released the arrow.

H’tsi took off like a hare up the hill, disappearing over the crest.

Sothi, who was actually fond of snakes, especially the price their skin fetched in trade and the soup the men made while on a hunt, jogged over. “Is it dead?”

Nodding, S’toh squatted beside the quivering body.

“That was a good shot.”

Grinning and prodding the body with the arrow that had killed it, S’toh shrugged.

Sothi roughly slapped his shoulder. “You know it was a good shot. Stop faking being modest.”

He turned and looked up at his sister. “It was good, wasn’t it?”

“Father will be very proud,” she said with a grin to match her brother’s. “I’m going back over the hill to get H’tsi and tell her that it’s dead.”

As soon as her brother nodded, Sothi took off up the road in search of her little sister. She didn’t think H’tsi had gone far. Despite all her big talk she was still only six years old, though her birthday would come at the end of the season.

H’tsi was standing just on the other side of the hill, right where it was still steep. She kept going up on her toes as if to see over the crest of the hill that way. When Sothi stood next to her she did it, too. “It does work! But you must not be able to see much.”

“Where’s the snake?”

Sothi shrugged. “I left S’toh on the other side before I could see what he was going to do with it. But probably he’ll wrap it in a broad leaf to keep it so we can take it back to the Archery Master.”

H’tsi shuddered.

“I’m sure he’ll cut the head off.”

H’tsi shot a look at her sister.

“What?” Sothi exclaimed in protest. “He can’t not take it, at least part of it.” She was hoping they could make the road stew with the meat. But she supposed that having it that night at home wouldn’t be so bad. The wild things that usually went into such a stew could be gotten by the watering hole where the protection of the road partially extended to the surrounding brush. It was all up to S’toh, however. He’d made the kill so he got to decide what to do with it.

Sothi glanced at H’tsi, then went back to peeking over the crest. “He can’t not take it to Father. It was a good shot,” she repeated.

Crossing her arms over her chest, H’tsi made a petulant sound. Sothi already knew she wouldn’t be happy, so she didn’t mention wanting the stew.

“Are you ready to go back over the hill?” She turned to H’tsi. “There’s still the watering hole to get to.”

H’tsi shook her head, twisting her whole body with the force of it. “What if there are more snakes?”

“They don’t travel in packs like grazers.” Sothi rolled her eyes. “Really, H’tsi, you probably know that better than I do.” Seeing her sister about to protest, she quickly added, “Besides there’s all three of us together now. I’m sure we’ll scare off any snakes that happen across the road.” Sothi didn’t point out that only non-dangerous snakes could cross. Sure they might get bitten if they startled one, but the worse that would happen was a little swelling, or a numb area, or maybe a rash. But although Sothi was stating the obvious, H’tsi didn’t look convinced.

“Would it make you feel better if I strung my bow, too?”


“You’ll have to carry some of the supplies.”


Sothi stared at her sister for a long moment. “Are you sure. It’s a—”

Both girls stopped and listened. The chirruping sound came again. S’toh was calling for them, wondering where they were.


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