Chapter 4: Hunter

Leliana stared intently on her quarry below a lofty branch in a tall tree.

He wished he could see what she were staring at. If it were a deer or a bunny or something harmless he could just drop her now. He had enough tranquilizers on him to put her to sleep for a week if he needed. The same thick underbrush keeping him hidden for now was a two-edged sword of sorts, keeping him from seeing anything ahead. If it were something dangerous, or even another hunter, he’d risk losing a big payday. That just wasn’t worth losing patience over.

Let’s see those bastards in town call him a coward when he stamped their face on a wanted. Nah, waste of money. It was a good fantasy to pass the time though, what the hells was taking so long for her to make her move. Rat hunkered down to wait from his vantage in the brush. The girl had been moving extremely slowly for about an hour now and had finally stopped; she was setting up for some action, whatever it was. The bag was tied around her shoulders and slung to the back while she’d readied a big knife and fidgeted with something else in a sleeve.

Finally, about damn time.

He flicked a spider off his face and started blowing some of the insects and creepy crawlies away so they wouldn’t bite him when he hopped out of hiding. His contact told him she was a trained spy and soldier. If he missed his shot, he needed the leeway to get out of there without being paralyzed by some inconsiderate insect.

She waved her arms in slow circles, probably testing for wind he’d imagine. No respite in this forsaken jungle girly. As if proving his point, a drop of sweat slid off his greasy hair into an eye, causing him to blink fiercely. He blew his hair back and it stuck to the sides of his drenched head again, though agitated several bites and made his cheek itch like crazy. Once he turned this one in he was going to buy a ticket to a nice, frigid city and buy a lifetime supply of meat. No bugs, no sweat, no rotten cabbages to throw. He allowed himself a small pity session as he rose to one knee and pulled a smooth tube from its place around his waist, flicking a switch to lock it into the blowgun configuration.

He readied a sleep dart.

A flick of her wrist caught his attention then, the silence dotted with the flicking of leaves against whatever she just did – tap tap taptap.

Thunk

A small throwing knife impaled itself almost to the hilt into the meat of his thigh. He almost sucked down the feathered dart at his lips in surprise, catching it against the back of his throat just in time. “AAAAH” He smashed his hands into his mouth to muffle his screams and yank the poisoned projectile out just in time to hear a blood stopping roar. His bones shook against the impact, his vision vibrating in his head and bile rising to his throat.

A pissed-off tiger bounded to the top of a fallen tree in front of him, jade green eyes locked onto him as it issued another challenge. The blood smeared all over its face told him it was probably eating, and cats are not one to share as far as he knew.

Rat’s lanky form leapt back in panic, instinctively shooting his dart into the face of the monstrous animal. He shrieked and bolted as it ran after him, weaving between small trees and pulling branches to swipe at the beast as it chased. The dart was dosed for a human, it was unlikely to put down a tiger – but if he were lucky, it would slow the thing down at least. He yanked a bead off the belt around his chest and bit down hard, dropping it onto the forest floor. The whining buzz and angry growls gave him an idea of how much time he could expect to buy with this trick, and bounded up into one of the trees he knew to be painfully poisonous.

Rat gasped as the spines dug into the exposed flesh of his hands, gritted his teeth and climbed about 10 meters to settle on a thick branch. He plucked serrated spikes out of his hand as blood spattered everywhere, then grabbed a vial of a green slime and spread it over his poor hands. The fiery pain of the cuts lessened immediately, though he knew he’d probably be sick for a week with how much poison he’d just taken.

That stupid, good for nothing worm-bait girl was going to pay for-

An enormous yelp brought him back to his senses, as the tiger had almost leapt to his own height but had been unprepared for the pain of the armored tree. Below, it ripped the barbs out of its paws, blood flowing freely. Pissed was an understatement at this point.

He pulled on some gloves after another coating of slime and flipped the switch on the blowgun again, returning it to the flaccid form it normally took. He cracked it into the air above the beast like a whip, yelling to add his voice to the cacophony. He really didn’t want to waste anything else just to frighten off a cat.

A few minutes of his one-man circus eventually persuaded the tiger that he wasn’t worth the effort, and its eyes sagged heavily as it departed with a final roar.

Rat sat in the tree for probably another half hour, waiting to give the venom time to get fully incorporated into the tiger. It would be fine in a day or two, and he should be back in town well before that. He drew a hissing breath as the tree’s venom finally overpowered his weak antivenom. The antwood was going to make his life hell for the next couple of days, but it wasn’t threatening enough to blow his supply of antidote. Hells forbid he had to kill another nest of snakes to make more.

He dropped gingerly from his perch, rammed himself face-first into the jungle floor, and wearily headed back to town. He needed a new plan.
______________________________
Leliana wiped a bloody knife on the fur of the elk she’d just de-legged and listened to roar of the tiger in the distance. That cracking was enough to tell her it was still harrying that creep she spotted tailing her a few hours ago, but it was best not to press her luck. She sheathed the blade and grimaced as the animal legs spread blood all over the inside of her bag. Ugh, that was going to suck to get out.

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Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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