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The Littlest Lynx (OOC commentary welcome)


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The string of the bow whined as the Seeker readied her arrow, squinted dual-colored eyes fixed on the profile of her target, the antelope bent over grazing upon some tall grass, thoroughly unaware of what was about to come next. At least, until that moment. The creak of the string had been enough. The creature lifted its head, cautious and alert, turning to look in the girl's direction. X'unmei flinched, dreading what would come next, and as her heart began to race even faster and her palms began to sweat. In her panic, her fingers slipped, accidentally sending the arrow cutting through the air and missing its mark, soaring over the creature's backside, though it did manage to skim over the flesh over the antelope's spine, producing a thin cut and causing the animal snort and buck before it fled in the opposite direction in terror.


Unmei grimaced, lowering her bow in time to hear a voice behind her hiss in the native tongue of the Lynx tribe, "Look what you did! You let it get away!" The teenage archer exhaled a sigh, turning to peer at the other huntress tightly clutching two daggers in her hands in anticipation of finishing off the prey that had escaped instead. "Uh. Sorry. I don't think I really like all this hunting stuff..."


"You don't have to like it," X'saja snapped. "You just to have to do it."


"That's what I mean," Unmei continued, ears drooping. "I don't think I'm very good at it, either. Can't I just stick to gathering? Fetching water, gathering berries, picking fruit... I-I like that stuff a lot more... I'm a lot better at it..."


"We need gatherers, certainly," Saja said curtly to the younger girl. "But we can't eat fucking berries for every meal. We need meat. Besides, you need to learn how to use that bow of yours not just for hunting, but also for defending the tribe and yourself. You need to pull your own weight. Now we probably don't even have time to down anything before dinner after this ruckus you've caused..."


Unmei parted her lips in hopes of mentioning that she was actually quite a good shot with her bow when the target wasn't a living thing, but she realized that argument probably wouldn't help her own cause and her jaw snapped shut, silencing herself before she began to make more of a fool of herself.


Her tail drooped behind her lifelessly in defeat and she finally turned to look at the other huntress who still eyed her with a sharp and criticizing gaze. "I... I'll just go look for some berries or vegetables or something. I'm sure I can fill a few baskets before dinner."


"Great," Saja began, tossing her hands up into the air in dismay, though Unmei had already purposely turned her back and didn't witness the display, making her way toward the small encampment the Lynx tribe called their home. "More berries! Why don't we just make you official berry gatherer of the tribe! Unmei, Queen of the Berries!" the young woman kept raving, but fortunately the shouting dulled into silence with the distance between as Unmei kept walking without a response.


She passed quietly through the village, purposely avoiding the gazes of her kinsmen. And it was quite easy to do. No one seemed to pay muck mind to the small, timid Seeker of the Sun. Tiny as she was, she couldn't have been that easy to miss, auburn hair and fair skin bright in the sunlight. It was as if the others purposely overlooked her. Though she did catch a few brief glances and accompanying frowns of either pity or disdain. She ignored them, quickly snatching up a couple empty baskets stacked together and returning to the forest, paying mind to make sure she went in the opposite direction of where she had just left the ranting Saja.


She had decided on the path of archery for a reason. It wasn't long before those keen eyes found their new target: a bush ripe full of blood currants, branches heavily laden with the vibrant red berries. Her lips stretched into a smile and she knelt down in the underbrush, carefully plucking the berries from the bush one by one and adding them to her basket. She'd pick enough of them that the whole tribe would have their fill of them at dinner this evening! But what did her tribe ever do for her but pressure her and expect her to serve them? Stubbornly squaring her jaw, she had a different idea. Sure, she would pull her own weight--and her own weight alone. She wouldn't return for dinner tonight. These berries would be her own dinner. She wouldn't rely on anyone else, and she wouldn't let anyone else rely on her.


Rather than into the basket, she popped the next berry into her mouth, cringing a bit at the tart taste, childlike features scrunching up. She ate the next one, and the next one, and the next one... she wasn't entirely sure how many berries she ended up eating, but at some point her stomach began to churn. She wasn't sure if she was actually full, or just tired of berries. Maybe Saja was right. Maybe they couldn't eat berries for every meal. She collected a few more berries for her basket for good measure before she stood, her fingertips and lips stained red from the juices.


She peered around the dense woods at a loss. She didn't want to return to the village just yet. What to do instead? She opted for aimless wandering, and it wasn't long before a small patch of flowers caught her eye. She smiled cheerily, plopping down upon the ground and plucking some of the blossoms, knitting them together by the stems. She formed a small crown for herself from the blooms, carefully resting the ring of flowers atop her messy mane of hair, right around her ears. No sooner than she had coronated herself, she heard a snap of a twig and quickly glanced up, expecting to see someone from her tribe here to receive and reprimand her.


It was not a Miqo'te at all, and she squinted to discern the form through the trees and weeds. An antelope... one with a thin line of blood vibrant along its hide. Her teeth clamped down upon her lower lip, a pang of guilt in her chest... but also a small thrill of excitement. It was once again thoroughly unaware of her presence. She could make up for her failing earlier in the day. She could kill it, and drag it back to the camp herself. Surely then her tribe couldn't complain about her returning so late. She wouldn't have to go back empty-handed save for a basket of berries. Silently, she drew her bow from her back and then reached toward her quiver. However, she hadn't even managed to grasp an arrow before she watched the antelope settle down onto the grass with a huff, lounging and resting, and she broke out and into a cold sweat and her heart sank in dread. She couldn't. She couldn't do it.


Dejectedly, she returned her bow to her back and gave up. However, something in her urged her closer to the creature. She approached it with a carefully measured silence, not wanting to alarm the creature but also wanting to make it clear she had no intent to sneak upon it to pounce. The antelope shifted its dark eyes upon her and froze, stiffening.


"There there," she cooed softly, slowly lifting one hand, arm outstretched, palm downward and fingertips reaching toward the creature. "I don't want to hurt you," she reassured, honeyed words barely above a whisper. With painstaking slowness, she creeped closer, avoiding any sudden movements or sounds. The antelope looked highly skeptical of her, completely still and never once letting its wary eyes leave her form even to blink for more than half a second, but it didn't stand or run. 


At least, not until she stepped close enough to be within arm's reach of the animal. Then it gave an irate snort and made to stand, and Unmei froze and winced, then slowly retreated a half step. Once the antelope seemed to relax and perhaps forgive her for overstepping her bounds and her luck, slowly and silent, she settled down to sit upon her haunches. She sat the for some time, making not a single noise or movement, and with time the antelope began to warm up to her presence, visibly relaxing its taut muscles and even letting its eyes wander from her every now and then.


She eyed the slice along its backside, and she felt horrible. Surely it wasn't a fatal wound, not even an inhibiting one. But it probably stung. And what if it got infected? Perhaps if she could find some herbs she could make a salve, but by the time she managed that the creature would probably be long gone. But she did have the berries, she remembered. With slow and intentional movements, she reached for the baskets of berries, pulled out a handful, and carefully laid them out upon the ground between herself and the antelope.


It eyed her cautiously, and then the berries, and then her again. It repeated this motion for some time before it gave in, leaning forward and stretching out its neck to graze upon the berries. Unmei gave a pleased smile, and reached for another handful of berries to toss onto the ground. With the antelope occupied, steadily she outstretched a hand toward its snout. About half-way through the motion, the animal took notice and gave a jerk of its head and a derisive snort and Unmei froze, hand hovering in the air. After a moment of glaring at her, the antelope simply resumed eating. She gave it a moment to recover, and then dared to complete the motion, closing the rest of the distance. Closer... closer... finally, her fingertips brushed along the soft fur of the creature's muzzle. It blinked a few times, but didn't seem to mind the contact.


"Don't tell anyone about this," she whispered. "You have no idea how mad they'd be to see me befriending our food. They'd be roasting me over a pit."


The antelope either didn't find her comment humorous, or had an itch it wished for her to scratch. Either way, it shook its head, nuzzling its nose into her hand and eliciting a quiet giggle from the girl. She spent some time with the creature in silence, idly stroking the patch of soft fur between its eyes and nose. The antelope lingered with no complaints, at least until it seemed to realize she was out of a berries. Then, with a snort farewell, it stood and continued on its way with a crunch of leaves and sticks under its hooves.

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