The following piece was inspired by the immortal Conan-the-Barbarian.
When the Sun only began climbing up high into the sky and grass was wet from the dew, but near the ground twilight reigned, two hunters made their way through the jungle.
Greenery tightly hugged the path of people and animals. At times the faces of hunters were poked by a branch or a falling leaf of giant trees. Packs of gnats circled nearby, but didn't stick to the mountaineers rubbed with a smelly grass.
"Look, Zivber. This is your prey, don't let it go, boy! More tender than antelope, more beautiful than a lion in mid-jump! Herself she is defenseless, but dangerous in a different way. You are sixteen, but you'll be just a pitiful Antash if you let her go. Men won't consider you equal, your Father will be ashamed of you. The clan needs a new warrior, not an Antash."
The jungle ended, and the hunters froze, cautiously moving aside branches of the thicket. Ahead sparkled in the Sun a lake, surrounded by growth of tall yellow grass.
"From here on you are on your own. Come back a man, with prey."
The hunter that was older, with a scar from a knife strike on his cheek, turned around laughing to give the youth a friendly shove in the back, but a moment later disappeared in the coolness of the giant trees. Here his role ended. From here on the youth had to manage on his own and he already was eager to show his gutsiness.
He awaited his sixteen birthday with impatience. His childhood-without-any-rights passed, now he will become an adult member of the clan and real life will start. Nobody will dare call him an Antash. And for that goal, he had to show his quality.
His entire being was focused on not being noticed. Hearing, sight, smell grew sharper, and in addition he gained a sense of danger. Like a tiger, he sneaked to the shore of the lake without giving himself away. Not a single blade of grass moved, but if it did, anyone watching would think it was because of the wind.
Zibver didn't carry traps or a bow, or spear. All he carried was a trusted knife in a leather sheath, a leather bag, and a rope: a real mountaneer needed nothing more for success. He wore deerskin trousers.
The lake could have crocodiles, but that wasn't reason enough to stay away. His brown back dipped into transparent water and he began to swim. Slowly saving energy he swam underwater frog-style, coming up only for air.
Careless, weak inhabitants of the plains did not notice him approach. Like a crocodile hunting an antelope, the hunter valued the element of surprise.
Zibver took a close look at the girls washing cloth in the lake. Some of them bathed without taking off their clothes; some filled large jars with water that they carried on top of their heads. He could hear women laughing. Which one of them should he choose?
A girl with hair burnt fair by the sun attracted his attention. The bottom of her skirt was rolled up opening to the onlookers eyes the whiteness of strong woman's legs. A boat was tied to the pier.
The hunter filled his lungs with air and imitated a lion's roar. The thought of the ferocious animal somewhere nearby created a panic. Now the women screamed as they ran towards where warriors with spears and bows were for protection against the king of animals.
Zibver with fast motions swam to the pier, pulled himself up, caught the blond and took her to the ground. He put his leather bag over her head and deftly tied her hands behind her back with a knot, forcing her to follow him to the boat. With powerful rowing motions he sent the boat to cut through the waves. The girl screamed, but sat still.
His luck gave out when the shore was within a few strokes of the oar — an arrow whistles through the air and struck him in the the shoulder.
He screamed, but immediately broke off the arrow and pulled it out of the wound. The nose of the boat hit the shore. Zibver grabbed the girl by the elbow and together they ran to the saving jungle.
Despite a bleeding wound they spent a couple of hours getting deeper into the jungle. Finally, when the hunter decided that there was no longer a danger they were being followed they turned from the path into a ravine which has overgrown a prickly grass on the bottom of which the stream ran. The hunter untied the prisoner's hands and fell unconscious from the loss of blood.
Anya took the leather bag off her head and rubbed her hands numb from the rope. Her captor, one of those damned highland-barbarians, helplessly lay on the ground. One of her city's brave archers wounded him in the shoulder. Perhaps he was dead from blood loss. When the lion roared, she turned to run. That's when she, uncomprehending what was going on, was captured, a leather bag over her head, her hands tied behind her back, and was forced into a boat. Later, they walked and walked and he wouldn't let her stop. How could this happen to her?
She wasn't a big sinner, listened to her parents, ahead of her was an enamored groom, familiar life within the city where she was born. A horrific twist of fate.
However, right now he was lying face-down, the bleeding slowed down by the plants he applied to his wound. But her hands were free.
Should she run or kill him with his own knife?
She dared to step closer to her captors body. She took the knife from his hand. Only then did she notice that he was probably no older than her. He had a young, handsome face. Manly, too. She liked muscles on his body. He was in good shape.
She pressed the blade of the knife into his neck. He had no chance like this.
"Please… I want to live..." he muttered. She nearly dropped the knife, but steeled her nerve and drew a blood drop from his neck.
Before her was an enemy, perhaps wounded, but dangerous and devious.
She would have time to kill him later, so long as she had the knife. Right now he was defenseless and in pain. Her religion taught compassion.
She didn't have to kill him though. She could just leave him to die, if that was his fate. If she didn't have the nerve to kill him, then that's what she would do. The girl was too tired physically and mentally to run, so she walked at a slow pace until she found a path, and, hopefully it would lead her to her people and safety.
The girl did not know the jungle, unknown trees mysteriously hung their branches low right above her head, camouflaging the sky and the twilight near the ground terrified her. This jungle was full of life, but that life wasn't tame. The birds and the monkeys lived here, but they showed no interest in the human. She wished to be back home. She did not go far when she heard a wolf howl. The howl was coming from further up the path.
Involuntarily her feet carried her right back to the stream where the wounded enemy boy lay.
Following her from the trees, came a growling wolf with brown fur the size of a large dog.
Misfortunes fell on the poor girl one after another.
In that moment her captor stood up, brought back from delirium by the growl of the wolf.
Anya threw her knife at him and the knife pierced the animal's ribs. But when the wounded wolf launched on the girl's throat, her enemy, that boy, leaped in-between them. Anya froze when a living ball of human and wolf rolled down the slope and the knife of the highlander came up and down into the wolf's flesh. Finally the ball stopped rolling, the wolf whimpered one last time and grew silent. The boy rolled over on his back breathing hard and looking up to the tree tops.
She realized that he saved her life.
"Water," the wounded has hoarsely cried out. He could only be addressing her, but Anya didn't move.
“Water,“ hoarsely demanded the wounded. He pronounced words differently from the denizens of the plains and words coming out were from a dry throat.
He stole her against her will, but he also saved her life — he couldn't be a complete villain. He is brave, perhaps he will respond to kindness with kindness. The girl couldn't deny him water.
She went down to the stream and filled the leather bag which was so unceremoniously placed on top of her head not too long ago. She brought him water to drink.
His arm and side were covered in dried up blood, but the bleeding practically stopped, after Anya applied some herbs to his wounds. She ripped a length of material from her dress and made a make-shift bandage. He attentively looked at the girl's face as she did that, making her blush.
Later he said something, with his weird pronunciation, but she understood anyway:
"I am Zibver. What is your name?"
"Anya. My name is Anya."
"You'll become my wife and we'll live in the mountains, in my village. It's very beautiful and the air is fresh, so unlike here."
"You are low-down scoundrel. A barbarian without honor who lives off what he can steal from civilized people. Your people wear hides because they don't know cotton. How dare you capture me! I don't want to be a wife of someone like you!"
Zibver was surprised by her answer, but quickly regained his confidence.
"I am a brave warrior and you are a young woman, that's why I captured you. This is natural, it's the way it's supposed to be. The denizens of the planes are cowardly and stupid like sheep, that's why we steal their women."
“I hate you!“ said Anya. He looked away.
Zibver had lost a lot of blood. Anya thought that perhaps he will die during the chilling night, or perhaps they will both die from the cold. However, Zibver didn't plan on dying. Before the day came, he built a fire and roasted wolf meat, which Anya thought was inedible. Then they ate meat from twigs.
"You are not a bad cook. Maybe you should let me bring you home as a trophy", giggled Anya.
"Your kind would have me dead," replied Zibver.
Zibver didn't try to tie her up again, but she didn't dare or want to run away.
She went swimming, taking off her clothes and tossing them on the shore as she entered the stream. The water was cool and clean. She splashed in the cold stream, happy as a child to be alive.
The barbarian didn't even try to peek, as he was sleeping off his injuries. Maintaining the fire was all he could do. He was very surprised when Anya walked out of the stream without an inch of clothes on her. She got dressed as she walked towards him.
“Wish you could go in there and swim with me, don't you?“ she made a face.
Anya spent the day listening to the sounds of the jungle: yells of the monkey's, the hushed voices of the leaves and the running water in the stream. A second night came, as cold as the first — but this time they had fire and wolf meat.
Anya sat by the fire hugging her knees and shook from the cold. The fire only helped so much. Zibver came near her and sat down by her side.
“The nights in the jungle are cold, but there is an old way to get warm.“
He leaned his shoulder on her. Overcoming a momentary shyness she leaned against him too. Slowly within them both a different type of flame began to burn. And another fire was born, giving off a gentle and kind heat.
“So you want to return to your people?” asked Zibver, when they woke up.
The young woman looked into his shining eyes and asked: “Won’t you make me go with you?”
“If you follow this path you’ll return to the lake. I can’t force you – forcing is wrong. I understand that now.”
“But what about you? Will you make it to your highlands in your condition?”
“Don’t worry, I will even walk you to the lake. You won’t get lost.”
She shut him up with a kiss.
“I am asking about you – will you be alright?”
“So long as I don’t meet another wolf. Yes. Don’t fret.”
They said good bye to each other, but in their souls the fire in the night that they created burned long after.
influences and interesting pop culture references: Arthur Yudkevich tales science fiction fantasy tales stories free online Eragon Assasins Apprentice Ender's Game Writing excuses Star Wars Dune Mocking Jay Hunger Games Gladiator MythTold Tales Chronicles of Narnia Lord of the Rings Don Qujote de La Mancha Tongor Alisa Selezneva and Alice in Wonderland Gundam Wing characters plot
G Gundam Gundam seed destiny dragon ball z Stainless Steel Rat martial arts philosophy eldrith tales chekhov brandon sanderson mary robinnete cowal dan wellls howard taylor Harry Harrison Arthur C. Clark frank herbert Miyazaki Nausica of the Valley of the wind Metropolis Batman Beyond Princess Mononoke