Rolling plains of tall, drought-withered grass stretched out as far as he could see. Phatha hid in the shadow of a solitary tree near a shallow pit—once a pond, now dried, its bottom a puzzle of curling cracked mud tiles. His prey, a stray lashon bull and two mates, lumbered through the sea of brush creating a wake of rippling tan blades around them. He crouched low in a stalking position with his shadow-pelted pet, an omynx, and together they crept among the shadows toward the grazing beasts.
As they neared the game, Phatha muttered a quick prayer, “Ocenius, grant me success on this hunt. My family hungers and goes without.” Quicker than light, the advantage was granted. Phatha and his cat melted into pure darkness and resurged into being amidst the lashons.
Animal screams of pain swelled across the vacant fields and mingled with sounds of combat. Growls! Bellows! A flock of birds burst from brush to sky! Their blood pulsed to the parched earth quickly. The lashons fell dead—each by spear point; a precise thrust through the heart.
Lifeless, the lashons transformed before Phatha’s eyes! Beastly husk sloughed away to human form, and revelation washed over Phatha’s face. In horror, he searched for a quick escape home. His fear traveled faster.
A roar blasted across the landscape flattening the grasses to the soil as it rolled over them and buffeted Phatha, “Who dares slaughter my followers!”
In desperation, Phatha dove back into the shadows with his companion and reappeared under a shadowed overhang in a ravine. Awaiting him was a towering lashon, undoubtedly taller than the largest he had ever seen. The beast was snowy white with red-tipped antlers stretching high up to the sky. It stared at him, red eyes big as his head, fuming with malice.
“I will send you back to your god in pieces, hunter!”
Phatha dodged the giant animal’s lightning fast charge. Seeking his omynx, he saw it nowhere. Scrambling up rocks, Phatha dodged another charge from the creature. He found no escape. All dark places were gone, washed with light from the strange aura brightly illuminating the paragon hunting him.
“Please, Brasgol King of the Lashon, spare me! I did not know they were your followers!”
“Then you should have prayed for guidance—not mere success!”
Antlers impaled Phatha’s chest as he tried to flee again. A thick swell of blood spurted from his mouth and coated his jaw, neck, and chest.
Enduring painful heavy gasps, Phatha tried to explain, “I was… …just… …trying to…” Life, however, escaped his mortal shell.
The beast god tossed his head, dislodging the remains from his crown of antlers and casting it down to the bottom of the ravine.
At a distance from within the ravine, a shadow emerged—a large cat with a coat of purest black fur sporting a toothy grin on its face.
The dark cat addressed Brasgol with no reservation, “The whelp thought to trick me and hide his previous kills from my followers. Phatha should have known better than to be selfish. His family is my family which is the village not just his wife and spawn.” Sitting at leisure, Ocenius began to groom his translucent coat with his tongue.
“I see that I am doing your dirty work once again. Your whelp deserves a personal place in my hell for his crimes!” The giant bull eyed his rival god.
“Your followers are just as guilty. They brought this drought upon all of us. They are the ones who sought to bind the Leviathan, once hidden and all but forgotten in that tree over there! They are the ones that returned to the scene of the crime! Now there is famine and plague among both our tribes! With the salamander slavers in the area, I can spare no miracles for my tribe. For that, a bad situation has turned for the worse.”
“I agree, for the moment. Until this threat has passed, we must work together to spare our tribes.”
“Work together? Leaving each other alone is cooperation enough, I say. Thank you for killing that traitor. Now we are even. I will make sure no more of my followers stray into these lands—for now. Next year is a different matter entirely, Brasgol.” Ocenius turned from the lashon god, and, with a dismissive swish of his long black tail, vanished into darkness.
With a snort and paw of the ground, Brasgol replied in spite of his rival’s absence. “Next year may be a new hunt Ocenius, but I will not be the hunted.”
Written by Richard Leon