Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rist, Part Two

(Continued from Part One)
Ristdex / Index Page

His pouches crammed with dangerous looking bits and pieces, Rist scampered back into the darker, dimmer portion of the tunnel, past the rows of completely-broken or half-functional orb-lamps and over the heaps and mounds of muddy debris and tangled vines. He listened to the sounds of the pigeons. He watched them intently. Picking out a likely target, a particularly dumb-looking fat one, he fitted a jagged shard of some heavy, metallic substance into his sling and with a snap sent the missile right into the midst of the flock. All around him the air burst into feathers, flapping wings and a cacophony of angry pigeons. They fluttered about the place then scattered out through various cracks, fissures or holes back into the safety of sunlight. All but one, that is. One fat, blue-gray pigeon lay still on the gritty floor of the tunnel. Unmoving. The jagged bit of metal protruding from its bloodied breast like some sort of glittery yet sinister child’s toy.

Rist giggled to himself and clapped in ecstasy as he climbed further down the jumbled rubbish and accumulated dirt to reach the spot where his still-warm meal awaited him. He removed the sharp-edged bit of oily-dark metal and replaced it in his special pouch – such a thing was definitely good luck and might bring him more pigeons so he treated it with all due reverence and respect. Then he grabbed the pigeon and ran along the loose gravel and impacted debris between him and the easier-to-climb section of the rubble before anyone or anything came along to investigate all the noise the pigeons had made.

He had been victorious. Nothing said success quite so well as fresh meat in the belly. Drooling as he ran, Rist climbed up the steep, dirt-caked steps back to the esplanade above. It was dangerous mucking about in the tunnels, especially the canal-tunnels. The spiders didn’t let anyone pass. They killed, poisoned or embalmed everything that came near their territory. Rist had been lucky to even find a spot where he could get close to one of the old canals without running into a webbed-over and spider-infested death-trap. Maybe something in the water had killed all the fish and the spiders had abandoned the spot as worthless. It was awfully close to the Empty Temple and most people avoided that place as if it were a spider-trap.

Most people, but not Rist.

He was clever. Where others blundered about and attracted attention, Rist was stealthy and careful not to draw attention to himself. Except when hunting pigeons. He still had no idea of how not to upset the entire flock when he finally managed to hit one with a lucky shot. One time, three summers ago, Rist had made a sort of net from various fibers, wire and some thin shoots plucked from one of the more tranquil, less carnivorous vines. He had almost caught a handful of pigeons with his first cast only to have the frightened birds drag the thing over the broken railing and into the webs of the spiders who quickly plucked the pigeons from out of his net and unceremoniously discarded it into the scummy water below.

Frustrated and hungry, Rist had fashioned a crude sling from what bits and pieces were left over from his net-making efforts. The sling worked much better than the net. Especially now that he had a lucky stone to use. Illiterate, ignorant and for all intents and purposes a savage dwelling amidst the ruins of a once great city-state he might be, but even Rist knew the fundamental principles of hunting magick as though it were some unbroken seam of buried intuition deep within his genes that extended back to the primordial lairs of the first predators or the caves of the first human hunters. Without words or any sort of creed, Rist knew without knowing how he knew that a stone that had brought down prey once could and probably would do so again. As long as he gave the stone proper thanks and didn’t lose it. For a moment he hesitated, wondering how best to show gratitude to the spirit of the metal fragment that had downed the pigeon.

Then he froze in his tracks.

Someone was watching him. He could feel it the way any small animal would feel the gaze of a hawk across its back. No one would eat a drijj, but a lot of things would kill one, especially to take any food it might have. There wasn’t much he could do to fight off anyone seriously interested in killing him or taking his prize. He was too small, too weak and only an occasional threat to pigeons with his tiny sling.

So he did what any small creature does in a similar situation. He dived into the nearest mass of fronds. Quickly and effortlessly Rist dug himself into a well concealed spot amid the feathery ferns and scraggly grasses that had taken root within all the cracks in the crumbling pavement of the esplanade. He dug himself in and went still, quiet and hyper-alert to wait out whatever it was that had taken notice of him.

To Be Continued...

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