Terror of the Northern Tribe.
(or "Big Surprises in Growing Packages")
By Joseph Connell
Disclaimer: I don't own anybody here with a name. RenPics does. This is fluff with a capital "F", but not the smutty kind. I'm writing to make myself (and you) laugh a little, not to try and make money. No xex or violence (unless you count nasty thoughts) here.
This follows a short while after my previous story "Big Surprises in Small Packages". You don't need to read that to understand this. Any child-rearing experience or a grasp of the stories of Melissa Good and Merwulf serves just as well. Let's leave it at that.
Onwards, ye poor doomed fools
The two Amazons moved through the forest like shadows. Both were experienced hunters, and so moved with such grace and calm not a branch or leaf was disturbed. Both knew that stealth was vital if they were to capture their prey without struggle. They and their sisters had been searching almost since sunup, setting out the instant the alarm had been raised upon finding the Princess missing. Each of them feared the worst in their hearts.
It didn't help that all of the village's borzoi wolfhounds were down, many victims of poor food preparation. Those that could even stand spent more time sneezing from their allergies than sniffing for the prey.
This prey they sought, watching from a perfectly concealed hiding place nearby, held back roaring laughter at the great caution with which the two carried themselves. Having evaded three other pairs so far, this game of hide-and-watch-and-hide-some-more had come very easy to play. And consequently was becoming more and more boring as the morning wore on.
Time, it was quickly decided, to make the game fun again.
Unaware of their peril, the hunters continued on, following the trail for another half candlemark. Both women were confident in the skills and so did not think to question its path. Because they thought themselves much more clever than their prey, both felt confident breaking the silence with almost inaudible whispers.
"I can't believe we're doing this!" hissed the younger of the pair.
"I can. This one is a regular menace!" The youth wrinkled her brow slightly. "Remember Korra, of the Vixen Get?" An affirmative nod. "How d'you think she got those two broken legs?"
"You're joking!" The Vixen Get were the elite scouts of the tribe, and Korra was a virtual legend among them until she had been laid up a few days back, that is. It had been said only the wind could ever keep pace with her speed when she set out, and that the land would give up its secrets to her as though given voice.
"I wish I were."
"Mother of us all." The youngster made a quick if elaborate sign, her elder frowning hard at such blatant superstition. "Preserve your daughters in the face of evil "
"Oh, hush! This isn't some demon we're looking for."
"No, that would be " Whatever she was about to say was silenced by quick sign from the elder. There was the sound of movement nearby. The younger one primed her crossbow, its bolt specially designed to carry a small net to entrap their prey. This was but one of the many clever innovations their tribe had created in recent months since the arrival of this 'menace'.
The elder one, wise enough to be suspicious by this point but too arrogant to even consider a possible trap, moved forward with the intent of flushing the prey into the open. The sounds were coming from a nearby clump of scrub. Nothing loud or immediately suspicious, just the rustle of the scrubbush and the leaves around it. Just the sort of noise a fun-loving bundle of trouble would cause if it were hiding. Hefting her staff, she gave quick hand signals to her companion to be ready, then turned her full attention to the brush.
Her steps were silent and carefully measured, quickly bringing her within touching distance of the foliage. For a single mad moment she considered jabbing her staff into the brush just to teach the little shit a lesson. Then she considered the Queen's reaction to this and decided she preferred having all her organs remain inside of her body.
Again the thick bushes shifted slightly. The wind carried the soft laughter now. Pursing her lips, the huntress leapt into the low bushes and felt around quickly for their prey, ignoring the many scratches and burns that resulted. This one was quicker than an eel in water, especially when trying to evade capture. The small discomfort that speed cost was more than enough to keep her personal honor intact. The Mother alone knew how much longer the warriors, scouts, and archers of the tribe could stand being made a laughing stock of by this tiny menace.
Which would have been all good and well, if said menace actually were hiding in the bush. All her frantic feeling about found nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Straightening, the elder looked back to her partner with a confused expression. The trail they had followed clearly led to that particular batch of brush. It had moved without aid of the wind. Everything pointed to it as the hiding place their prey had chosen. Yet it was empty of any life save the plant itself.
Suddenly the brush shook again, this time with the quiet whisper of something falling through the air and landing near her feet. Curious, the elder huntress waved her partner to stay back and bent down, feeling once more into the brush. She did so much more cautiously this time, an ugly suspicion forming in her mind. She quickly found what she expected: a small pebble.
Further investigation found more of these small stones, the largest of them barely reaching from a fingertip to the first knuckle. Each however were solid enough to disturb the tight-packed brush at her feet. More careful examination of the area found she was near a short incline that led down into a pond of brackish-looking water. A frog looked up at from its place on a lily pad, regarding her with a blank expression. The ground near the edge littered with seed cones and still more pebbles.
Straightening, she was about to signal to her partner when she made the fatal mis-step their prey had been expecting. The huntress had, as planned, totally missed the reason for all those round seed cones and pebbles that had been left there in such abundance.
Consequently, when she made to move away, it was no surprise she found her feet immediately begin to slip out from under her. She was too surprised to even call out as her footing completely gave way and she was sent tumbling head over tea-mug down the incline and into the pond below. The water proved deeper than it first appeared, covering her almost completely.
She blew out a mouthful of the dark water and looked back up, intending to yell out a warning to her younger partner, only to see her racing forward without seeing the trap that had been laid before her. "Look !" It was too late for even this half-warning as the young huntress promptly slipped and fell headlong into the pond herself. Her fall was barely controlled, causing her ultimately to impact, hard, with her partner.
Accompanying this was the tell-tale 'Sprong' of a crossbow bolt letting fly. Somehow the youngster had managed to retain hold of the weapon and keep it pointed away from them both. Unfortunately it was consequently pointed straight upwards. The bolt therefore went sailing directly upwards, the net contained within it opening and tailing close behind until it lost momentum and proceeded on its own descent. The pair barely had time to disentangle themselves before the net covered them both.
This was no ordinary net. Its weave was of a special lightweight silk taken from spider's webs, which allowed it to be loaded into the hollow shaft a crossbow bolt without adding too much to the weight. One side of it had been coated with a light coating of tree sap. The sap itself wasn't thick enough to actually stick to a body unless it foolishly attempted to thrash around in an effort to escape the net.
Which was exactly what the pair commenced attempting to do. This thrashing only succeeded in entangling them more and more. Which in turn led to more thrashing and the net become still more constricted and tight until, finally, neither could move more other than to shift slightly to the right or left. They had little choice but to sit there, glaring alternately at and away from one another, and listen to the quiet laughter both knew very well was directed at them. Both endured their soggy situation stoically, neither daring to say a word lest a fight ensue, or at least try to. Right then, neither in any position to even brush at the large frog who leapt over and settled on the lily pad that had, somehow, become stuck to the top of the elder's head. They could only sit there and wait for the sap to harden and thus become brittle enough to squirm out of.
Not that soggy buckskin and hide were all that easy to maneuver in the first place.
The flames of the Hunter's bonfires were like kindling fire compared to the fee-floating rage in their eyes right then. Which was how a certain recently-initiated member of the tribe found them a few counts later.
"YOU!" the elder fairly screamed at catching first sight of her. She attempted without success to free her arm enough to point the requisite accusatory finger her way. "This is all your fault, you .you !"
Xena simply stood there, letting the huntress sputter and squirm, wondering if she should laugh or simply walk away. She settled for giving the women a single raised eyebrow before sighing "Well, that's three."
The sight had become a rather familiar one that morning. She'd already come across two other search parties effectively neutralized by their shared objective. The first had been lured into an old hunter's hollow whose walls had proven too slick to climb out of. Fortunately the spikes that normally lined the floor and walls of such a trap had all been removed. The second team had it slightly worse, having followed a false trail that led directly into a thicket of low thorn bushes. Both women were certain to be spending the rest of the morning picking thorns out of their feet and tender areas, dreaming all the while of ambushing herself with blowguns.
Xena herself had been searching longer than anyone, absenting herself from their home and essentially running about the village like a wild goat since before sunup. She followed what she believed to be the genuine trail away from their hut into the forest, only to quickly find nearly two hands worth of false ones intersecting and bisecting and branching off from it. Frantic as she was, it took her some time before she realized several of the other trails were days old, and consequently given her opponent all the time needed to lay still more false trails.
Were she in a calmer mood, Xena might have let herself feel a good bit of pride at having taught this one so well. Too well, evidentially. Who would have thought an infant could take in so much before even being about to crawl, never mind walk?
Naturally talented as her prey clearly was, there was no substitute for experience. Xena was soon able to distinguish between false trails and the genuine article, not overly surprised at how the latter ended near one of the smaller trees near the pond. She had recognized the hallmarks of the trap the now water-logged pair had stumbled into with another trickle of pride, smiling to herself as she examined the ground about trunk of the young tree, finding seed cones in abundance there.
Xena continued on her way, allowing herself a small smile as she held one of the cones thoughtfully in her hand. There was the occasional 'thunk' to be heard as similar cones fell from the branches above. Stopping by the base of another tree, Xena glanced down before slowly turning about, taking in her surroundings with great interest. She simply stood there, in the open, waiting for the proper moment to act. Even the air went still in anticipation.
The moment came with the sound of yet another cone plummeting to the ground.
With its soft 'thud' upon the soil below, Xena reached for her Chakrum and flung it straight upwards. This was not a blind throw, appearances to the contrary. The circular blade cut through both air and the branch that was its target, doing so with complete ease. A high-pitched wailing suddenly filled the air that had nothing to do with the way the air whistled around the falling branch.
Xena was careful to step out of the path of the falling piece of tree and held her arms out, gratified when they were suddenly filled with the small if strong body of her prey.
Rather than let all that momentum go to waste, Xena tossed the small form back upwards and catching it again. This time by the ankles.
With one hand.
Enormous blue eyes met her own for a moment before they were once again fixed on the rough bark immediately beneath them. Xena could imagine the play of emotions that crossed the little one's face right then: panic, exhilaration, confusion, and perhaps a small trickle of fear. She doubted the little one had the least idea about how much trouble she had managed to cause. Never mind how much she was actually in.
Twisting around so she could look back up, the small, beautifully chubby face cried out in delight. "Again!"
Xena, eyes stormy and face set in stone, growled "No, Eve."
The child, being her mother's daughter, promptly fixed her captor with a perfect (if upside down) version of The Look. Xena was unfazed. "I said 'no'."
"Yes!" Eve met her mother's eyes head-on, not breaking the contact even when Xena shifted her right-side up so the blood would stop draining into her head. The child was large for her age and still growing. Xena realized she would soon be unable to hold her like this. It was as solid a blow her stomach as the one Eve herself landed a moment later. "Hate you!" the child spat as she flailed in her mother's hands. "Again!"
Xena grinned and let her daughter thrash uselessly until she had exhausted herself. Strong as she was, Eve was still very much a child, and soon could only hang there limp. Evidentially all this chasing about had taken more out of her than expected. The warrior found it impossible to remain angry with her looking so small and helpless.
Not that this would save her hide from getting turned a nice shade of red when she woke up; a most heartening thought.
Cradling her child close, Xena headed back to village beyond the forest, where warmth and love awaited them both.
End.(for now maybe )
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