Aliene was running harder than she had ever thought possible. Sucking in the warm air and exhaling with a hiss, she bolted across the open water. The water walk technique embedded in her body over the past decade was taxing to her magic. She spun around on one of her steps and balanced as she froze more of the area. The flush of heat rising over her bare legs soothing the ache in her muscles.
She scanned the dense foliage for any sign of movement, keeping her eyes moving while she pulled a bow from her shoulders. She loosely grasped the worn grip of her recurve bow, briefly admiring the light metal spine in the wood. It was almost older than she was, but strong enough to handle the magically-aided draw she put on it.
Nocking an arrow, she caught the scent of burned flesh filling the air, and a moment later her prey burst forth from the tree line. Aliene had lured the toridea towards the village so they wouldn’t have to carry it far. Now was her chance for the kill. The beast had taken a few arrows already, and its acidic saliva ran like a river. The great reptile outweighed three grown men and could glide through water silently when it wasn’t enraged.
This one, however, was enraged. Its gills flared and its eyes widened, staring down towards Aliene. She drew her arrow back, and the comforting sound of strain wood filled her ear over the trashing of the charging beast. In the space of a heartbeat, as the toridea’s front feet reached the height of its step, she released the arrow.
The long thin branch whistled as it sped through the space between prey and hunter. After years under the best marksman in the village, Aliene’s aim was nearly as good. In a spray of blood and saliva, the beast fell into a forward roll. With a second arrow loosed into the underbelly, the creature was finished, its few remaining breaths labored and wheezy.
“Good shot,” Hafwen called from the shoreline, a smirk cracking her stony face. She had raised and mentored Aliene for nearly two decades, all for the times Aliene would face tomorrow on her twentieth birthday.
The large wooden doors to the village opened, and a group of men walked out, nodding politely to Hafwen. As they approached Aliene, who was slogging through the river towards the shore, a few patted her shoulder and gave passing praise. Aliene looked over to Hafwen, who was shaking her head and pointing to her kill. After all this time, she hounded Aliene to keep up her basics and now wanted her to retrieve the arrows.
As she lowered her head and turned to her task, one of the younger men was still beside her
“Care for a lift?” His voice cracked a little, making Aliene smile as she accepted. He hoisted her upon his shoulder and continued to her kill. The men in Misten’s tribes were large mountains of honed muscle, their natural strength letting them maintain the villages. The men stayed at the village as defense. They also built and repaired the homes; a task made much easier by their ability to work in chest deep water.
The day’s hunt done, Aliene returned through the gates of the Aquar Equian tribe’s Village with Hafwen already gone.