Songs by the Hearth
Jeeko’s Excerpts – Jeeko’s First Hunt
“Are you ready, Jeeko?” The Hunt Leader asked.
Jeeko’s head snapped up from where he had been doing a final check on his equipment belt, and his face split into a nervous grin. “Yes, Kol.”
With that, the hunting party was off. Jeeko, traveling near the middle of the group, looked around at the members; they numbered eight, not counting himself, and he recognized them all but only knew the names of a few. Kol was the Huntsmaster; Bont was a reknowned Trapmaster. Zeem, near the back, was fairly well-known for the creation and application of medicine and curative mixtures. The others he had seen, but never heard of or met. They traveled mostly in silence, keeping an ear out for any trouble, until Kol decided to speak.
“Why do you want to be a Hunter, Jeeko?” He asked.
Jeeko started a bit at the sudden voice, but gently scratched his chin with one claw in a thoughtful gesture. “Only thing for me to do, really.”
Kol looked back curiously. “What do you mean?”
Jeeko thought about his answer for a few moments. “I just don’t see myself as a Builder, that’s all. When I think about the future, I always see myself as a Hunter. If life as a Builder is calling, I can’t hear it.”
Kol laughed heartily. “A very good answer, Jeeko.”
This exchange seemed to ease the atmosphere, and the rest of the journey passed with various bits of small talk between the members of the group, mostly about weapon preferences and the best places to strike various creatures. Finally, they arrived in a small clearing ringed with a thick cluster of trees. Kol turned to Jeeko.
“Do you know why we set up here?” He queried.
Jeeko looked around the clearing and above it. “The trees are thick. We can move past the trees with no difficulty; whatever we hunt can’t. Also, the trees have many branches together. Good place for archers.”
Kol merrily clapped Jeeko on the back. “Again, very good! With the right traps, we likely won’t even be in danger during the fight. Bont! Let’s start setting them up. Some Owlbear sounds delicious.”
The group began scurrying about the clearing, attending to a variety of tasks; the first of which was hooking up a system of ropes designed for quick escape into the trees. After that, the party began setting up an almost staggering array of traps, the first of which being an entire log trap, using a sharpened log that had been prepared the day before and left in the area. Halfway through helping set up a hooked net trap, a shiver went down Jeeko’s spine. He tried to shake it off, but noticed that he was not the only one who felt it. The entire hunting party had suddenly gone from a jubilant mood to seeming on edge. Kol turned to the group to say something at precisely the same time Jeeko saw a glint past the trees, drawing his attention to the eye that caused it. Jeeko’s blood turned to ice as he realized what the eye belonged to.
“DRAKE!” he yelled out, panic tinging his voice. The party reacted as one as a deep snarl erupted from the foliage, and heavy thuds rang out through the clearing. Jeeko hit his rope and zipped into the tree branches, hearing something gouge the wood just below him as he was pulled to safety. He looked down just in time to see the Drake take a bite out of the tree where he had been just a scant few moments before. He looked around to make sure the rest of the group was alright; his scan immediately revealed that one of the ropes did not pull its Kobold up right; it had stopped halfway, leaving the Hunter dangling well within range of the Drake’s teeth—a fact that the Drake itself soon became aware of. It began to move toward the helpless Kobold, ruffling its wings almost eagerly. Instead, a hail of arrows sunk into its back, causing it to rear back and roar in pain; but Jeeko knew it was only a matter of time before it put its wings to use, and followed them into the tree branches. He decided then and there that he easily the most expendable one in the group.
Jeeko whistled as loudly as he could, then pulled a container off of his belt and threw it with all his might. His whistle caught the attention of the Drake, and the container caught it full in the face, splattering a glue-like substance all over its eyes. Infuriated by its sudden lack of vision, the Drake began to rage, its deadly, venomous tail ripping great chunks out of the surrounding terrain. It began to flap its powerful wings, being peppered with arrows all the while, and Jeeko leapt from his safe place in the tree branches down to the forest floor. He thought he heard Kol yell something, but he couldn’t be sure; his heart was pounding in his ears, and he let out another whistle. He saw a glimpse of the previously helpless Kobold ignore his rope and scurry up his tree as quickly as possible, which was soon overshadowed by the Drake immediately pounding its way towards Jeeko’s whistle. Jeeko began to giggle; small, adrenaline-fueled giggles that ensured the Drake followed him. Jeeko darted for the treeline, easily making it before the lumbering, blinded dragonkin. As he dove into the foliage, he drew his blade and cut a rope, causing the log trap to trigger. It flew down from its hiding place among the branches of the clearing and drove itself heavily into the side of the charging Drake, pinning one wing to the beast’s great side, and forcing a deep, pained groan out of its maw. Jeeko darted back out of the trees, directly toward the fallen monster. He slid under the log, and ran up the side of the colossus as it struggled to right itself against the weight of the log. Jeeko dashed up the leg and jumped into the back, then went into an all-out sprint up the creature’s spine, ending it by driving his sword into the back of the Drake’s skull; he heard a loud screech as the blade met the skull and it gave way; the dragonkin let out an urk, shuddered, and collapsed to the ground, slain, its body twitching in the last throes of death. Jeeko panted for a few moments, then uncontrollable laughter bubbled to the surface, which was met with a hail of cheers from the treetops. The hunting party all dropped to the forest floor and converged on Jeeko and his kill. Jeeko hopped off the back of his accomplishment and was immediately met by Kol, a great grin on his face.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen heroics like that, Jeeko. Dekkin is alive because of your bravery and quick thinking. You get to eat the choicest pieces of Drake tonight,” He exulted.
Jeeko rubbed his arm, a little embarrassed. “Just did what I thought was right.”
“Right it was! And look, Jeeko; you even managed to spare both eyes! The Shamans will be thankful for this. It’s rare they get Drake eyes for their magic, and rarer still that they get an undamaged pair. Let’s get a team out here to help us move your kill back to the Den. You’re a hero tonight, Jeeko, and the Tribe’s newest Hunter. "
Jeeko’s heart filled with a warmth he never knew it was capable of.