The bright rays of sunlight, seeping through the canopy of leaves above, gently warmed Lyra's skin as she crouched to examine the recent hoof prints in the mud, the vivid forest scents washing around her, among them was the fresh musk of deer. Beside her stood her tribe mates, bright and alert for prey, their bows readily at their sides. She stood and gave a brief nod, brushing back a stray golden piece hair behind her ear. With his own nod in response a man with square, dangerous looking features signaled for the third member of their party, a raven haired girl with almonds for eyes, to take the left. He had disappeared to the right, leaving Lyra alone in admis of a well traveled game trail.
The sun had begun to burn through her dark tank and onto her skin as she wove between the trees and brushes swift and silently, the others surely at the same pace some distance at her flanks. The light padding of her bare feet ceased as she ducked silently beneath some cover. Twenty yards from her was a small herd of two doe and one large buck, his antlers a royal eight point crown framing his scruffy head. To the right, scarcely visible is the man, but to the left, the girl is nowhere to be seen. Lyra raised her bow, taking aim at the antler crowned buck. She took a deep breath and time itself seemed to slow. Her awareness tightened on every tiny tweak needed in her form as she silently corrected herself. Her sights followed as the buck elegantly picked his way across the clearing, coming far too close to her hunting partner. The pure white ball of the buck's tal flew up just as she let the arrow fly, cutting his startled cry short. The does' ears and fluffy tails rose up in near sync, pausing for a long few seconds before turning to gallop off into the forest, but the hunter's arrows were too quick. Heavy bodies dropped with hard thuds near the buck's, just a seconds apart.
Lyra was the first of the hunters to step forward to claim her prey, followed by the girl and man, who cast her a praising half smile. But she halfheartedly attempted a smile back, moving on to give wordless thanks for the animal before sliding her buckhorn knife from her pouch and gutting the forest king, making careful sure take every last bone and tooth for use.
Lyra peered from the small wooden structure she called home, out into the evening light and mass of bodies around a large violent, auroral flame. Pape was among them, settled upon the pebbles smiling contently, watching the youth joke and tussle among themselves carelessly. As Lyra slipped from the threshold Pape's inquisitive eyes landed on her. Her once over hit Lyra hard. "Why aren't you among them?" She'd known Pape to ask relentlessly time after time when the young tribe mates were out. She was amongst them far more than Lyra, wanting so badly to draw her nearer. She flashed a coy half smile and broke her eyes away, managing to deviate from the hut, the fire and the jovial chaos. She wasn’t too fond of the clot of them, but she’d never specify this to Pape. Pape, Lyra’s beloved one and only mother figure, adored their energy and strength.
As her eyes were peeled away from them open light, they gradually adjusted to the blackness of night, the pale outlines of figures becoming more prominent, colorless but varying in detailed shades, as they would be but much more vibrant, in the daylight. As the clamor faded away Lyra found herself becoming absorbed in a different chorus of sounds. Brilliant round eyed birds of prey softly hooted above all as the frogs sung from the nearby trickling creek and crickets chirped noisily from the wind tousled grass. The cicada triumphed as the noisiest creature, but Lyra prefered it's ear busting buzz over the chatter and laughter of the tribe.
Before making it too far into the blackness, a warm glow caught her eye, springing forth a fragment of color to her vision. She drew closer to the glow and crouched beside a dying coals, brushing back the mossy covering used to conceal the smoker within the hollowed stump. Strips of her kill's flesh hangs above, drying in what's left of the little smoke being produced by the withering embers. Her fingers picked at a hanging undercooked strip tentatively as she reached for a new log with her free hand, reviving the flames.
A low gritty growl caused her head to snap up. On high alert her eyes scanned the dark forest for movement and she breathed the air more deeply, catching a whiff of rank wet fur. She moved with extreme caution, slowly rising to to meet the predator lusting for her smoking deer. As she cast a glanced over her shoulder, a large scruffy black bear, his fur damped by the creek, stopped his lumbering about, lifting his muzzle to taste the meat from afar, but that wouldn’t be enough for him.
Lyra hopelessly glanced at her venison, reluctant to abandon it for the bear to feast on. Pape would know if she foolishly lost a large portion of their winter food supply to the hungered beast standing before her. Lyra gritted her teeth in frustration, unsure of what she would do.
The bear impatiently huffed his firm warning before rising on to two thickly furred mits, his stature suddenly becoming stunningly trepidating. The tribe would come running to Lyra’s aid in seconds if she called, but this was her consequence for absent mindedly smoking the meat past dark. She would deter the voracious bear on her own, or have to resort to abandoning her precious venison. Lyra’s eyes flickered to those of the creature’s as she twisted her body to address the it’s company. The steady beating in her chest had since quickened when her ears caught the first growl, but panic was distant from her system. It had to be.
The bear’s eyes lit up as he dropped back to all fours with a hefty thump to the forest dirt. He bellowed another gritty growl, but Lyra’s confident exterior didn't waver.
“Go away”, Lyra growled, her eyes fiercely shooting daggers the best they could. “You’re not getting my food. You don’t look malnourished to me.” Lyra stated icily, pulling back her lips as a low growl rose from her throat. It was pathetic in comparison to the a bear’s bellowing roar, but it was some show of authority. “Shoo bear!” She snarled for it to be gone once more, her eyes frozen on black beady ones staring back at her.
An uncertain amount of time into their deathly cold staredown the bear caved and gravelly goaned, swinging his scruffy head to the side and began to plod off in search of a different food source. Lyra heaved a sigh after she was certain the bear had given up and quickly yanked the venison from the smoker. She had been incredibly lucky that the bear hadn’t been slightly more hungered. If he had, Lyra would have undoubtedly lost that standoff, and possibly more.
Back at the camp, Lyra weaved between the ragged huts and flameless fire pits with her venison packed away in a woven basket. The chatter had died down with the near withering flames of the center fire, where a few of the people from before sat and quietly conversed among themselves. The tribe was never all asleep at once, with someone always up working or keeping watch over the animals, but the majority had returned to their huts to rest their heads by now. As Lyra slipped inside her hut, she realized Pape wasn’t among that majority. Her eyes lifted from the coil basket half full of laundry she had been folding and her brows creased when she saw the meat in Lyra’s arms.
“It’s a bit late for smoking, don’t you think?” She warned gently.
Lyra bit her lip, having decided far before now that Pape wasn't to know about the Black Bear. “I know, but it took longer than I expected.” She set the basket on the ground before joining Pape to fold the last of the clothes, but Pape’s age withered hand rested on her’s.
“I can handle the rest of these dear. Go put up that food and get some rest. It’s late.” Pape commanded warmly. Lyra only nodded in response, moving the meat to the little store house beside the hut before returning to curl up in her bed of fur and wool next to Pape’s, where she lay already. “Goodnight Love.” Pape murmured as Lyra’s consciousness comfortably faded to blackness.