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The Hunt
Date: 8/17/14 10:18 pm
In Response To: VTHU: Writing Round 2 (Postmortem)

High Charity
Covenant Holy City
Cycle's End
23rd Age of Doubt

The High Prophet of Tolerance leaned into his hand, fingers pinching his frustration between his furrowed brows. The onyx slab of his personal bar was cold and hard under his elbow, but the subtle pain helped to ease his mind. It was not an uncommon cycle that found him retiring to his private chamber to partake in intoxicating beverages. In truth, there were few that ended any other way. What made this cycle unique was that he had seen fit - for some absurd reason it now seemed - to invite one of his underlings to partake of his evening libations. It was a rare cycle that saw the Prophet of Tolerance in need of company. He was very quickly remembering why.

"In truth," Tolerance interrupted the Vice Minister mid-sentence, "I find myself growing weary of this political talk, such as I have had to listen to all day in the Council Chambers. Would you please regale me with stories of another nature?"

The Vice Minister of Tranquility stirred in his seat, obviously uncomfortable with the notion he had been boring the High Prophet. Tolerance continued, "Tonight, I simply ask that you join me as a friend. I've enjoyed our discourse in the Council Chambers in between sessions. You have a tenacity to you that I respect. But please, no more politics."

The youth was clearly flustered. Rather than respond, he keyed a few commands into his gravity chair, floated back from the bar, gathered his robes up around his ankles, and inched his way off the device. The youth then walked - walked - behind the bar and grabbed an unopened bottle of pink liquid. He poured himself and the High Prophet each a glass.

"Subanian Ale," the Vice Minister explained, "if tonight is as you say, simply social, then the evening will call for some of the Sangheili's craftsmanship. The Sangheili digestive system is rather robust, as you know, so many of their alcohols are not compatible with the other races. However, this particular spirit is enriched with raw blamite from the subsurface of Suban; the mineral that allows our Needlers to differentiate enemies from allies. Without this substance, the firearms would not function. And," he produced a capsule containing small metallic cylinders, removing two and placing them each in front of a glass, "when combined with one of these pathfinders, the inert properties of the mineral can be coaxed to function in a similar fashion for digestion."

"You are boring me yet again," Tolerance admitted.

"What this means," Tranquility eased the glasses forward and began to walk back around the stone bar to his gravity chair, "is that Subanian Ale is one of only a handful of Sangheili liquors that can be enjoyed by our kind without crippling effects from poison." He sat back down and raised the glass in a toast. Tolerance did not pick up the glass, but instead eyed the small metal pill placed before him.

"It has been many cycles since I have used one."

"Pathfinder design has improved much in the last century. And if you have not partaken of Subanian Ale in your long lifespan, it is an experience well worth remembering." Tranquility picked up his pathfinder and placed it in the glass, still held in the air.

Tolerance removed a poison sifter from his own sleeve and passed it over the metal cylinder. The scan revealed all clear. WHY NOT, thought the High Prophet, It was companionship and drinks that I wanted tonight, might as well partake. My time for regrets has long since passed.

He placed the pathfinder in his own glass, raised it up, then tapped its base on the bar. Tranquility did the same. As the crystals rang, he took enough of a gulp to swallow the pathfinder and immediately set the glass down. The ringing stopped once it was stationary again.

The taste was not unpleasant... it had a faint hint of rosemary and some bitter fruit that Tolerance could not place. The alcohol seemed to fume up from the back of his throat into his nostrils... and even further still. The effect hit him far faster than he had anticipated from such a small sip, but it was already too late. He raised the glass again, eyeing it cautiously, and took another smaller sip. The effect was still near-instantaneous.

"Quite lovely," Tolerance said, "and you must forgive me, sometimes my temper gets the best of me. Now... tell me of the Sangheili. You speak so fondly of them, and yet I have had little interactions outside of the Council Chambers and my personal Honor Guard. Their culture does fascinate me."

"Are you aware of the Hunt?"

"Only vaguely."

"It's a wonderful ritual... ancient and barbaric. The slaughter of animals in recognition of military prestige. Sangheili shipmasters, upon receiving the title, must take leave of their station for a return trip to their home world. Once there, they fast for three days to heighten their senses, and then board a shuttle to the equatorial regions of the planet. There, it is hot and sunny all cycle, as the nutrient-rich soil allows vegetation to grow in such a capacity that it keeps the heat locked beneath its leaves even in their planet's winter. A perpetual summer of sweltering heat and mists, kept safe by their culture through the designation of many nature preserves.

This is where the Hunt takes place. Each preserve is historically centered around a single mountain, where a small band of hunters are dropped with nothing but water, spears, and fire starters. Their single-minded pursuit from then on is the tracking of this animal which each shipmaster wears as a cloak upon returning to the Covenant. As I hear it, it takes more than a day to descend into the valleys where this prey hides. If they're lucky, they can kill this beast - a form of overly large ape - before the second day concludes. If they're not, then survival becomes a more pressing concern."

"It sounds horribly cultural," Tolerance said the last word as a kind of curse, "I understand the need for ritual as much as the next San'Shyuum, but why not farm the creatures, make a ritual of the selection of one's cloak, and be done with it? It would save our military a vast amount of time not having to wait for shipmasters to assume their post."

"Yes, but the Sangheili are nothing without their culture, their honor. I have witnessed shipmasters return from the Hunt, still covered in the dried blood of their prey. There is a fierceness in the eyes of those who return from Sangheilios with their pelt. It is something entirely different than the mindless sporting hunts that the Jiralhanae undertake."

"Vice Minister," Tolerance leaned forward again, "there are some things about you that I shall never understand. Your time in the field has clearly led to the Sangheili's primitive sense of honor rubbing off on you some. Perhaps a tad too much, if I am to remain honest with you. A San'Shyuum with a career in politics and a promising future should not concern himself with these other cultures. So many races of the Covenant - we must remember - are still alien, even after so many centuries of cooperation. Our different kinds have come together in this glorious Covenant," Tolerance's eyes glazed over for a moment before he regained his thought and continued, "but there is still so much that is incompatible. Take care that the Sangheili's bestial nature does not push you to harm before you can accomplish more in your career."

"I suppose then, we can only remain fortunate that our kind has given a greater affinity towards physical safety and the more intellectual pursuits in life. The Sangheili have their rituals," Tranquility brightened and raised his ale as example, "and we have ours."


Archiod Ceremonial Preserve
Brekdaous Mountain Foothills
Day of Ascension
23rd Age of Doubt

Rek Cholamee crouched silently in the bush, a cool rain pattering on his hide. A bird cried in the nearby jungle canopy, but Rek could not identify the call. He worried that this might be a sign of weakness, of too much time spent away from his home world. Steam issued from his mouth with every breath, and he tried to hold his mandibles in the correct position to help regulate his oxygen intake. In spite of this, his pulse beat fast at the base of his skull. It was hard for him to remain calm on such an important day.

For three days, he and six others had been waiting silently in the jungle, listening to the thunder clouds slowly roll in overhead, promising to drown their hunt in more and more water. While the rain was good for their thirst, and meant not having to cut liquid from the surrounding roots and leaves, it did little to satiate their hunger. One member of their hunt had managed to trap a small pair of arboreal rodents, but they did not have enough substance on them for the entire pack of hunting Sangheili. Rek's stomach churned, sending another wave of heightened senses rushing through him.

Rek glanced to his left and struggled to make out the outline of his partner Fel in the tall bushes. It had been many cycles since the Covenant training camps when he had last witnessed one of his brothers so vulnerable. Fel was garbed in only loose-fitting strips of colo hide for camouflage, while Rek had chosen to go naked. If he were to connect with his ancestors on this most esteemed ceremony, he would hunt as they had once hunted.

A rustle in the tall grass ahead made Rek glance up quickly, his senses heightening with the promise of an end to their search. Something with a light-brown fur moved beyond the grass, still obscured by the intermittent foliage. Rek looked towards Fel. The larger Sangheili kept his eyes locked on their target, but made two signals with his left hand, then two with his right. Rek understood, and picked up his long wooden spear from the grass before advancing forward. With his pace, the jungle seemed to suddenly come alive with movement, as five more of his brothers hidden in more distant foliage revealed themselves from the mists of the forest. The seven shipmasters-to-be advanced without a sound, silent as a 'Tchik Tel stalking deer in the lowland prairies.

Rek, now closest to the beast, saw its head raise, alert to some stench that only it could detect. Rek held up a hand and the entire pack halted. It was not a Doarmir, but a small boar. The creature stared at Rek with small beady eyes, not comprehending the danger it was in, but fearful nonetheless. Its twin tusks curving from the back of its skull behind the eyes looked formidable, but Rek and his brothers had all honed their warrior's skills on creatures similar to this in their youth. The tusks would serve no purpose but to make eating the meat around the base of its neck more difficult. However, Rek thought to himself, together those might make wonderful climbing hooks.

In his moment of distracted thought, Rek failed to hear the breaking branch in the tree canopy directly above him, and was not alert to the danger until one of his brothers broke the silence with a shout, "DOARMIR!"

An even larger mass of fur slammed down directly on top of the boar, breaking its spine with an audible crack. Rek felt the ground shake at the impact, and crouched down to observe the beast's behavior before making any further moves. He flicked his eyes to the right and saw that his brothers were all doing the same, stunned to see a doarmir so large still occupying the tree canopy.

The doarmir was busy thrashing the neck of the dead boar, twisting its head viciously from side to side. Blood splattered on a tree to Rek's left, droplets audibly falling onto the large leaves covering the forest floor. Rek was impressed by the size of the ape. He had seen holo projections of doarmir before, but there was nothing quite like witnessing the beast in person. It stood nearly as tall as a Mgalekgolo in full armor, light brown fur bristling from the nape of its neck to the base of its massive clawed feet. Unique among the creatures of Sangheilios, the doarmir had two pairs of arms: one large pair for hunting, climbing, and foraging, and a smaller pair inset on the chest for mating and holding prey. Primarily a foraging creature, Rek was even more stunned to see this one eating anything other than carrion. And it was a large specimen.

The beast stopped and dropped the boar from its mouth. Although its back was turned to Rek, he could see its chest cavity swelling as it took massive breaths through its overly-large nostrils, breathing in the scent in the air. The scent of Sangheili.

The doarmir's head turned, and Rek could see blood coating the fur around its mouth in large clots. Where its face was dry, patches of its fur were still visibly darkened from past successful hunts. Rek was again taken aback. A doarmir that hunted frequently enough for the blood to discolor its fur. He and his brothers had stumbled upon a rather unique prey. And this particularly ferocious prey was staring straight at him.

Rek studied the beast carefully, wary of making any sudden movements that would provoke it to attack. The doarmir stood still, the only movement coming from its heavy breaths and the dark blood dripping from its maw. Its gaze remained locked, as if assessing whether Rek was a threat... or challenging him.

Rek could feel his scales tightening at the thought that this beast had some inclination of why he was here. It was as if some unspoken understanding had passed not between the two of them, but from the ancestors of this beast and his own forefathers down across the generations. He felt a connection then, to all Sangheili who had participated in the Hunt. To all shipmasters: past, present, and future. The spirits of his ancestors were there beside him, watching the beast that he would try to kill.

Rek heard a Sangheili to his right issue a loud yell, so loud it was almost a roar. The doarmir immediately looked in that direction, taking a cautious step back, and that's when Rek saw his moment. Blood racing, he hefted his spear and ran towards the beast. He was vaguely aware that his brothers were doing the same, all of them issuing the same throaty roar, all of them caught up in an ancient and primordial instinct that represented something larger than them. Here in the hunt, all Sangheili were united as one.

Rek slammed into the doarmir's fur, reaching up and thrusting his spear in deep at the base of the neck. Almost instantly, the creature turned, snapping the head of the spear off before Rek could bury it deeper. Realizing that it was outmatched, the ape had turned to retreat. One of Rek's brothers was slammed in the torso by the creature's trunk-like knee, breaking his ribs; he fell to the side, clutching his chest. Rek staggered backwards, avoiding the creature's mass, but immediately began to pursue once he regained his balance. His fellow warriors continued to cry out, taunting the beast, challenging it, as they pursued it through the jungles as a pack, keeping up with the creature only because its large mass was slowed down by the dense vegetation. Even as Rek's vision narrowed to focus entirely on the animal, he had to be careful of his footing on the slippery moss-covered rocks and roots that made up the forest floor. Rek could feel the moisture from the mist in the air pattering lightly against his face and mandibles as he ran after the doarmir, could feel the jagged edge of his broken spear in his right hand as the course wood bounced up and down. He sensed, more than he rationally understood, that the point where the spear had snapped would still make an excellent weapon, even without a stone spearhead.

The doarmir rushed ahead full speed, issuing a strange and unearthly cry. Rek could see sweat shaking off of the creature's fur. Then without warning, one of his brothers came rushing at the beast from the side, throwing the full weight of his body into a spear thrust at the creature's leg. The spear went straight in at the side of the knee, and both the doarmir and his fellow warrior collapsed into a pile of reptilian scales and mammalian fur. But the beast was not down yet, just halted temporarily. It flailed its limbs in the air, swiping out at each Sangheili that approached it with spear raised while it was vulnerable. Rek witnessed Fel taking a lash across the face from one of the doarmir's larger limbs, the claws leaving large marks under his left eye. One of the hunters managed to get a spear into the beast's side, under the ribcage, but the blow wasn't close enough to any major organs. The doarmir, aggravated even further by the pain, rolled over, crushing the two warriors that had impaled it. When it stood, one side of its coat was painted in the purple-colored gore of his brothers. Rek's blood ran cold. He had heard stories of the hunt, but never before had a doarmir of such tenacity been encountered, even in the legends told by past shipmasters. Two warriors were dead. The beast would not only make a fantastic trophy, but it had to pay for the dishonor it had done to the Sangheili and the Covenant by denying them two esteemed shipmasters.

"Fel!" He yelled at his brother, who was keeping the doarmir at a distance with a raised spear. When Fel looked his way, he raised his left hand and signed for the formation of a battle line. Fel nodded. Technically Fel outranked Rek, but during the Hunt and on the Day of Ascension, all Sangheili were equals. And Rek was taking charge of the situation.

While the creature's head was turned, he immediately dropped flat to the ground, making sure to keep his mandibles tight to avoid a mouthful of moss. He kept his head above the grass just enough to witness Fel directing the rest of the warriors into a rough semi-circle, taking turns jabbing the beast and pushing it backwards towards Rek's position. The Sangheili hunters made no delays in their aggressive push, and in a matter of seconds the doarmir was feet from Rek's location in the grass. When its rear leg stopped mere inches from crushing Rek's outstretched hand, he sprang up and jabbed the broken tip of his spear deep into the creature's back. It howled and whipped around, picking Rek up off the ground. Although the spear was light, it was sturdy enough to hold his weight as the animal thrashed. Grabbing hold of its fur, he quickly ascending its back to where the broken half of his spear still jutted from the nape of its neck. He grabbed ahold of it and put all of his force into his next movement, shoving the stone spearhead deep into the base of the creature's neck. Blood spurted out as an artery was cut, and the beast went down. Still struggling to hold on to life, Fel and the rest of the Sangheili quickly put the beast down for good with swift jabs from their spears. By the end, everyone was drenched in the creature's blood.

Later, as they sat admiring the beast and paying respects to its warrior spirit, Rek thought of his two brothers that had perished to bring the doarmir down. He knew then, that he would not wash out the blood from his portion of the coat, but wear it in honor of his brethren and their sacrifice. Although they would not go on to command their own ships in battle, they had ensured that this legendary creature would bestow its blessing on all that wore its hide. Rek leaned his head back, and looked up into the sky, feeling the rain picking up to wash away the mud and blood from his stained skin. He knew it was temporary relief and felt fortunate that soon he would have more blood on his hands, at the helm of his own battlecruiser.

Messages In This Thread

VTHU: Writing Round 2Postmortem8/3/14 2:27 pm
     Quick update on VTHU writing submissions.Postmortem8/11/14 8:07 pm
     With all apologiesdavidfuchs8/11/14 10:28 pm
           Re: With all apologiesZackDark8/12/14 3:44 am
           Very well done.Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316)8/12/14 6:48 am
     Collecting stories shortly!Postmortem8/17/14 8:31 pm
     The HuntPostmortem8/17/14 10:18 pm

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