Reaver’s Kiss: Chapter Two


“How did you miss that shot?” Yehan hissed.

I snarled.

I didn’t think I had missed it.

But the golden flank of the neika was quickly bounding out of sight, its nimble hooves darting through the dense brush of the jungle that pressed all around.

“I didn’t, I’m sure of it.”

“Well, it’s not here,” Laicer smirked from a nearby tree, adjusting the net slung over his shoulders that held our kills for the day.

I swung down from the branch above the game trail where I’d waited patiently all day long.

Maybe not that patiently.

And maybe it’d only been an hour, maybe less.

Still, long enough.

I bent down over the tracks then straightened, showing Yehan and Laicer the thick blue fluid smeared across my fingertips.

“I did not miss.”

“Well, the neika is long gone,” Laicer said. “And you don’t have your kill. Doesn’t seem to make a difference, does it?”

Yehan jumped down beside him.

“Come on, we have enough, let’s return to camp.”

Swishing my tail in irritation, I hung back.

“I’ll meet you there.” I finally decided. “I’m not leaving it to wander around injured.”

My companions left without arguing.

They didn’t need me to help take the day’s hunt, poor as it was, back to the village.

We had been out on the trails since sunrise, but the animals were scarce, their normal patterns disturbed.

They weren’t the only ones.

I’d been agitated all day, like an itch deep in my blood I couldn’t scratch.

A long run would soothe it.

Regaining my vantage point, I saw what direction the neika had gone.

Hooking the bow to the quiver slung over my back, I leapt from tree to tree, following the broken trail of branches below.

The neika was faster than I’d expected, running and dodging through the underbrush, despite its wound.

But it couldn’t run forever. 

The further I followed, the more certain that truth became. My prey was running toward the tip of the Horn. 

And while neika might be the fastest creature in the jungle, one thing was certain.

They couldn’t swim.

Right here, the land jutted out to sea from the coast, a rough triangle surrounded on all sides but one by water. Someone long ago had compared it to a lopped-off horn of one of the red warriors, the Vak’ki, and the name had stuck.

The neika would have to turn soon, or it’d trap itself.

Either way, I’d have it.

A rumbling moved through the jungle, a sound so low I felt it in my bones before I registered it.

The birds exploded from the trees in a cacophony of sound, every creature below me broke cover to run wildly in all directions, and still, the noise grew louder.


Instinctively, I lowered my body to cling to the branch, arms, legs and tail all wound tightly for support.

The ground bucked and shuddered below, the trees shook violently, a shower of leaves and branches raining down all around.

“No, no no no…”

There was no escaping it. My branch broke, and I plummeted through the air.

Twisting free, I jumped from tree to tree, desperately trying to gain height to get away from the center of the destruction.


Then something crashed into me, and all was dark.


When I woke, it felt like half the forest had fallen on me.

My head ached, and when I went to rub it, I realized my hand was trapped.

“This day doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” I grumbled, heaving at the tree trunk that lay across my chest, pinning my right arm and left leg

Other than my grunts, the jungle around me was silent, as if the chaos and commotion of the quake had sucked away every sound.

Hours later, I worked my way free, staggering to my feet and turning around, almost unable to comprehend the destruction around me.

Half the jungle had been flattened, entire trees picked up and tossed about like a giant had kicked them away as he stomped through, heedless of his path.

With a sinking feeling in my gut, I slid the strap holding my quiver and bow off from my shoulder.

Broken, every arrow, and a crack running through the stave of the bow that promised it’d snap in my hands the next time I pulled it.

My belt knife was unscathed, to be sure, but the signs were clear.

“This hunt is over.”

Slowly, I made my back towards the village, keeping a wary eye on the trees that still stood, not trusting them to bear my weight.

Staggering and dizzy, twice I had to stop and rest, only to wake to see the sun had moved.

Once the ground trembled under my feet and I crouched, waiting it out.

But no more trees fell, no more calamities stalked my path.

Until I tried to return from the Horn and saw the true destruction of the quake. The Horn had been snapped off like a branch from a tree, leaving a vast chasm separating me from the village.

I stared at it, blinking, my blurry vision doubling the problem.

The distance was more than twice as far as I could jump, even on days when I hadn’t been clobbered by a tree.

Peering over the edge, I considered climbing down, but the rocks still crumbling and crashing below put an end to that thought, and I wasn’t sure I could manage it right now anyway.

Sleep took me, and when I woke the dizziness was gone.

But from the stiffness in my limbs, I’d been unconsous for a day, maybe two or more.

Maybe it all had been a dream?

But when I returned to the edge of the broken earth, that hope was dashed.

“It won’t be the first night I’ve slept in the jungle,” I decided. “And I’m in no shape to figure it out now.”

Eat, sleep, and then in the morning light, I’d look for a tree long enough to span the gap, make some sort of rough bridge.

Reluctantly, I turned away from the mainland and went to survey the damage to my new domain.

The moons rose as I walked, and for a moment, I wondered how the village had fared before pushing the thought away.

I’d find out soon enough, and worrying without being able to do anything about it would do me no good.

Strong warriors and well-trained cubs, all of them.

They’d be capable enough to deal with whatever the quake had caused without my assistance.

My thoughts were still with them when I stumbled upon another trail, but this time of no creature I’d ever tracked. A long wide furrow in the earth, ridges at either side, plowing in an unnaturally straight line. 

I knelt to examine it more closely, mentally separating the wreckage from the quake from whatever had crashed through the jungle here. 

A row of saplings marching down the upturned earth, all close to the same height, gave me the clue I needed. Whatever had passed through had been months ago.

I couldn’t get home. Couldn’t help my brothers. 

But this was a mystery I could solve.

Carefully, I followed the trail, keeping to the shadows, keeping the furrow to my right as it led deeper into the Horn.

The trail stopped in a clearing.

And nothing was there.

Then I saw it, moonlight glinting on the slivers of metal not covered by a thick coat of fallen leaves.

Warily I approached it, a long tube with one end buried in the roots of an odil tree at the far side of the clearing.

The artifacts of the Makers were not to be handled lightly, their secrets passed down only to the elders of the clan.

But the closer I studied the cylinder, the more I became uncertain.

It was very much like the devices the Makers had used, and left behind when they’d disappeared.

But I’d never seen anything quite like this. Its lines were foreign to me, unfamiliar.

What was it doing out here?

Circling it, I noticed small colored lights flashing on one side. Green, yellow, blue, green, yellow, blue.

Then the pattern stopped, the panel turning solid green.

And with a hiss, the lid opened.

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