Chapter 2: The First Hunt
First cracks appeared on the egg, a result of relentlessly scratching and bashing against the all encompassing dark walls.
The inhabitant of the egg struggled to leave the confines of the dark prison that held it as long as it has been awake, but so far it was unable to muster the power required to achieve freedom. As time passed, the physical strength of the small beast grew in proportion to its size and intelligence. Unlike the first time it had awoken, it was now curious to see the things that laid beyond the weakening shackles binding it here.
Even then, it improved only slightly above pure instinct, comparing it to the curiosity of an infant combined with the cunning of an apex predator would not be wrong.
A blinding light flooded the inner sanctum the eggshell represented, which couldn’t overpower the small hatchling, as its eyes have not opened, not quite ready to face what the world had to offer.
In the endeavour to break free, instinct demanding an escape, a small growl escaped its throat for the first time, the first trial to face, consequently the hardest to come until now.
The cracks grew wider and a wave of power washed through the openings of the aegis that protected the young life form up to this point. Terrified by the pure amount of the overpowering might, the scratching and cracking of the egg came to a halt, scaring the hatchling into silence, not knowing if a stronger predator would force its teeth through, following the trail of the overbearing piercing power, going beneath the protective scales covering the newborn.
Eat or get eaten was not something someone would teach you in the wilderness, nor could you learn it on your own. If someone had no natural instinct regarding this iron law, he or she probably would be very dead very soon.
Following this manifestation of power in the form of the probing skill from a strong hunter, the only course of action suggested itself to the victim: Hide until the hunter found a prey and then make a run for it.
For ten breaths it waited, no steel or teeth impacted the egg or pierced through it’s body, and readied itself for a sign that would stand for the opportunity it should take to escape. Fortunately it hatched before something could swallow the egg it grew in, or death might have claimed the new life before it could be born.
Fading from the egg, the energy from the earlier searching pulse dissipated, and the current situation presented itself as the best time to make a swift escape.
A final slam broke down the remaining shells, sending yet another flash of light on the shiny, scaled body, feeling the warm touch of the bright morning sun for the first time.
Despite experiencing mortal danger a second before, a strong surge of joy spread through every bone, every blood vessel, every scale and every fiber of the newly born child from exposure to the world for the first time.
Inhaling a cold gasp of air, the hatchling became aware of the slight breeze blowing over the edge of the nest, clashing against the remains of the eggshell, creating a hollow sound. The air contained a wealth of new information, the earth giving a heavy but profound fragrance, the small stream cutting into it, almost leaving a real trace of moisture in the small nose. The trees supplemented the scent the forest released, ranging from a harsh medicinal aromal to a flowery, syrupy aroma, which doubled combined with the aroma released by the actual flowers – as well as the sweet smell of another creature, slightly similar to its own fragrance, leaving a dissonance compared to itself. Aware of the relation, but unable to make a connection how the other presence it perceived differed from the tiny lizard. Behind the smell of a relative, there was a foreign one, drifting along the wind, weakened by the distance to the source. Neither a feral or wild stench, nor a forest aroma of a flower, plant or animal. The newborn lacked the experience to make a connection with a living creature, the small scaled animal needed more information on the situation. The next option to make another impression posed another sense – one not used so far in its whole life.
Pain shot through the head of the small one, followed by a myriad of colours. Opening its eyes for the first time, another world opened up, and a pair of slit pupils contracted and dilated to process the new stimulus. Vibrant green, a bit of brown and black, a blue seam, the red glow of heat, combined with information provided by the diverse scents, the world unveiled itself in front of its newest resident. And yet, the stimulus was not over. The details of everything in near proximity and great distance converged inside of its eyes and crystallized to a clear view from the large swaths of colour from before.
In close range to the newborn lizard, another smell roused its instinct, provoking it forward to satisfy its urges. Raw meat managed to dispel the fear of the unknown predator and its prey in the mind of the young one. The rest of the shell fragments forsaken, the lizard captured its first meal by gouging it’s tiny white teeth into a slab of muscle left in the nest. Its pearl white claws separated small mouth sized bites, spilling blood in the process. The ravenous hunter filled its stomach with raw nourishment, spreading a warm feeling of satisfaction inside.
After a large amount of fodder vanished, the fed creature flinched, startled by the other eggshells breaking apart, revealing the other small reptiles, mirroring the appearance of the first born.
A sleek build, small claws of pure white, scales covering the entire body, and hungry eyes, set upon the mountain of meat. Their respective colours were an earthen yellow, a pure azure and a deep emerald, differing from their first born sibling, who had a mix of colours. Dropping down on all four of their limbs, a rush started, to cover the small distance towards the rations left by the oldest. Dividing their remaining shares, three scenes repeated themselves, ripping and tearing at red muscle to split up mouthfuls of food, replenishing their energy to prepare the first major event happening in the life of the new pack, formed by their circumstances of birth.
Leadership was at stake, a fight for supremacy.
Cause for fighting to break out revealed itself in the form of the last bits and pieces of the edibles. Not much was left for them in the first place, and after everyone had a share, the final portion belonged to the one who could take it for himself – the strongest, the future leader of the pack.
Even when they just hatched, their respective strengths and attributes influenced the upcoming fight. Relying on their natural scale colour, the youngest three possessed one element each, the Water, Earth and Air attribute respectively. The eldest possessed the Fire attribute, as well as the darkness attribute, granting them different strengths and a temporary name responding to their colouring and element. A childish competition for food did not warrant a great fight, Little Flame strode over to the other three, a roguish glint sparkling in its eyes. Explosive speed belied the lazy stride as it ran to the other side of the nest, and sent a white claw straight towards Little Breeze, Little Terra and Little Stream.
Little Terra turtled inward, blocking the strike with its scales, embodying the defense of a boulder, and shielded the other two. The yellow lizard guarded them like an imposing knight, boasting the natural defense of thick scales akin to armored plates, warding off the blow and counterattacking with a claw strike of its own.
Very well aware of the following struggle, the black lizard assumed Little Terra wanted to take care of one threat first, before the struggle escalated – unfortunately the course of action differed from its predictions.
Exerting a little force Little Flame used a black and white claw to break through the thick scales of its sibling with a swiping attack, drawing blood and overcoming the strong defense of the protector. Breaking through the scales of Little Terra represented a win for Little Flame, and the first clash already removed a contender from the competition.
Wary by the assault, Little Stream and Little Breeze took a common side against the aggressor. Emphasizing on speed and evasion, Little Breeze shifted its bright blue limbs to the side, waiting for a moment to intervene in the conflict between the two siblings, securing an advantage.
Little Stream on the other hand had a tendency for trickery, preparing to parry a blow, and hoped to get a chance to counterattack.
Continuing with the charge Little Flame engaged Little Stream first, bringing the body of the blue lizard between itself and the third sibling. The low stance of Little Stream offered not much of an opportunity to strike, but Little Flame did not care for the low chances of a successful attack. Recklessly charging in, another swipe of the dark claw broke the stance of the waiting competitor. Not giving any chance to retaliate Little Flame drove another claw in, wounding the enemy slightly, the damage mitigated by the defensive bearing of Little Stream, incurring lighter damage than Little Terra with only a few scratches and a thin line of blood trickling between the scales. Satisfaction spread through Little Flame, a second win secured.
Left with only Little Breeze, the suspense from the small scuffle died down. The same mischievous glint from the start of the skirmish glowed brightly in Little Flame’s eyes, as they had similar speed, but one relied on explosive strength, while the other underlined evasion and fast, but weaker attacks.
Nevertheless, the matchup that held the least suspense had the longest duration, under the watchful eyes of the two defeated combatants. Chasing around the yellow flash, Little Flame grew impatient, almost catching the fleeting figure, yet still not able to hit a clear blow. The black lizard only chased it’s nimble sibling who evaded most of the heavy hits and warded off any faster and lighter hits.
In the end, the fight concluded in the expected situation. Unwilling to get injured by a superior opponent, Little Breeze backed off and conceded defeat, raising its head and bared the throat.
Joyful from winning the simple competition, Little Flame did not immediately consume the spoils of war, and growled in a low pitch towards the others, raising their attention and motioned them to follow.
The horned rabbit returned to the valley, scared away by the earlier clash between magicians, it gained enough courage to return the grazing session. Regrettably this did not mean that the rabbit was safe now, as the new leader of the pack caught a glimpse of their first hunt.
The lowest monster available in the first rank was the horned rabbit in question. From eating grass containing just the slightest hint of the energy all living beings want to acquire, it developed its horn as soon as it gained enough power, so it could hunt other small animals and devour their energy as well.
After it got chased away by the strong clash between terrifying enemies earlier on, the alluring smell of meat now lured it back in the direction of the original strife.
Devouring the corpse of the defeated may yield enough energy for the rabbit to gain another rank, increasing its survival chances and offensive power.
All creatures in this world yearned for eating anything containing natural or spiritual energy, meat that was rich in spirit gained flavour, and high ranked beast meat would sell for a high price in human kingdoms as a luxury, and even a low ranked herb would gain great effects if its spiritual energy cumulated and grew over a long period of time, even common weeds that grew in a mountain spring rich in spiritual energy would be a priceless cultivation treasure for mages of all ranks and highly coveted, but also protected by a formidable beast that would be drawn in by the precious spiritual location as well as other treasures more suited for a warrior beast that relied on the natural energy instead of spiritual energy.
Drawn in by the fragrance of blood and meat in the air, the horned rabbit didn’t even notice the gazes of the hunters setting on itself, hopping along the hillside and the stream. Little Flame and the pack had no experience how to hunt anything so far, they waited and crouched down in the nest until the prey closed in, peeking left and right, looking for possible dangers.
Taking the initiative to charge out, Little Flame led the others in the direction of the horned rabbit with an explosive charge, Little Terra lagging slightly behind, lacking the speed to keep with the burst of movement. Little Stream occupied third place, slightly behind Little Breeze who barely kept up with their leader, their builds suited to fast movements.
The hare turned around and dashed away, trying to avoid getting cornered by a bunch of predators, bolting deeper into the forest, up the hill and away from the stream. In a normal situation the horned rabbit would have never dared to make an escape in this direction, this was the territory of one of the strongest beasts in the area, but it was willing to take a chance for survival, if the ruler of the cave up ahead would charge and kill the pursuers instead it had a chance to make it out of this predicament.
Unexpectedly there was no presence in the cave left, the place desolate. As a result of the rabbit unconsciously slowing down when approaching the dominion of a strong monster, Little Flame caught up by chance and bit down on one of the rabbit’s legs. Sharp teeth penetrated deeply into the flesh and hit the bone, rooting it in place. Little Breeze and Little Stream weren’t slow either and went for the neck and body of the snared game. When Little Terra finally reached the others, the struggle was already over and it could only lower its head in shame for being too slow.
Little Flame divided the rabbit then, taking one of the legs for itself and ripped of the other legs too. It gave one to Little Breeze and one to Little Stream before turning towards the remaining hunter, who awaited punishment while looking down. Their leader ripped off the last remaining leg and paced over with a fierce glare and stopped right besides the scared reptile.
The glare changed to a devilish twinkle as Little Flame toppled Little Terra over and dropped the hind leg of the rabbit on top and went back to pick up its own meal. Everyone devoured their own portion of their first hunt, even if it didn’t taste as well as the supple feast back in the nest they started off from.
With the first hunt concluded, their little pack took notice of the small cave that opened up into the hill and headed in together.