the ancient one, a wild hunt
Matu and Onu descended into the lush valley of a great river. It was wide and deep, fed full by smaller rivers such as where Onu killed the hare. It was a great river that fed great herds, and Matu imagined the promise of a large hunt. Onu would be of great help against such large prey, but Matu would take the lead, being the stronger and more experienced hunter. Onu was still young. Onu was still learning.
They followed the great river against its flow, traveling in the direction of its source. The history of the land rose on either side of them, drawn across the layers of soil and marked by the remains of trees long forgotten by the river as it burrowed further into the earth. They kept the sound of the moving water close as they wandered through the trees silently, eyes and ears ignoring the silence to focus for prey. They would go to the water at times and plunge their hands into its icy current and drink.
Where the river bent sharply, the land had been sculpted into a haunting maw of earth and rock overhanging a worn shore. Onu and Matu walked carefully along the stone shore, moving carefully to not slip into the deep dark current that swirled beside them.
The song of the river reverberated off the earthen walls and filled the world around them with an ancient hum. Another sound, too: a distant thunderous swell. Then louder, as if the earth itself was bounding towards them, followed by a more wild note: the pounding of hooves. Matu pulled Onu against the wall of the earthen bank and became as still as the rock. The ground shook as the herd reached them. The alarmed bellows of elk as they veered to try and avoid the abrupt edge. The pant and barking snap of a wolf. A thrashing storm of hooves and antlers and fangs raging above them. There was the wail of a calf as it lost its footing and collapsed off the riverbank and into the water.
Matu leapt into a wild chase. Her hand gripped her spear with the intensity of a coming kill. Then the wolves came. Four bounding down the bank and through the trees to where the calf fought the indifferent current patiently pulling. Matu halted her chase helplessly as the calf succeeded, dragging itself onto the shore as if presenting itself as offer to the wolves that flew out of the foliage and set upon their prey. The rest of the herd was gone, the thunderous clammer dissipated, leaving only the ambient thrum of the timeless river current and the broken bellow of a young calf amid the struggling and joyous growl of the hunt in its celebration of being. Matu and Onu knew better than to interfere with the desperate inertia of hunger and moved on. Turning away from the scene, her eyes caught movement; something slid from view back into the darkening woods.
Though she did not see its full form, the thing that moved filled her with a deep, clawing dread that echoed back into the wombs of her ancestors. A slender and long hand moving along a tree. A tall and reaching upright shape fading into the shadows. And something else, more sense than sight; a crude smile, and eyes as dark and boundless as the night sky.