Kai's long legs stretched as she ran, she felt the strong North wind on her face, and saw miles and miles of glorious open country before her. The clean fresh air, tinged with the scent of snow, the call of the ocean birds in the far distance, and the luminescent blue sky of the North felt like home.
They had been traveling for weeks now. After leaving her mother and the company that rode with them Kai, Bandit and her kapvik skirted the shores of a great lake. They passed thru miles of dark forest and high places. They journeyed across vast grasslands.
Kai had grown strong in their travels. Her shoulders broadened, her legs strengthened, and her coat grew in thick and warm. She felt her pulse quicken and her senses sharpen as the air grew colder and the plains widened.
The hunting was..... glorious. They freely pursued large herds of unknown herd animals, they caught enormous seabirds, and perhaps the most surprising of all - the sleek, limbless creatures that swam like fish but were rich with blubber and meat. Kai was dazzled by the array of game and the ease at which she and Bandit hunted together. Every hunt was a success and the next was even more magnificent then before.
Kai was eager to learn Bandit's hunting techniques and she hung on the older hunter's every word. They devised spectacular tactics and diversions to ensnare even the wiliest prey. Then later around a warm fire they toasted their victories and discussed their stratagems until deep into the night.
Traveling with Bandit was everything Kai could have ever hoped for – she shadowed Bandit and quickly learned the ways of the BearSlayers. The Princess thought she had learned all she needed to know from the older hunter. Until one day they happened upon the largest hoofed animal Kai had ever seen.
Unlike the deer and elk that Kai hunted in the Good Land, with their pointed antlers, this large beast had a kind of a scooped set of horns. They spread wide and were solid. They were like a large fan on each side of the enormous animal's head. Kai and Bandit looked down from the ridge where they were watching the animal.
“Wait here, Little Kai, and watch.” Said Bandit and then she was gone with several of her kapvik. Vait heere, Leettle Kai, and vatch... Kai loved Bandit's exotic voice and could listen to her all day...even if the older one still called her “Little Kai.”
Kai watched as the hunting party fanned out. After a time Bandit approached the great beast. Kai noticed that Bandit had waited until the wind was at her back...but why would she make such a mistake? Kai watched intently.
At first Bandit just circled the animal, then she leapt in snarling and snapping. The beast swung round his mighty head as if to bat away a fly. Bandit danced easily out of its way. But then she sprung again this time grabbing the beast by the hind leg. Enraged it howled and thrashed its huge, scooped antlers. To Kai's horror Bandit was sent sprawling backward yelping.
“Bandit” Cried Kai and jumping up from where she lay in hiding.
One of the kapvik grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and jerked her down again. He motioned with his eyes. Kai followed his gaze.
But all Kai saw was Bandit limping and whimpering as if to get away from the huge beast. Emboldened, the moose swung its massive antlers again. Bandit darted out of the way but she screamed again and this time was holding her leg at an awkward angle.
Kai had to get down there and save Bandit. This was too much – she would not lie still while her sworn sister was savaged by that giant beast. She was about to make a run for Bandit when she saw faint movement just behind the great prey. There! She saw it again and could barely make out three of the kapvik slowly making their way toward the beast.
Focused on the wounded Bandit the great moose was completely unaware of the death bringers just behind it. As one the kapvik hurled themselves onto the moose. Bandit too, suddenly healed of her “injuries” grabbed the wailing animal by the throat. And then it was over.
The kapvik beside Kai suddenly ran down the embankment and the Princess followed. By the time they got to the battle site the beast was utterly slain and the kapvik were feasting.
Kai found herself laughing as she ran. “Bandit! Bandit” She said, “I thought you were hurt. Truly. I was sure you were going to be killed!”
“Ah... my Little Kai. What am I always telling you? You must always look ahead. These moose are huge but they are not without weakness.” Bandit's jaws were red from the blood of the fresh kill.
“You give them a little victory and that is all they can see. That is your advantage, Little Kai. You don't always have to attack every enemy head on. Learn to look ahead. Use your opponent's weakness as your strength.”
The heady scent of blood and meat was making Kai's mouth water. She nodded her understanding but was looking past Bandit at the carcass.
Bandit stopped Kai before she started toward the feast. “Kai, you did not participate in this hunt. You may not join the victors. You must wait – you know that.”
Kai winced, feeling chided but then nodded again. “Of course. Please, Bandit, go ahead and eat. I'll wait here for you.” Kai sat down feeling foolish.
Bandit trotted back to the fresh kill, took a large piece of flesh from the neck and brought it to Kai. “Here Little Kai, you did well today. I was wondering if you would be able to hold your position. Good thing I left one of the kapvik with you.” Bandit raised an eyebrow and her blue eyes sparkled.
Kai flushed – the older hunter had seen! Bandit could see that Kai was ashamed.
“You are learning the old ways, Little Kai, but you must also learn to control yourself. You lack discipline and that is your lesson today. Listen to my teaching and trust the old ways. Now eat – a small snack for now? We'll make camp and I will tell you how I first learned this hunting strategy. You'd be surprised at how many prey will fall for a false retreat.”
Bandit smiled widely and the fresh snow-scented air blew thru her coat. Suddenly Bandit threw back her head and howled into the wind. Kai did the same, their voices singing the old song of glory. Behind them the kapvik continued their feast until the sun had nearly set.