|Brutus and Avianna - Chapter Three
Part One, Chapter Three
The humans from the caravan came back slowly, cautiously. The dreadful task of wrapping up the dead bodies had come. The ground here was too rocky to bury the dead here, the boulders and rocks too big to create a rock pile for the dead. They would have to wrap up the dead pieces and take them back to the town.
The caravan to the city had been cancelled. They would return to the town in defeat. The five ogres had made a true mess of things. The caravan trip had been a disaster, a bloody, gory massacre. The economics of the situation was also a ruin. The food would have to be returned to the town, before it spoiled. The lumber would have to wait until another caravan was ready to go south. The beer could just plain wait. No one felt like drinking right now.
Brutus himself felt guilty for leaving the caravan to water his horse. He knew he shouldn’t, because it had been a honest and basic thing to do. At the same time however, he knew that he could have made a big difference had he had been there to help when the battle had first started.
He had arrived late and went straight to the aid of the civilians, figuring the guards and highwaymen could take care of themselves. Five ogres had proved too much for the caravan guards however, and they seemed to have been poorly equipped to deal with such large numbers of ogres.
Caravan or no caravan however, Brutus was still determined to travel farther south. And apparently the elf was heading that way too. The people of the caravan had tried to convince Brutus and the elf to return to town with them, but both had declined. The elf claimed her work was here, in the woods, where she could guard the woods and safely escort people through it. She was a ranger.
Brutus found it difficult to concentrate on his own task when she was near. Her beauty was very distracting. His task, moving the ogres to the side of the road, really wasn’t that complicated, but whenever she was near he found himself pausing to catch his breath, take a break and enjoy the view.
The leather pants she wore fit her ass very tightly. It was extremely distracting.
Avianna tried to ignore the barbarian’s stares. She knew she was beautiful, perhaps even embarrassing so by human standards. She wasn’t used to this kind of attention. Still, she didn’t mind the attention the barbarian gave her. It had been a long time since she had been in the company of men (elf or otherwise), and the barbarian was certainly not ugly. He was rather ruggedly handsome, something she was not used to.
Elvish standards of beauty were idealistic, with straight flowing hair, high cheek bones, flawless skin, hairless and almost alien proportions. What was considered beautiful by elves would be considered alien by human standards. With respect to herself, Avianna was inclined to agree with the humans. Elves, in their intensity and search for some metaphysical perfection had perverted the very thing they were seeking. It wasn’t beautiful anymore, it was unreal, alien, more like an art piece than an actual face or figure.
By elvish standards Avianna wasn’t beautiful, very pretty perhaps, but she didn‘t possess the alien beauty that so many elves seemed to get excited over. She wasn’t even thin by elvish standards. She was strong, well muscled, a warrior with the body to match. Perhaps she had some human blood in her, she couldn’t be certain. By human standards however, she was apparently very distracting.
By barbarian standards, the extra muscles was probably considered a bonus too. She needed them for survival. No dainty elf would be able to survive in the wild like Avianna had. The skins that covered her front and back were from animals she had killed herself, skinned herself and ate all by her own. She was independent and free.
And now as the last of the wagons headed north over the hill, she was alone. Alone with this handsome barbarian, who obviously wanted her.
Part of her wanted to head back into the woods and go her own way. She could remain independent and free, the way she had been when she first left her family twenty years ago. The other part of her wanted companionship, someone to talk to during the long days and long nights. Someone who also loved the woods, the forests, the mountains and could appreciate them as she did. A small part of her wanted to grab the barbarian and thrust her body upon his, to satisfy her animal urges.
Brutus crossed his arms and stared back at her. Avianna hid a smile as she realized she was staring at him, trying to come to a decision. Finally she decided it wouldn’t hurt to spend some time with this barbarian. Eventually she could always go her own way if she wanted to. In the meantime, he looked like fun. “Well, shall we go?” she asked, turning her heels and marching south on the mountain path.
Brutus merely nodded and fell into step beside her, his booted footsteps were loud compared to her soft moccasins and made crunchy sounds on the plants and gravel. How did he hunt in those heavy things, she wondered. The deer would hear him coming a league away.
As if sensing her thoughts, he spoke: “How many leagues to the nearest town or city?”
“Ten I believe. I asked one of the merchants earlier.”
“Thirty miles,” mused Brutus. “We will have to stop and hunt. I don’t have enough food to take us that far, and I doubt either of us feel like eating nuts and berries all the way.” He took his bundle of belongings off his back and bent over, searching for something.
Avianna enjoyed the view. There was two nuts she wouldn’t mind chewing on, she thought to herself with a smile.
Brutus turned, holding a longbow and some arrows. He caught a bit of smile as it faded, but said nothing about it. He grinned like a little boy. “I am certainly not as good with a bow as you are,” he began slowly, showing respect for elvish archery. “But what I lack I make up with something else,” he said mysteriously. There was a twinkle in his eyes.
“An old woodsman trick?” Avianna queried, curious as to what the barbarian was referring to. She knew a fair bit of tricks herself, things she had taught herself over the last twenty years in the woods, without the benefit of a teacher. The barbarian came from generations of hunters, hundreds, thousands of years of hunting in the wild, with that knowledge passed down over the generations. Certainly one of his ancestors knew a trick or two that she had not learned herself.
Brutus tromped off the road, leading his horse and tossing his bundle of things behind an old craggy looking tree. A landmark so that he would remember where he had stashed them. He left the horse untied, so it could graze. Then he walked uphill, towards the ridge.
As he walked, Avianna followed and noted his actions. He only stepped on large rocks, and did so slowly, which removed the sound his large boots made. This was nothing new to Avianna, she had done the same thing in the past.
He paused at the top of the ridge, listening. Avianna could hear the sound of running water. They were only several hundred yards downstream from the waterfalls.
Down the other side of the ridge, he stepped from large rock to rock again, careful not to make any sound. She realized that even with moccasins, he was much too big to move quietly across leaves and branches. His weight would crush anything underfoot. Moccasins or boots, it did not matter. He had to move over the rocks to avoid making sound.
When they reached the river, he paused again, this time searching the ground. She spotted it too. Deer droppings. The deer came to the river to drink and left their droppings behind. She was a skilled tracker and knew this one as well.
Next he did something she totally did not expect. He stepped into the water and started walking downstream with the water halfway up to his knees. He could have walked on the rocks, but they were covered with slimy moss and would be quite slippery. The water rushed around his legs, making no more extra sound then the water normally made.
Now that was a trick Avianna had never thought of. Indeed, she wouldn’t think of it because getting her moccasins soaked like that would ruin them. She was tempted to follow by padding along the rocks, but was unsure if even her elvish reflexes were fast enough to catch her from falling off the slippery moss. She sighed and took off her moccasins, rolled up her pants to her knees and then waded into the cold mountain stream.
She followed him at a distance, wondering if he would show her any more tricks. It was also a satisfying view of the barbarian crouched slightly, his shapely ass towards her wearing nothing but leather and fur. She was tempted to step in behind him and run her hands over his body, beneath the layers of leather to touch the skin underneath. She wondered if he was hairy underneath all that leather and fur.
The barbarian stopped, crouched even more low and proceeded slowly.
Catching up to him, Avianna looked at where he was looking and saw his prey. A deer fawn, not even a year old yet was standing by the river a good eighty, perhaps a hundred feet away. Would he kill a mere fawn?
But Brutus had not even nocked the arrow on the string of the bow yet. He seemed to be waiting for something.
A doe stepped out from behind a tree and looked about, cautious. Satisfied that there was no danger, she lapped at the river.
Brutus still had not nocked the arrow.
Then a buck appeared, together with another fawn. The buck had a proud rack of antlers, something which should have stood out amongst the trees. Had Brutus seen them when Avianna’s elvish eyes had not?
Now he nocked the arrow, and he gently drew it back along the bow.
The fawns and the doe drank, while the buck kept watch. Its proud antlers seemed like antennas above an insect. Finally the doe and the fawns ceased drinking. The doe put her head up, alert for trouble. The two fawns raced across the river, playful and confident that they were safe. The forest and the underbrush were only steps away. They could be gone in an instant, safe in the underbrush of the forest.
To Avianna it seemed foolish to try and shoot a deer in this location. The deer had so many escape routes. They could be gone in a flash.
Finally the buck stepped closed to the stream and bent its head to drink.
Brutus pulled back the bow firmly and fired. The twang of the bow alerted the deer to their danger. The buck reared his head and took the arrow in the shoulder, just below the neck.
Brutus fired again, quickly. A second arrow pierced the buck’s side as it lurched across the river, desperate to escape the unknown danger. Before Avianna could realize what was happening, Brutus was thrashing through the water, running down the stream towards the buck, another arrow already nocked and ready.
The doe and the fawns had already fled, but the buck was floundering in the river, trying to reach the underbrush on the other side. If it reached the safety of the woods, it would be gone in its panic. There would be a trail of blood of course, but its speed guaranteed that it would have a head start and it would take time to track. It turned then, seeing its enemy in the river. Predators came from the forest, never the river. It hesitated for a moment, confused. A third arrow took it in the neck, ending its pain.
Brutus had felled a buck in only three arrows, no easy feat. Avianna was certain it would have taken her four or five arrows, for the male deer was notoriously tough and difficult to kill. Getting close enough to aim specifically at its neck was also difficult, because its senses were well attuned to the woods. But not the river. The sound of the river had masked Brutus’ approach and the buck had been expecting danger from the forest, not the river. A cougar or other predator never approached from the river, for they feared getting wet. The river had allowed Brutus to get close enough to get in devastatingly accurate shots.
Avianna never would have even attempted to kill a deer so close to the forest and the underbrush. A clearing perhaps, where she could get in four shots before it reached the forest. This location simply had too easy of an escape route. From land, she would have to shoot through trees and underbrush just to reach the buck. Had it bolted across the river, she would have lost it in the underbrush after only one shot. By shooting from the river, there was no trees or underbrush in the way in the first place. The first two shots were a given.
The first two shots were also meant to wound, to hamper the deer as it attempted to escape. It had been able to reach the edge of the forest, but it had been caught by its own curiosity. It had heard Brutus coming towards it from the river. It had turned to face its predator, and in that crucial moment Brutus had dealt the finishing blow.
It stunned Avianna as she realized that all three shots had been carefully planned in advance. In twenty years of hunting rabbits, deer and other game, she had always thought of the shot at hand, never two or three shots in advance.
Also there was the morality of it. By elvish standards, killing your prey in one shot was the goal, like she had done so with the ogres. The idea was to give the creature a quick and easy death, with as little pain as possible.
Killing a buck with one shot was possible, but incredibly unlikely. When it did happen, it was more often luck than skill. Even the most experienced hunters needed several shots. So the buck was undoubtedly going to be in pain regardless. By planning out his shots carefully Brutus had intentionally inflicted pain on the first two shots in order to maim the buck, but had ended that pain quickly with the third shot.
Brutus and Avianna stood above the felled deer. It was a huge buck, it would take both of them to carry it, and even then she wasn’t sure if they could do it. She looked at him, guessing his age to only be about nineteen or twenty. She had lived in the forests and mountains for twenty years and had never felled a buck in three shots.
Prior to that she had lived in an elvish city of Quoron, to the east. On her one hundredth birthday she had left the city to become a ranger, learning the ways of the forests and the mountains. Several months ago she had turned one hundred and twenty, yet still looked as young as she did twenty years ago. By human standards, she looked only about eighteen, perhaps even younger. It was very difficult to tell with elves. Even amongst elves it was difficult to tell another’s age.
“We might as well make camp here for the night,” she said at last. “We can dry out some of the extra meat and pack it in leaves for travelling. I’ll go fetch your things and your horse while you skin it, okay?”
Brutus merely nodded. He too seemed to be deep in thought. He took out his dagger, pushed the buck over on to its back and went to work.
Avianna turned and went back up the river, her feet shivering in the cold water. It felt pleasant and relaxing however, rather soothing. She spent most of her days walking through the winds and her feet were very sore at the end of every day. The waterfalls and hot springs from earlier today had been relaxing, but it had done little to soothe her aching feet.
It took awhile for her to lead the horse back through the woods. The underbrush was thick in spots and she had to take out her sword to clear a path for the horse to walk through. The horse couldn’t walk through the river either, so they had to follow alongside the river, avoiding underbrush where they could until she finally reached the spot in the river where Brutus was.
There was a roaring campfire there and the buck had been drawn across a wide spit over the fire, its skin hanging from a nearby branch. It would take hours for the meat to cook that way, but when it was done, the venison would be extremely tasty and still have a lot of the juices. As it was the blood and juices from the carcass were dripping down into the fire, making satisfying sizzling sounds. How Brutus had managed to spit the entire buck was a mystery to her. Perhaps another old woodsman trick that she had yet to learn.
By herself, she was certain she couldn’t even lift the buck, let alone spit it. Obviously she was going to learn quite a few more tricks from this barbarian.
She wondered what tricks she might teach him?
Where was he anyway? He had left the fire burning, the meat sizzling, the buck’s skin drying across a branch, and its antlers had been chopped off and set on a rock, but the barbarian himself had disappeared.
When she tried to spot his trail, that too was missing. Gone without a trace.
Brutus returned a half-hour later laden down with yams and a pile of berries cradled in a large leaf. His fingers were red from berry juice, evidence that he had already been eating some of the berries. He sat down next to the elf, who was relaxing on her bedroll, staring up at the trees overhead.
He set the berries down in between them and then placed the yams on rocks near the fire. The yams would roast on the hot rocks so close to the fire. They would be nicely cooked given time.
Avianna stretched cat-like and turned her head to face him. “Where are you from Brutus?” she asked, saying his name for the first time. He realized he had not given it to her, so she must have picked it up from one of the traders in the caravan.
“The north,” he replied simply.
“No town, no dwelling?”
“No house, if that’s what you mean,” Brutus replied. “My people are nomads, travelling from valley to valley, searching for food.”
“And these valleys and mountains have no names?”
“They do, but none that we give them. Settlers from the south keep coming north in search of gold. They build villages by the river and live off the fish. We trade meat and furs with them from time to time. They are too busy digging in the dirt to hunt for more precious meat than fish.”
“And its beautiful there?”
“Its beautiful everywhere,” Brutus said, a bit shocked. “I have never been to a place that wasn’t beautiful in its own way.”
Avianna smiled. To her upbringing in an elvish city where forest and city merged in a delicate balance of gardens and architecture, the wilderness held a natural beauty. Elvish cities were more like art pieces that blended nature with the dwellings of people. Nothing grew in an elvish city that was not intentional. Every flower, every tree was carefully groomed, trimmed and cut in order to bring about an elvish standard for beauty.
The wilderness was beautiful too, but it seemed plain sometimes. The barbarian was right though, she could not think of a single place where she had been that was not beautiful.
Correction, she had. Human towns, covered with smoke and grime and filth in the streets. No matter how hard she tried, she could not see those towns as beautiful.
Again, like before, Brutus seemed to read her thoughts. “Even the towns are beautiful, if you know what to look for,” he said. Was her thoughts so obvious on her face while she went through the process of thinking them?
Avianna began to feel drowsy. It had been an interesting day. She yawned and put her head down to rest. It would be quite awhile before the meat was done cooking anyway.
Avianna awoke to the sounds of water splashing. She looked up to see that the sun had set and that the fire had died down into embers. The smell of roasted venison tantalized her nose. She sat up and looked around for Brutus.
His clothes were in a pile nearby, but the barbarian was gone. She looked towards the river and saw movement and again heard the splashing of water.
Brutus was nude, sitting in the river, washing himself by firelight. His long black hair flowed over his shoulders like a lion‘s mane. Water dripped from his hair, his chest hair and down his back like tiny rivers. A rag soaked with blood was evidence that he had been cleaning the blood off his body.
Avianna rose and dropped her cloak beside her bedroll. She unbuttoned her leather armour and dropped it there as well. Soon she was nude also and she fetched a chunk of rose-coloured soap from her satchel.
Stepping lightly, she walked over to the river side, stepping from rock to rock carefully. Brutus looked up, a bit apprehensive, but he did not cover himself out of modesty.
Avianna stepped into the river, which was surprisingly warm now. The night air was colder than the water. The night was so cold there was goosebumps all over her skin and her nipples were very sensitive. She reached out gently with the soap and began to massage the barbarian’s chest, creating bubbles as she brushed it through his wet chest hair.
She was standing close enough that she could feel him become aroused, despite the night air. He was very tall and his cock brushed against her belly button. He bent forward slightly, his forehead meeting her forehead, his arms relaxing gently around her waist and the two of them leaned together, foreheads touching.
His eyes were closed and he seemed to be smelling her. She could smell him too, the smell of his sweat, the smell of the leathers and fur that he always wore, and the faint smell of blood.
Brushing his fingernails up her spine, he caressed her back and pulled her closer. She stopped brushing the soap over his skin and wrapped her arms around his neck. She raised her face, her forehead rolling against his forehead, their noses brushing together until at last their lips met.