Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Prompt: Tribe of the Cheetah Hunter

Thanks to Azany for permission to use her beautiful artwork, "Cheetah-Hunter"!

Nsonowa crouched low in the grass, balancing his long spear across his knees. His tail swept back and forth, swishing flies and relieving his boredom. The lechwe herd grazed on the new savannah grasses, and he would have to wait until they dozed in the haze of the late afternoon sun before he began the hunt.

His soft, golden pelt reflected the sun’s rays, but he missed the cool sheen of sweat on his blue-black skin. He panted quietly, letting the air cool his long, pink tongue. Two more days he would hunt as cheetah, then he could sleep under the new moon and wake human once more.

His ears twitched. He spotted movement in the grass on the far side of the herd. Was that fool Zuberi trying to poach his herd? Nsonowa growled loud enough that the nearest lechwe lifted its head and lashed its tail in alarm. Nsonowa crouched lower and hissed a long, drawn-out breath of frustration. If it was Zuberi, he would throw his spear and let it land where it may. Nsonowa never missed his target.

The lechwe’s long, curved, black antlers twisted side to side as it studied the savannah for danger, until the lure of fresh grass shoots drew its attention once more. Nsonowa crept away from the shallow pool that formed the heart of the savannah’s grazing lands, circling the herd toward his competitor.

Still holding the spear, he thought he must look like the lechwe, with his powerful legs lifting his backside higher than his human-shaped chest and arms. He debated stowing the spear, or even dropping it and returning for it later. He could move much faster on all fours. But even with his cheetah teeth and claws, his jaws and hind legs were not as strong as some, and until he knew who was poaching his herd, he wanted all his weapons ready.

There! At the edge of the acacia grove. Why had Nsonowa not chosen that shady spot for himself? But it was not Zuberi crouched there, it was the beautiful Adeaze, in leopard form. Nsonowa crouched back and considered. If he courted and mated her now, he would have great stature when they returned to the village. She was as beautiful a leopardess as she was a woman, he dusky pelt almost the same color as her human skin. Nsonowa felt desire course along his body, and he fought the urge to rise and scream a mating challenge. Adeaze had refused all of the men in the village, including Nsonowa’s clumsy courtship when they were ten. But Nsonowa knew it was not pride that kept her distant.

Her father despaired of finding a suitable partner for his youngest daughter. He called her Scarface and did not see her beauty like Nsonowa always did. He derided her ability to hunt, to mate, to lead. Nsonowa felt a familiar flush of anger toward the village leader. It was his fault, his pride in sending Adeaze into the savannah as a child. She had survived the leopard attack, but bore its scars along her face, arms, and chest in both her forms. No one but Nsonowa thought she was beautiful after that.

He thought quickly. She would refuse him as a mate, but she might accept him as a hunting partner. If he drove the lechwe toward her, they could trap a large one between them and take it down together. But would she even let him near enough to share his plan? Nsonowa shook his head, growling softly in exasperation. Adeaze was the most beautiful woman—and animal—in the village, but she was also the most stubborn and difficult. He would have to start the hunt on his own and hope that she joined in. If they brought down a lechwe together and feasted upon it, Nsonowa thought he might have a chance with her….

Dogs in house

Time writing:
40 minutes, including brief research

August word count:

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