Flash Fiction: Those They Hunted

Time for another Flash Fiction challenge posed by Chuck Wendig. Last week, many other writers and I posted a single, supposedly awesome sentence. This week, we were to take someone else’s sentence and use it in a story.

I used the sentence left by Goldfishbob (who doesn’t seem to have a website; if this is you, please comment with a link so I can link this to you): There they were, the hunter and the hunted, staring each other down with a loathing that had grown from years of pursuit and evasion.

So be on the lookout for that.

Those They Hunted

crossbow

Macon crouched among the underbrush, crossbow at the ready. The hooded figure had stopped its evasion and stood motionless, obscured by the thick willow trunk. If Macon moved, the figure might see him and attack. They had no choice but to wait each other out.

The Vanids weren’t normally ones to hide. They were ruthless, a fact that required Macon’s tribe to hunt for them in the first place. He was a new hunter and hadn’t seen a Vanid himself, though he’d heard tales: ghoulish, wart-covered faces, rancid odor, and heartless demeanors. They would invade the village, steal rare valuables, and kill his people if given the chance.

It hadn’t happened in his lifetime, which he attributed to the skillful hunters. He hoped he could be so effective.

His trainer had wanted to meet with him one last time before Macon hunted, said he needed to discuss something important. But Macon didn’t need it. He was ready.

Movement came from the tree as a bird took to flight, and Macon armed himself, waiting for the figure to emerge.

Just as he started to relax his stance, the tree branches shook, and the figure plummeted to the ground with a thud. It groaned.

Macon rushed over, anxious to see a Vanid for himself. It had landed face down.

He should kill it. He’d been trained for this moment. Instead, Macon shoved its side with his foot in an attempt to make it roll over so he could see the monstrosity.

“Stop!”

Macon had expected a horror-inducing voice, but this wasn’t horrifying so much as… feminine?

Another shove.

“Will you stop, you ridiculous creature?” It rolled over, yanked off its hood, and pulled a blade from its robes, glaring into Macon’s eyes. Macon held his crossbow over it, ready to send an arrow through its skull in half a second.

There they were, the hunter and the hunted, staring each other down with a loathing that had grown from years of pursuit and evasion.

“Are you a Vanid?” Macon asked. This thing – dare he call it a woman? – looked nothing like the creatures of the tales his tribe leaders had told him from childhood. In fact, aside from her lighter skin and tangled mess of brown hair, she looked like his people.

“Obviously.” She stood and brandished the knife. “What are you? You can’t be a Torid.”

Macon cocked his head. “I am.”

She furrowed her brow. “Impossible.”

“What were you expecting?”

She raised the knife a bit. “We’re harmless scavengers, and you hunt us for sport.” She glanced at the crossbow.

“Harmless?” He raised the weapon, aiming for her chest. “You call ransacking villages harmless?”

They stood across from each other, staring at one another.

This woman wasn’t what Macon knew of the Vanids. He couldn’t kill her without finding out why. “What if I dropped my weapon. Would you drop yours?”

To his surprise, she held her arm out and dropped the blade.

He set the crossbow on the ground, leaning it against the tree trunk, but stayed close to it. “Are the rest like you?”

“Like me?”

“I heard stories, growing up.” He told her his village’s impression of her tribe.

“When was the last time anyone from your village saw one of us?”

Macon had no answer. The hunters never brought back their kills; they only returned with tales of conquest, saying the Vanids were best left to the vultures. The Vanids’ first attacks on his village happened centuries ago.

He had to do something. If he let her go, she’d tell her people that his had gone soft, and then they would surely attack.

But what if his people were wrong? Nothing about this woman matched what he’d been taught.

Against his better judgment, he stepped away from his weapon and towards her.

“Macon!” A male voice echoed through the forest.

In a second, the woman had picked up her knife and scurried through the underbrush until she was out of sight.

Chane, his trainer, appeared. “Foolish boy! You aren’t ready!”

“I saw one, Teacher. A Vanid.”

Chane clenched his jaw shook his head.

“I think we’re wrong about them. That we’ve always been wrong.”

“You’re surprised they look like us.”

“You know?”

“Did you speak to it?”

Macon nodded.

Chane looked towards the tree. “Retrieve your weapon.”

Macon did, and Chane put his arm around Macon’s shoulders as they walked through the forest. “It is why I needed to meet with you one last time before you hunted. It is the final lesson of every hunter, to know the truth. The Vanids attacked us over two hundred years ago, there is no doubt. What you don’t know is one of them stayed after their defeat.”

“Stayed? In the village?”

“Yes. A young woman. Our leader became infatuated with her, so he took her captive in his home. Many of us are descended from her.”

Macon stopped walking and glared at his trainer. “We are the same! Why must we hunt them?”

Chane reached for Macon’s crossbow and took it from him. “We are not the same! Our people must not believe that! I was only to tell you that their appearance wasn’t what you’d expect, but that you mustn’t hesitate in the hunt. I feared you’d spoken to the Vanid; it was already too late for you.”

Macon’s crossbow fired, followed by a sharp pain in his gut.

Chane shoved Macon’s shoulder, making him fall to the ground as he gripped the arrow protruding from his abdomen. Chane’s footsteps became softer as he left the forest.

Waiting to die, Macon stared at a leafy shrub, wondering how many Vanids his people had placed in this position.

He startled when someone touched his arm. “Stay still. I’m here to help,” the female voice said.

He faced the Vanid woman, who was constructing some kind or stretcher with large sticks.

“Why?” he asked.

“We are the same.”

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