Bay Village High School
Instructor: Kristen Srsen Kenney
The Hunter's Sacrifice
The Hunter's Sacrifice
As Ezra sat in the small, sun-dried brick hut, he listened to the gunshots and panicked screams of his tribe's people. With people falling to their deaths all around him, he wondered who was committing them. Unfortunately, before he could ponder the question with any serious thought, the door swung open. His mom, hustling through, carried a small basket of golden grain that complimented her skin, bronze and sweaty from the mid-day harvest. Accustomed to death, she sat down gracefully, almost as if nothing had happened.
"They came early today," she said in her soothing tone. She took out the golden grain from the husk basket and began grinding it to fine particles on the table.
Curious, Ezra said, "Mom, who are the hunters that are so vicious to our people when we seem to do nothing wrong to them?"
"Well," she paused, thinking carefully, "no one knows. It's rumored they were giants created by God to prevent our tribe from his world that sustains us."
"Why would God create such a brutal thing? Every time the parents harvest the 'Always-Growing Grain,' they create a sea of red. Day by day, they reap more people away from their families, yet, the tribe and the Elders never seem to care."
"We just live like this; no one cares to do anything because it's just the way it is," she said indifferently, as she spread the tiny grain particles across a large sheet of metal bent at the edges. She started to hum a soft and soothing melody. Her head tilted slightly in concentration.
Soothed by his mother's medley, he sat on a sturdy wooden stool and said, "Just because it's happened for so long doesn't make it right, ya know. Ronin lost his father the other day to the Hunters while they were gathering water from the Jin River and he hasn't been right since. Worse, he is expected to get over it, like it was some blip in his past. Maybe someone should at least figure out who can do such a thing."
"Maybe you're right, but I don't need you worrying or getting hurt. Fix the oven and wash the dishes while you're in such a contemplative manner, and after you can go comfort Ronin," she said as she turned back to the grain on the metal sheet. She then began to sprinkle white crumbs over it.
Ezra stood up. It seemed to him no one would do anything about the Hunters. No matter how his mom phrased it, he felt a responsibility to figure out who the hunters were. He walked out of the house to the oven, still thinking about the Hunters, toward the toolboxes on the side of the oven. He grabbed one and placed it on the ground beside him.
The toolbox clanked against the ground, as a distraught boy ran into it without wincing at the pain. Ronin turned angrily to the offender, but a wave of sympathy washed over him as he made out the back of the kid.
"Hey Ronin, how are you feeling?" Ezra said in an attempt to be upbeat, "Have you seen our spot today, it filled up from last night's rain." He began picking up the tools spilled on the dirt.
In a rage, Ronin turned back and said, "The only thing I have seen is the river, thick and warm with blood from the last hunt. It makes me angry to see people getting killed without care from the Elders or tribe. My father didn't die in vain. Who are the Elders to tell us the Hunters are helping us."
"Then let's do something; I have been working on a plan to bring justice to the Hunters. If you are willing, we'll sneak out tonight. We'll hide in the 'Plain of Eternity' and wait for the Hunters to strike. When they attack we'll charge through the grassy part of the Plain toward the hill they shoot from. We'll use camouflage from straw to help us blend in. Then we'll capture one of the Hunters before they can take apart their equipment and walk through the desert. We'll bring peace to the village and finally learn who has committed these horrendous murders."
"I would do anything to get back at the Hunters," Ronin said still rage-filled, "but are you sure you want me to help you? I'm only 12 and I don't have those bulging muscles you have. I'm not as intelligent as you or as experienced. My complexion will stand out against the yellow grain. I might make us get caught, or worse, killed."
"You have the heart and the will to do this; I trust you," he said, trying to instill confidence in Ronin.
Ronin shuffled some of the crumbly, tan dirt between his feet. Eyes downcast and tear-filled still, he said "You know will be exiled from the village if they catch up escaping. The Elders won't be afraid to charge us.
"That's why we will go at night and through the back way of the village. Will you have some faith? I have been formulating this plan for a couple of days you know," he said with slight agitation.
With his doubts soothed, Ronin said firmly "Then let's go get those monsters for my dad and all those that died."
Ezra said excitedly, "Alright, let's meet at the back gate at nightfall. Tomorrow we will save this village."
The last golden rays of the sun showed on the open, dried plain as Ezra began packing. His mom, believing he had fallen asleep, passed out only a short time ago. He had spent the rest of the day making a list of what he needed: knives, dry wood, cloth to sleep on, and straw for camouflage against the "Always Growing Grain." He had told his mom that he would be spending the day at Ronin's to soothe his broken soul. Although he hated lying to his mother, he knew he had to do so. As he finished putting his freshly sharpened knife in its sheath, he contemplated whether he should carry out this plan. His thoughts drifted back to his mother. She needed him, but what if he got hurt or captured? How would she fix the oven, clean the baobab furniture, and be cared for on her tough days? Yet, he knew she was probably going to get killed soon by the Hunter's ever-increasing attacks. Torn by the choice he had to make, tears began to flow from his brown eyes and streaked his sun-tanned face. He sat looking at the pitch-dark sky that had befallen the plain now. The moon's luminescence made it look so pretty. Gentle, but bright enough to light the way like his mom. In the end, the need to prevent her death and protect the village won out.
With the sheath in his hand, he slowly opened the door and snuck out with quiet, conscientious footsteps. Through the cover of the night, he sprinted to the back gate of the village. As he approached it, he could see the rusted, sand-coated gate that had been there for decades. He came to a stop and caught his breath. From the shadows, came a figure.
The figure said with a wobble in his tone, "Who are you?"
Ezra cautiously replied, "It's me Ezra. Is that you Ronin?"
Ronin walked out of the shadows. Against the night, Ezra couldn't see his face, but the outline of his small and defined muscles proved it had been Ronin.
"Alright, let's go to our secret spot in the 'Plain of Eternity' and set up a small camp," said Erza as adrenaline coursed through his body.
Together, through the gentle breeze of the night, kicking up clouds of dry soil, they ran to their spot in the plains. Although they tripped several times on the dents in the soil, they made the 2-mile trip to their spot which had dried up almost completely over the arid day. They scooped the loose soil from the hole so it could fit both boys and their equipment. Together, they laid some straw on the ground; then they put their cloth on the staw, creating a small but soft area. With the moon on the plain soothing them, they were rocked to sleep.
Ezra awoke to the sounds he had heard his whole life: agonizing screams, the pops of gunshots, and the crash of bodies on hard, dried dirt. He shook awake Ronin, still sleeping soundly. The Hunters were here now and they didn't have time to pack up their camp. So, grabbing their knives the boys peaked above the ridge to find where the shots were ringing from.
Ever so carefully, Ezra slithered up from the hole using his stomach, inching forward with his arms and knees. Like a soldier, he kept his butt down so he wouldn't get shot. As he looked back, a quick succession of booming pops lined the open field, cutting people down like a scythe with grass. The river that flowed into the "Always Growing Grain" became so thick and warm with blood that not one drop of crystal water could be distinguished. A wheezing bullet that almost grazed him snapped him back into focus. The attack was already finished and they needed to make up ground to capture the Hunters before they disappeared into the open desert where they were susceptible to attacks. Yet, in a moment of panic, Ronin became frozen and his eyes began to bulge in fear.
Ezra, knowing he needed to rally him, said "Ronin, we have to keep moving. You're going to be fine."
Seeming to come to his senses, he began to crawl again, but it had been too late, and the gunshots had already ceased. Ezra began to crouch and run through the soft, golden grain to make up time.
Looking back at Ronin, Ezra shouted, "Ronin, we have to crouch and run."
He followed Ezra's lead, quickly keeping pace behind him, with his small figure unable to be seen behind Ezra's broad, muscular shoulders.
The two were almost out of the field and Ezra began to see the open plain, but he still couldn't see the Hunters. As Ezra approached the plain, he came to a halt. Its gaping and vast expanse left no sure way to tell exactly where the Hunters had gone. If only he hadn't been so stupid to fall asleep during the night, Ezra thought in anger. Ronin now sidled beside him. They were so close, but now they had to stop, and out of frustration, he began kicking the tan dirt, sending clouds of dust in his face.
"Ezra," said Ronin curiously, "there are tracks here, big ones. They have to be human, but giant human tracks."
Ezra bent down on one knee. He squinted his eyes and peered at the tracts. They had the shape of a human foot, a giant one at that.
"You're right. Let's follow them and pray they lead somewhere," he said looking at Ronin.
Together the two trailed through the desert, winding paths for what seemed like hours. Dehydrated and exhausted from the glaring sun, they wanted to quit, but they pushed on. Forcing their feet forward like on a death march, they eventually came upon a large cave. The cave, rough and makeshift, had been cut out after years of intense sandstorms. When they dragged themselves through the cave, they were greeted by a pungent aroma of sweet honey and roasting meats. Loud and reverberating voices carried across the gaping cave, bouncing off the walls. Slowly Ezra and Ronin crept forward, ducking behind the scattered rocks jutting out of the cave floor. Only a faint light could be seen in some parts of the cave, coming from torches holstered in the wall.
"We must hunt the Azrine peoples and fulfill our duty, '' said one of the voices boldly.
"Yet, we hunt them with an aggression that doesn't need to be displayed," said another voice challenging the other.
These had to be the Hunters. Now he had to devise a plan to force them to stop hunting his tribe.
"Ronin, Ezra said quietly, "can you create a distraction so I can get a better look at these Hunters."
Ronin looked around quickly before picking up a small chunk of rock and throwing it as far as he could. Ezra drew his knife and sprung into a better position to see the Hunters.
"Someone is here," one said in a hushed manner.
"I told you someone followed us," sneered another.
Ezra peaked up behind the rock he had been crouched behind and saw them; there were 5 of them, all tall, dark, and covered in hoods. They had pasty white faces, no noses, and thin lips. Where their eyes should have been, blue light peered from the sockets. They seemed to be celestial beings that had come down from the heavens.
Looking at the resources around him, Ezra quickly formed a plan.
"Hunters," he said in the loudest and most powerful voice he could muster, "I am the leader of the Azrine people that you have hunted for so long. We have you surrounded. Listen to us and obey our commands. You will stop hunting us and never come back to our homeland. The Azrine have been slaughtered for too long and if you dare not obey us we will slaughter you."
The leader confidently said, "I don't believe you, but I will make a deal with you. If you come out of the light and show yourself, I will obey your command."
Ezra knew they were trying to trick him, so he went to part two of his plan. Throwing a rock against the wall to create a distraction, he sprinted to another spot in the cave along the shadows. There, he threw another rock against the wall. He continued to do this creating a huge echo in the cave. With his footsteps masked by the echoes of the stones, Ezra sprinted toward the figures, knife in hand. Using quick strikes to attack, he slashed the Hunters. One hunter fell to the hard rock floor, and another screamed in agony at the top of his lungs. By the time the echoes had stopped, two Hunters lay dead on the stony ground and Ezra lay hidden behind a little rock cropping.
Unfortunately, Ezra didn't have time to admire his work for long, because he heard a muffled shout of his name. Remembering he left Ronin at the cave mouth, he slowly creeped forward out from the rocks. He needed to get Ronin before he panicked and got himself killed. Creeping along the shadows, he approached the mouth of the cave. Softly, he whispered to Ronin. He arrived at the rock where he had left him behind, but Ronin must have moved. He whispered his name again, but this time too loud and it reverberated off the caves.
In an instant, the hunters were on top of him. One pinned him down with godly strength while the other took his knife. Ezra used his strength to roll out of the pin, but the Hunter, too fast for him, pushed him against the stony wall, taking his breath away. Three hands pinned him against the wall and one began choking the last remaining breath out of him. The lights began to fade slowly and his gasps were getting more ragged; he was going to die.
In an instant, the hand left his neck and screamed in agony. As the hunter screamed, Ezra, using his last remaining strength, jerked free and fell to the ground. Ronin had slashed one of the Hunters. The other Hunter, though, had trapped the undersized, and inexperienced Ronin in a corner.
Ezra wanted to help Ronin, but his limbs were unable to stand from the lack of air. In that instant, the Hunter charged. As Ezra watched in slow motion, the hunter killed Ronin with one quick stab to the jugular with his knife.
Ronin's body hit the ground with a deafening thump that echoed throughout the cave. Ezra, in agony, felt a surge of energy from his friend's death. He charged at the Hunter, knocking him to the ground. The knife rattled against the floor. The two clawed to get in, tearing and scratching each other, but Ezra, occupied with trying to get the knife, let the Hunter pin him on his back. Quickly the Hunter grabbed the knife and raised it above his head. With one powerful thrust, it found its way into Ezra's heart.
The Hunter rolled off Ezra and slumped against a jutting rock. Ezra looked to the mouth of the cave; it had become night and the moon's glow covered the night sky. Again, it reminded him of his mother. He hoped he had made her proud. He knew she would miss him deeply. If only he'd written to her, he thought solemnly. With his last thoughts about his mother, his gasps became shallow and quiet. With one last quiet gasp, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and his body became a still lifeless heap. At that moment, one star shined brighter than the rest against the dark of night, as almost if to say Ezra's soul peacefully passed into the night where he could always watch over his mother.