Lily, Griff, and Kona awoke as the sun was highest overhead, their fur dry after their fishing trip. Griff was the first awake, stretching and pulling tangles from his mane. Lily rolled onto her belly, “Think we should try hunting next? I saw lynx sign as we were coming over, closer to the neck of the valley, she said.
“Sounds good to me. I could do with a new lynx pelt for my nest,” Kona said, getting to his paws and extending each leg in turn.
“That settles it then. Let’s get going,” Lily ordered, standing up and trotting off the pebbly shore of the lake. Griff slipped into the harness of the sled they’d brought with them and followed, the summer runners grinding over the stones. Kona came last, limping slightly with stiffness in his rear left hip.
They traveled single file at a mere walk so that they wouldn’t miss in game tracks. Lily kept her amethyst eyes peeled. Once they passed moose tracks that were very fresh, but Lily didn’t allow her pack to hunt moose in the summer. Mothers were with their calves, and the males needed to grow fat for the rut. Early fall was when they would take the huge animals. A single moose could feed the pack for days, and they were a valuable resource.
Suddenly Griff stopped and the sled fell silent. Lily turned back to see him staring into the trees, blue eyes narrowed. She backtracked and followed his gaze. There were thin claw marks about three feet up a birch tree. A lynx had sharpened its nails recently; sap had yet to flow from the marks. The scent was fresh too, not even a half hour old. “Drop the sled. Let’s follow this,” she said. Griff nodded, and Kona helped him remove the leather harness.
They padded softly into the trees, paws making scarcely a sound over the needles that littered the forest floor. The lynx scent suddenly grew stronger. “Looks like a female and was joined by a male,” Lily said softly over her shoulder. It was breeding season for many animals, and the cats were no exception. Kona and Griff licked their lips at the prospect of collecting double the meat. A lynx could feed two tokotas for a day. This would be a good find to stock the food shed if they could catch both. The pelts would also be nice. If they were common color, the tokotas would have new, warm bedding. If they were rare. Their human would sell them, or make an exchange for meat.
The trio continued forward, slowly now, as they drew closer. Suddenly Lily stopped them with a tail swish. A low growl sounded form somewhere up ahead and slowly grew into an angry scream. Clearly the female lynx wasn’t pleased to see her suitor. Well, it wouldn’t be a problem for either of them in a moment, if the tokotas had their way.
Lily gestured for Kona and Griff to take the flanks and the two males peeled off, vanishing between the thick pine trunks. Lily proceeded forward, incredibly slowly. A single snapped twig could give them away. Lynx were fussy animals to catch. Their ability to climb trees made them hard prey, and it didn’t help their hearing was superb.
Lily could see the lynx now. The female was perched atop a boulder, swiping a heavily-furred paw at the male below. Her mottled grey pelt was fluffed up and her teeth pulled back into a grimace. The male jumped back with a hiss but didn’t leave. Clearly, he was intent on procreation, and a testy attitude wasn’t going to be too much of a diversion. They were so focused on one another that they had failed to notice the approach of their hunters on three sides. The sphinx could see Griff and Kona through the trees, and they could see her. Still, if they attacked now, the lynx could still shoot up the trees and be lost. They needed to get within strike range, and that would prove difficult given the female’s vantage point on the rock.
Carefully, so, so carefully, the tokota crept closer to their quarry. Lily could see Kona better now, though Griff’s grey pelt was so striped with the shadows of the trees, he was still little more than a blur. She signaled for Kona to stop; he was too brightly colored to get any closer. Lily and Griff continued, paws sliding softly over the forest floor.
The sphinx was grateful they had gone fishing earlier in the day. The lake had washed away the strongest of their scent, and their run through the deep pine forest had also soaked them in earth smells. The lynxes were unlikely to detect them by scent.
Suddenly a twig snapped across the clearing. Griff! Lily cursed inwardly, but she wasn’t angry. It could have happened to any of them. The two lynxes froze, tufted ears shooting upward. Their short tails flicked with fear and their yellow eyes glanced from side to side, sizing up escape routes. Lily gathered her haunches under her; now or never.
She barked once as she shot forward, landing on top of the boulder with the female. She briefly saw Kona and Griff charging out of the trees, teeth bared. The male cat tried to make a bolt for the nearest pine, but never made it.
Suddenly stinging pain in her muzzle drew Lily’s attention back. The female’s claws had scratched across her face, leaving thin lines of scarlet blood welling just above her nose. Lily growled and slammed her paws into the cat’s gut. It wheezed and tried to squirm away, scrabbling at the stone beneath it, but she pulled it back. Not wanting it to suffer, she yanked it close and wrenched its head back to expose the throat. Quickly, she brought her teeth together and released the animal. Bright blood spurted out and splashed against the greying female’s face, neck, and chest.
It let out a wet, gurgling growl and slithered to the ground bellow the boulder, trying to escape. Deep scarlet continued to gush from its neck, slowing to a trickle, before it finally expired only a few feet away. Its eyes were glassy and still. Lily leapt down to collect her kill. Griff and Kona came from around the back side of the rock, the heavy male lynx between them. It was a fine specimen; a dark pelt, which would fetch a high price.
“Good hunt, guys. Let’s go process these,” Lily said. She had the males lay both carcasses across her back for transport, feeling the warmth of the fresh bodies against her skin. They trotted back towards the waiting sled, no caring about their noise now. Once there, they carefully skinned the lynx with expert claws and teeth. The organ meats, which would spoil quickly, were devoured on the spot. Liver, heart, and kidney vanished down hungry gullets. The meat went into a basket and the furs were rolled and placed into a box for their human to tan later.
The sled was considerably more weighed down now. Almost fifty pounds meat, several large fish, and the two pelts were now secured. Still, there was a lot left to do. “Let’s head to the mouth of the valley,” Lily ordered. Griff and Kona nodded, and together, the three began their march to their next gathering site.