The Enchanted Hunt

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Literature Text

January 2, 2020
Time Unknown

Playful, echoing laughter surrounded the group, causing Dux to further pin her ears and growl lowly, as a thick mist began to creep across the ground and swirl around their lower legs. Beneath her, Scoots chittered nervously and both he and Mewmew pressed closer into her. Behind her, Barkley began to growl and Bluejay pressed in against her side with his chest. Regale remained silent as a voice echoed around, “I’ll take it from here, Shelf!”

Regale seemed none-to-pleased with the name as another horse, brown with gold gilded horns and speckles and green marks seemed to materialize out of the fog.

“That red star is a nuisance. I followed the familiars of our own Highlordess Ares as they looked for the source of it and I think I know where to go.” The newcomer claimed. Regale shook his head and the mist began to grow thicker, even thicker than the fog Dux was accustomed to in Black Wolf. The darkness, if possible, began to grow darker and darker, a forest stretching up out of the ground. Or… had it always been there? The trees were taller than anything she’d ever seen, their branches reaching up towards the sky and covered in thick leaves despite the fact that it was supposed to be winter. Suddenly, the heat from Regale’s body at Dux’s side dissipated and she let out a panicked snort, turning her head and finding him gone.

Above in the sky, even the stars seemed to be swallowed by the night - all except for the strange red one. Another growl soon echoed from Barkley and Bluejay shifted nervously, mumbling for Dux to look as a pair of lionesses - one chocolate in color and the other golden, both with tails of flame - slunk from the forest and came to a stop by the gold and brown horse.

“Come on, Nameless Pawns. Let’s go hunting for red stars!” With his words, the gold and brown horse reared and turned around, galloping off into the strange forest that, now, as Dux looked closer, had the faintest of glowing spots within it. Whether it was plants or animals she couldn’t tell.

The two lionesses looked expectantly to Dux and Bluejay as they waited, and Dux finally moved forward anxiously. She was used to lions. She used to fire. But these lions - she didn’t know these lions. She wasn’t sure they should trust them.

Still, they had been given a task, and she suspected they wouldn’t go home until that task was complete, so she steeled herself and trudged past the two, with Scoots and Mewmew scrambling to stay in the supposed safe confines of her legs. Bluejay followed along behind her, Barkley pressing close to his legs to avoid the large cats.

As they entered the forest, Dux looked around slowly. The place was eerie, to say the least. The branches of the massive trees above rustled, almost ominously, and the babbling of an unseen brook reached the groups’ ears. The two lionesses trotted along on either side of the horses as a loud shriek tore through the otherwise silent night, halting Dux in her tracks. Bluejay bumped into her rump with a yelp as she looked around slowly. The sound of wings beating somewhere in the canopy of the trees caused her to narrow her eyes and squint upwards for several moments.

Finally, she turned her head to look back at him, “Keep your guard up. That sounded like a griffin, and they might not be friendly here.”

The stallion nodded quickly, watching the lionesses shift impatiently as Dux took the time to pick up and move both Scoots and Mewmew onto her back again before she started to trot further into the woods.

They reunited with the gold and brown horse in a small clearing, where he was waiting and grinning, “You took your sweet time.”

Dux huffed and pinned her ears, “How are we supposed to hunt this star?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. There are jackalopes, though.”

Dux’s ears flopped to the side and a blank expression crossed her face - he wasn’t serious, was he?

Bluejay nudged her hip with his nose, “What are jackalopes?”

“They’re rabbits with horns like deer, if I remember corr-” Movement cut Dux off and she glared into the darkness as one of the aforementioned creatures appeared from beneath some foliage, its nose twitching and head tilted as it looked at them, “That is a jackalope!” She hissed, lunging forward towards the creature.

It quickly wheeled around and launched off into the undergrowth, Dux’s jaws just barely missing a hind leg. She growled, bringing her head back up to try and scan the forest floor for the rabbit as Barkley and Bluejay caught up to her, but it had disappeared. Ferns and small bushes littered the ground, making seeing anything underneath them almost impossible - there were a few spaces where the ground was visible, but not many.

The lionesses and the gold and brown horse caught up to them just as Barkley began to sniff around, likely attempting to pick up the scent of the animal. He whined a few times, the noise having a confused edge to it, before his tail finally began to wag and he barked excitedly, dashing off into the underbrush with the lionesses close behind him.

“He’s a smart one, isn’t he?” The gold and brown horse questioned, trotting after the three.

“I guess he is, if having a good sense of smell makes you smart. Who even are you, anyways?” Dux retorted.

Before the other horse could respond - though Bluejay doubted that he would give Dux a straight answer regardless - the sound of distant, excitedly frantic barking and the low rumbles of the lionesses interrupted.

“Oooh, it sounds like they’ve found something!” He darted off between the trees.

“Wh- Hey! Wait! You didn’t tell me who you are!” Dux called, picking up speed after him.

Bluejay snorted, scrambling to keep up with her, “Dux, I don’t think he would have answered even if they hadn’t made noise.”

Dux growled under her breath, swerving between trees and being careful to avoid rocks, roots, or holes that could potentially trip her. Bluejay was moving at a slightly slower pace behind her, continuously looking around and behind them for anything else unusual.

Soon, the gold and brown horse came into view again, lurking behind the lionesses and Barkley. Barkley was digging into the dirt beneath one of the giant trees - what Bluejay supposed may be a burrow, if the jackalopes were like normal rabbits and lived in those - while the chocolate lioness was perched on a rock to the right and the golden one perched on some gnarled tree roots at the left, their tails waving expectantly as dirt continued to fly from Barkley’s paws.

Scoots leapt down from Dux’s back, allowing Mewmew to move up to her shoulders, and dashed across the ground. He wiggled past Barkley and into the hole. Barkley’s tail wagged and he slowed his digging, sniffing at the entryway. The lionesses leaned forward, their ears erect. Dux, Bluejay, and the gold and brown horse moved a few paces closer, Dux lowering her head towards the ground and pricking her ears as she watched and listened to the sound of Bluejay’s tail swishing from side to side.

Suddenly, Barkley yelped and stumbled back away from the hole as several antlered rabbits exploded outward and darted off in different directions. The lionesses each jumped from their perches, setting off after a rabbit each, as did the gold and brown. Barkley sat in stunned silence, shaking his head back and forth, until Scoots wriggled himself back out of the hole and ran over to Dux’s hooves, chattering loudly.

Dux snorted, lifting him by his scruff and placing him onto her back again before nickering to Barkley. The dog regained his composure, sniffed around a bit, and then took off into the undergrowth. Dux squealed, bolting after him with Bluejay at her heels.

Barkley led them to a fallen tree, dashing underneath it and continuing on the other side. Dux’s nostrils flared and she launched herself over it, speeding up again on the other side in search of the dog. The heavy thud of Bluejay behind her reassured her that he had crossed the log and would catch up again soon as they raced through the darkness.

She finally caught sight of Barkley, his tail appearing over the ferns as he barked and growled at something ahead of them. Catching up, they found that he had cornered a few of the jackalopes against a pile of rocks and was keeping them from leaving.

Dux snorted, slowing to a stop and approaching his right side as Bluejay took up the left. She regarded the rabbits for a moment. Oddly, they didn’t seem afraid as they looked at her and Bluejay. The pair quickly dispatched the rabbits, as mercifully as possible after the chase, before each picked up a carcass to carry back to the burrow-tree.

They waited for what felt like hours, but the gold and brown horse and the lionesses never returned.

“Fantastic, we’ve been abandoned in a mystical forest.” Dux grumbled. Mewmew flexed her claws against Dux’s shoulder as the sound of wings approached….

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Ballator Featured: 3086 Dux de Lupis
    Nickname Used: "Dux"
Item(s), Companions, and/or Rank: Fox Companion; Rookie
Region: Puck's Enchanted Forest
Object Being Hunted: Jackalope
Link to Hunting Tracker: Here
Prompt Shown: January Monthly Quest Prompt 2
Number of Words: 1,548
Stats: +7 (1,400 words), +14 (7 extra characters), +2 spd & 1 intl (Cat companion)
    Total: +24

Ballator Featured: 7544 Canticum de Avibus
    Nickname Used: "Bluejay"
Item(s), Companions, and/or Rank: Dog Companion; Rookie
Region: Puck's Enchanted Forest
Object Being Hunted: Jackalope
Link to Hunting Tracker: Here
Prompt Shown: January Monthly Quest Prompt 2
Number of Words: 1,548
Stats: +7 (1,400 words), +14 (7 extra characters), +1 spd & 2 intl (Dog companion)
    Total: +24

Ballator Featured: GH 5000 Puck
    Nicknames Used: "gold and brown horse"
Item(s), Companions, and/or Rank: Rookie
Region: Puck's Enchanted Forest
Object Being Hunted: Jackalope
Link to Hunting Tracker: Here
Number of Words: 1,548
Stats: +7 (1,400 words), +14 (7 extra characters)
    Total: +21

Extra Characters
Deimos* (both Phobos and Deimos are referred to as "lionesses" throughout the work, as well as "golden" and "chocolate" due to neither Dux or Bluejay actually knowing who they are)

Dux, Bluejay, Scoots, Mewmew, and Barkley © me
Regale, Puck, Phobos, and Deimos © Fargonon
© 2020 - 2021 HellfireSaphira
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