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Nothing loth, Shade sprang down from the cart. Lancer, making a wide berth, headed for the wagon (and had to be assisted to scramble in). He lay of the boards by the old guard driving, careful to angle himself into the shade to pant.

Shade stalked through the belly-high grass. There was a glint of malicious pleasure in his gaze, and he angled close to Niko's horse, and then Derron's, clearly inviting them to come and admire his skill.

Shade's simple pleasure of the hunt amused Niko, and took his mind off of the dark thoughts he had been nursing. He needed to get away, if only for a moment, so after letting Tyek know he'd be riding the perimeter, he followed Shade into the tall grass.

Aerin had eaten with the Septa earlier. And was determined to not get drafted to cook dinner for the guards.

She hopped out of the cart, helping Lancer in after she landed. Then she looked around for Shade, noting which direction he was heading.

Shade moved slowly - he could almost be said to glide - and if either of his companions made the slightest sound, he turned and glowered at them. He paused for a while and sat, sniffing the air. Then he rose and moved forward purposefully, pausing and freezing frequently (and growing visibly impatient if his human accompaniers failed to do the same. Then he moved into longer grass and only the tip of hos ginger tail could be seen, lifted above the grass as sinister as a shark's fin above the water.

Not the pussiant hunter the great cat was, Niko failed to freeze at the appropriate time the first few times Shade did so, drawing his ire. But he learned quickly, and soon was as engrossed in the hunt as Shade was.

Aerin, rather than follow Shade through the grass, climbed on top of the wagon and sat and watched, her legs dangling off the side.

There were a family of rabbits, feeding in the hedge. More than a family - a tribe. Shade had spotted them and looked back at Aerin as though wanting her to assist (or possibly admire). He tensed, finding perfect stilness ...

Then suddenly he was off, streaking with impossible speed through the long grass - and a rabbit was in his jaws, while the others began to scatter in alarm.

Niko smiled and closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the simple pleasure of the sun on his skin. The sun here was not as harsh as across the Narrow Sea, where there was little enjoyment to be had in it's glare. He opened his eyes once again, watching as Shade terrorized the rabbits.

Shade retuned and dropped a fat bunny at Niko's feet. Then he was away again into the long grass - and by and by a squealing told Niko he'd been successful. Sure enough, a second rabbit soon joined the first.

The Shade was studying the bushes at the fringe of the wood - it seemed he had spotted something interesting there.

Squinting against the fading sun, Niko looked towards the bushes that Shade had found interesting to see if he could make anything out. If he couldn't, he decided that a ride over wouldn't be out of the question.

A movement in the bushes suggested some sort of animal was there. Shade's tail began to flick to and fro in anticipation ....

As long as the animal was of the four-legged variety, Niko was more than inclined to let Shade have his fun. But he still kept a close eye on the bushes, just in case.

A thrashing in the bushes ... and then haunches, thrusting back, struggling. A deer, its antlers caught in some branches. Soon it would break free. Shade growled a warning and moved closer - looking back to Niko for assistance with such large prey.

Seeing the size, and Shade's look, Niko unlimbered his spear and moved forward to join the cat. He'd let Shade take the lead, but jump in if it seemed that Shade needed assistance.

Shade froze again, those unblinking Amber eyes weighing up his prey. A long, still moment - only the flick of the very end of Shade's tail revealed his focussed attention, his determination ...

And then he was a gibnger blur of speed and the deep was rearing back in terror and Shade's teeth squeezed bloody life from its throat. But the deer was thrashing in terror as it died, dangerous indeed to Shade.

Galloping forward at not quite full tilt, Niko readied his spear, and as he approached, rose up in the saddle slightly, angling the spear downward. When he was close enough, he took the deer in the forequarters, attempting to pin it to the ground and render it's death throes harmless.

His aim was true - and in a few minutes, the deer was meat - and Shade was attempting to haul it further into the iundergrowth for a purely private feast.

"Ah," Niko said, removing his spear from the carcass and wiping the point on the undergrowth. "I help with the kill and you hoard it?" he asked, a tone of amusement in his voice.

He left Shade to his meal, returning to the caravan, his spirits lightened.

Page last modified on June 21, 2006, at 04:45 PM