Jerok crouched behind the bushes, mouth open so his breathing made no sound. The warm air in the forest felt thick with moisture. He shifted the knife he held to his left hand so he could wipe the sweat from his palm. Switching it back, he opened and closed his fingers several times, perfecting his grip. Turning his head to the left, he looked up at his father.
Jared Harthnet had been reluctant to bring his son hunting with him, but when they celebrated Jerok’s tenth birthday two months ago, he finally relented. He had even given Jerok the knife he was clutching. Jerok grinned. His little brother, Raylin, had really been jealous that day. Balanced for throwing, it was Jerok’s most prized possession. He had spent hours every day practicing with it until he could bury it in a tree from fifty feet away. He had used the front door of the house once as a target, but his mother had put a quick stop to that.
“Alright, Jerok,” his father whispered. “Think about each step; no sound.” Jared oozed forward across the ground, twitching his fingers at his side to encourage his son to follow. His left hand clutched a spear, a twenty foot coil connecting the base of the spear to his belt. The tip of the spear had a barb on it similar to a fish hook.
Jerok followed behind his father, concentrating on the placement of each foot. Listening for the call of the birds and squirrels, he timed his footfalls to be masked by their chatter. He moved forward as soundlessly as his father. So intent on his feet though, that he didn’t see that his father had stopped until a hand pressed gently on his chest. He looked up as his father brought a finger to his lips, then pointed in front of him.
No more than thirty feet away, a large deer was stripping the bark off a tree. The smell of the buck’s rut hung in the air. Jerok remembered the plan they had rehearsed earlier: Get close, his father would throw the spear to get a hook on it, then Jerok threw the knife, aiming for the animals heart. If it all went well, they would have fresh meat for dinner tonight.
Jerok waited as his father edged to his left, away from him. He needed to get closer, and have the proper angle to ensure that the barb caught and held. As he found his position, he signaled Jerok, who smiled back at him. His father stood, releasing the clasp that kept the line coiled at his belt. Pulling his arm back he winked at Jerok, then heaved the spear through the air.
Finding it’s mark, the spear buried deep into the buck’s flank. Jerok anticipated their prey’s next move. Flicking his wrist, the knife flipped into the air, making a half-circle before his hand closed on the blade. Pinching the tip between his thumb and two fingers, he waited out the seconds as the animal bolted in pain.
Just before the line jerked tight between the deer and his father, Jerok burst up from his hiding spot. With a snap of his wrist, the knife launched into the air. The line stretched tight, cracking like a whip. The knife tumbled end over end. Jerok trembled with excitement as it sliced through the air. The animal faltered, stumbling against the sudden stop of forward motion. Resetting its hooves against the ground, it braced to pull itself free of the restraint. But it didn’t. The knife buried into its chest, lancing its heart. Its eyes bulged and rolled. The great beast twisted its head back and forth, thrashing the air until its legs trembled, then collapsed.
Father and son rushed forward, finishing the kill. That night, as they ate freshly roasted venison, Jared recounted the story to Raylin, his mother, and their neighbors. Jerok blushed, but beamed with pride as his father bragged into the night.