Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Hunting of the Grunk


It's always sunset in the Blue Desert. It doesn't matter where you are or what time of day it is; it's always sunset. Like every other place on Hamjamser, the Blue Desert moves around constantly, but it somehow manages to stay just on the edge of night. When the famous blue sand is brought to other places, with different light, it turns a dull blue-white color - except during sunsets on clear, dry, hot days. Then it gleams its usual indigo blue, shining with flecks of all the colors of the rainbow. No one has ever been able to figure out why it does this.

Most of the creatures of the Blue Desert are various shades of blue, for camouflage, as much as camouflage is possible in a place where even a shadow sticks out like a dragon in a slug farm. The tribes of striped avians that live there are some of the few exceptions. Their feathers are a flashing array of green, black, deep purple, bright red, dark bronze and gold, and every imaginable shade of brown. The bold, angular stripe patterns are the same on almost all of them, but hardly any two have the same combinations of colors. They practically punch holes in the Desert's overpowering blue.

The avians don't need camouflage, though. They can outrun anything in the Desert - especially the Grunks, which are their favorite things to hunt. They're big, mean, nasty things, much faster on their huge feet than they look. This, apparently, makes them more fun.

One tribe let me watch a Grunk hunt, provided I stayed in the bushes and kept quiet. That was fine with me; I didn't want to draw the thing's attention any more than I could help. Some of the hunters were discussing using its tusks for tent poles. The rest took their time, waiting for the Grunk to wander closer, keeping watch or fixing their spears while they waited. One had nothing else to do and talked to me the whole time.

Apparently, the hunters' spears are made of flint, which the avians find occasionally in the Desert, and which is much stronger than wood or the more common blue sandstone. The avians use Grunk tusks for quite a lot of things, as they're almost as strong as the flint; knives, jewelry, the aforementioned tent poles, and even coins (the elaborately carved Kerfolio, currency of the Blue Desert, which can be carved by anyone with spare time) are all made out of Grunk tusks. They're stronger and easier to find than wood. The hunters use flint for their spears, though, as they consider it distasteful to kill an animal with its own relatives' teeth.

The feathers on each hunter's spear are from his or her husband or wife (both men and women hunt, but I still can't tell them apart). They keep the best ones when they molt and give them to each other for luck.

The hunt, when it started, wasn't exactly what I'd been expecting. Once the Grunk got more or less within range, the hunters picked up their spears and charged out of the bushes at it. It immediately charged right back at them. Grunks attack anything that moves. When it looked like they would be trampled at any second, the hunters jumped into the air and grabbed whichever of the Grunk's wrinkles they could as it passed by. The Grunk started running around in circles, trying to find the little feathered creatures again so that it could squash them, while the hunters clung to its sides and whooped at the tops of their lungs. A few of them yelled in the Grunk's ears to make it angrier. Eventually, kicking up clouds of blue sand and shaking the ground, the Grunk got so angry that it forgot to watch where it was going and ran headfirst into a rock. The rock split in half; the Grunk collapsed. The hunters jumped off, narrowly avoiding being squashed, and promptly killed the Grunk while it was unconscious.

It is possible to kill a conscious Grunk, barely, but knocking it out first is easier for everyone involved. That way, the Grunk doesn't feel anything - and, just as importantly, neither do the hunters.

The whole tribe celebrated that evening by roasting the meat from the Grunk's front left foot. An entire Grunk can feed an entire tribe for a month. The meat tasted a bit like evil ham with sand in it - but still good, somehow - and took me forever to chew. Everyone else swallowed their meat whole (one advantage of having beaks) and watched me chewing. They obviously found the concept hilarious.

Since it took me three hours to eat a piece of meat the size of my fist, I can't really blame them.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Leia said...

Hi! You've been randomly tagged by the NaBloPoMo randomizer for a meme about 7 weird/random things about you! Enjoy!

I'm not sure how this will fit in with your amazing blog (I LOVE it!), but perhaps you can manage a few random facts about yourself as you explore the Blue Desert!

9:05 AM  
Blogger Megan Doyle (soon to be Hansen) said...

Uh OH....you've been tagged again by Missmess



At least you can kill two birds with one stone!!!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Ginaagain said...

I won't tag you but I will be back to read your blog. I'm intrigued!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Nigel Tangelo said...

Thanks, all three of you! I'm too lazy to find people to tag who haven't already done this, but I did do it myself. It's the perfect excuse for writing a post without actually writing about anything in particular! Hooray! Thank you!

11:19 PM  

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