Phos had been tracking the herd of tritans for almost the entire evening, splitting up from the main party to scout ahead. The sky had darkened, dark grey clouds covering the sun and causing the temperature to plummet. Soon, those same clouds would spew snow, and although the thrill of the hunt was beckoning him to continue, Phos knew better than to challenge a blizzard.
Just a little further... I know I’m close now. I have to be. The tritans will be trying to find shelter from this incoming weather, too.
The tracks had led him to a grotto, frozen streams shaded by surprisingly healthy evergreen trees and frostberry bracken. Phos imagined it would have been a beautiful place, lush with flora and fauna, if there had been no ice and snow. The entire area would not only make perfect shelter for a tired herd of tritans, but other animals, too; therefore, he tread lightly, watching the surroundings for movement.
A flash of dark brown fur through the trees caught his eyes, drawing his attention. Phos immediately froze, crouching down low to avoid detection. He could make out the distinct shape of a tritan, slowly meandering through the forest. It’s hulking body was covered in long, shaggy fur, and the large curling horns on it’s head informed Phos that it was a bull. It gave no indication of having noticed him.
Looks like a pretty old bull, at that. He must have fallen behind the rest of the herd. This will be easy...
He slowly drew his bow from the sling on his back, knocking an arrow from his quiver. The arrowhead was sharpened steel, finely crafted by Corder to maximize its penetrating power. If he aimed correctly, it could kill even a tritan. A shot between the ribs would down it almost immediately. If he missed his mark, though, he’d have no second chance. The beast would run, and it would not come back.
Phos held his breath, steadying his hands as the pressure mounted.
It’s fine. I’ve got this... Easy, now...
The tritan bull had paused, head raised, listening to something far away. Seeing his opening, Phos let loose his arrow, bow twanging as its energy was released. The creature didn’t even have time to react as the projectile pierced through the thin, stretched skin surrounding its rib cage, plunging into its heart. The bull let out a surprised warble, staggering and stepping two steps forward before its legs crumpled and folded underneath it. Blood was quickly soaking its fur, dripping and turning the snow beneath it crimson. Exhaling with a shiver, the elder tritan moved no more.
Phos quietly approached his kill, gently running his hand along the creature’s face. Its fur felt soft, still insulating the warmth of life from within. As he pet it, he gave his thanks, as was custom.
You lived strong. Thank you for giving your life, to strengthen our own. Your body shall not be wasted.
Phos checked the sky, grimacing. He had spent too much time here, and had none left to spare skinning and butchering the tritan. He had no sled with him to transport the meat and goods from it anyways— he would have to come back for it with the party.
No matter. The cold will keep it from spoiling, so long as predators don’t steal the carcass... Lilia will be thrilled. It’s been a while since we’ve had tritan meat.
It had started to snow, small flakes whispering indecipherable words to him if he listened closely enough. He set off at a brisk pace, hoping to make it back to Lotor before the snowstorm arrived in full. Heavy thunder boomed—
No, that isn’t right. That’s not thunder...
The sky was rumbling, emanating a sound almost identical to loud thunder. The ominous noise continued, and Phos blinked his purple eyes in confusion.
“What in Terra—!”
Small rocks had started falling like miniature meteors, clattering on the ground and leaving small holes in the snow upon impact. Phos had no shelter nearby, so ducked and covered his head with his hands. Larger rocks crashed around him, and he desperately hoped they would not hit him.
He didn’t know how long he had been cowering there before the mysterious meteor shower had ended. Shakily, he took a peek at his surroundings; the entire area was almost completely destroyed, littered with rubble. Upon closer inspection, much of it was some sort of bone-white stone he had never seen before. He had been extraordinary lucky that none flattened him.
“These aren’t meteors...” Phos murmured, taking deep breaths as he calmed himself. “But then... Are these rocks from Aether?”
It was the only conclusion that made sense. Did this mean something had been destroyed in one of the islands above him? He couldn’t even begin to imagine what could have caused such destruction. A gust of wind carried his long hair, and he trembled, the bitter cold chilling him. Snow was now falling heavily, obscuring his vision, and Phos knew he would never make it home.
He had to find shelter for the night, and fast.