Covenant, Published in Owlflight 3, 1982

It hadn’t eaten since laceration. The stitching hadn’t held now that briar had to be used. Sinew had gone the way of birds. In the brush it had seen others of the ilk with insolent brow bumps, skin grown hard and firm over briar. It knew when to be thankful. It was first laceration, and it entered covenant now. More than a thought — animal across three moon leap — and it fell mute, the order of things. In a few long darknesses it would watch other young gruffs slashed fromn ear to ear, routed from brow to brow, by close one. When lacerated by another it meant death. But it didn’t hurt. Close one saw to that. Pain was dull. At the shore muds cooled the stitches.

Using an old keet sinew, wizened and taut, it roughly tended to the open stitches, threading the fiber through its brows until blood clotted, scabbed. At its age slate and stone slung across chest were tools of hunt, and it went into Park for its first kill. It new how, it knew without telling. It would be the last of the keets, one-leg, brown crest, lips of porpoise fish. Lips would be a savory morsel. On moon lulls they’d crack open lips, eat the sweetmeats while doing laceration.

The ground was brown as it lumbered along. The horned sole of its foot shed as it grabbed its slate in one paw and its stone with the other and lowered its carnivorous head so that the rise of its back would allow its hump sight access to the vistas of Park, the huntland where it stalked keet.

In the afar the third moon had set. And the ground rumbled as first flush ran across Park. Evading its waters, which slowly percolated into gully cascades, it squatted upon a crag, for the steaming to pass away. It would not occur again until morn when the moons ripped the surface with tides.

It spied a keet with a vermiculate in its beak, lisping, offering reward, begging for respite. The keet took it in its talon and chalked out its eyes, a peck here, there, two drops to swallow, ingest, to divest on the morrow. The worm became stiff, vein, swollen digit, was devoured. And the keet paused to survey its territory when it took flight, one wing flapping of its body, as if a shadow gruff drawn, withdrawn, with paw over ground brown stubble.

It lumbered along, prowling, snorting, brushing stone against slate, a tip forming, flakes making scales, a killer point to kill keet with. One keet crossed its path. It picked up a boulder and flung it from an underpaw position and it hit the keet’s wing, and the keet ran on the soft shoulder of its side, cawing, seeking remission of pain. It stepped on the keet with its horned sole and the keet’s porpoise lip asked for mercy. It crushed its sheath with the killer point and drew out in longwet essence its marrow and engorged upon it. Feathers were plucked. Rare sinew drawn. Plummage stuck into the circlets of its ears. And the brain excised with killer point to share in laceration. Laceration was covenant with all things. Keet was it, it was keet. All was covenant.

By double noon it had slain three keet, one phonyx, and a sorteer. It had stripped the skin from the phonyx, to shield self from the hot rainweather. And the bladder of the phonyx would hold, once dried in amber, the waters of the third moon, if they were to be contained in such a creature bag and did not hiss for release. It was a good huint, and the laceration began to heal, make scar.

Liket hose it lived with, it had only a few moons in which to be lacerated, hunt, lacerate others, and die. Its early weeks had been spent avoiding the inch high streams that came from nowhere and barreled across the barrens, etching skin from bone. Its early weeks were instinctual, evasive weeks, of hurrying, of stepping over and about, of anxiety in ambuscade, of relentless fear.

And so it had come about, it knew not how, that anxiety would be removed when it was lacerated — ultimate self less. And its mother had mobbled the truth through tusk and it believed — rock thrown into fire — bringing horned sole to face place, solemnly.

And now it was hunt moon. In the coming of the moons left to it, there had to be hunt. In its burrow it would amass keet, phonyx, and sorteer — perhaps if it were hunterly, the man thing, who savored well. Short, wiry, haired, high cheeked and small boned, he sweetened the tongue after other creatures were eaten. Often it would see their remains by the mud flats, etched by the menacing moon streams, steam issuing from their crisps.

When the hunt was over, it would know in itself, as haunches pussed with fat, and it felt need to sleep. It was at this time, at the moment of balance, that it was compelled, driven to lacerate another.

And the hunt went on — brush creased flat before horned sole. in a web of rock and sterling splendor grass, twixt mud and pebbles, it saw man. With its paw it violated the retreat and withdrew man, writhing, screaming, using sound. A bothersome creature, but a sweetmeat — mother hulk in later over light, all in amber. The man clasped its hands and bowed its mane. It drew still. It had given up, not like phonyx, who kicked. It placed man down on the ground brown rubble as the overhead light ambered, casting man in shadow. It took killer point and poked at man’s arm and leg, his chest. Gore fled from him, and he crackled into skin and bone knuckle.

Grasping man up in it leathery paw, it drew a line about the little nut shaped head, incised a cut from ear to ear, through brow, and took up, into its mouth opening, the gray tender. It guttted the body, a scabbard for killer point, and knotted it to body hair with rare keet sinew.

Like the moon streams that crawled across the rubble, amid the mud sinks and flats, it aimlessly, drivenly, continued hunt; instinct, exaggerated and exercised, without thought; to finish hunt, to amass hide and flesh, until laceration was upon it.

The cycle of the third moon loosed rhythms in its self. It sought another to lacerate. One of its own kind. It thought — twinkle in dark space above — and fell mute. It moved to seek out, nowhere in purpose, nowhere in direction. It moved — much twinkle in sky space. Looming on the afar was a young gruff, husking shore clam, shells beaming three moon light.

The mud on its horned sole was good. It crept up from behind, the grunting of the gruff giving angle and attack space. With killer point it pierced the gruff’s stubborn hide, took life with a thrust that ripped organ. The gruff fell flat into the mud. The shells clattered. The three moon light left the shells divided into darks and lights.

Holdling up the head, tusk turned to the seething waters, it lacerated, deeply, without thought — waters creep up stop. The short night was almost over. The cycle was almost complete. It was right in its self. And a rush came upon it from within, and the rush knew it was time. And the pain and the pleasure of th past moons given it were at an end — it was whole, it was over. For now laceration was given to another and it lay down and waited, baying for the moon streams, in steam and hiss, to take its body.

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