The bear was caged, and the clan was doing their best to agitate it, poking it with sticks and throwing clumps of dry earth at its face. It growled, slashing at the bars. The adolescent boys all dared each other to get closer, and one of them got slashed.

Kira could hear the scream from the pit. She was breathing hard, ready to engage in something she had seen occur many, many times before.

“Hyle’s Choice”

Kira and Bonel had and equal rights to bed the chief’s sun, and bear his child. Neither was willing to back down, and so the choice was left to nature.

In the pit were pedestals twice as tall as the “combatants” and they were each close enough to be walked on the top.

The goal of each woman was to get to the top and stay away from the bear. The survivor was the winner.

No weapons and no rules to speak of except one: The pit is closed off until Hyle; God of the Hunt, chooses the winner.

The bear was restless; the cage was being moved with its thrashing. Its noises echoed through the forest of pedestals, and Kira was now aware she could not tell where sounds were coming from.

With a steady hand she lowered herself, preparing to leap, and scramble her way to the top.

Another scream from a clansman, and the horn sounded.

With wide, terrified eyes, Kira ran towards a pedestal. She vaulted up the post, and then leaped off, towards one close by.

Her gloves were the fault; her fingers graced the edge and slipped off the stone. She fell, landing on her side. She unstrung the gloves while the breath was pulled out of her.

Her braids had fallen over her face, and despite the panic over her inability to see, she focused on the task at hand. With luck, she was thinking that Bonel was having the same problem.

The beast’s breathing came from all around. It sniffed, searching for its promised meal.

As she rose, Kira threw her gloves to the earth. She spied a clear path to a stone pole, and ran.

The run, the vault, it worked. Half her fingers on both hands clung to the edge. Her weight dropped, and pain shot through her strained grip. She pulled herself up with gritted teeth and a low growl.

As her head came over the edge, Bonal was visible, standing on one of the pillars.

The younger woman leaped from one to another, eagerly attempting to push Kira back to the floor of the pit, into the maw of nature.

She only had three pillars between her and her prey. Not much time for Kira to react.

But Kira’s will was strong. Her arms burned with pain, and her adrenaline carried her up to a standing position. She eyed Bonal.

The two women observed each other. Bonal was young. She knew this was a chance for fame among the clan. Against an older opponent her chances seemed good. Her plan was obvious, end the ritual as quickly as possible, using her age advantage.

Kira had waited her whole life to rear a true-blood warrior. She was resolute that no one would take that opportunity away from her. Especially not a fame-seeking whelp, which only a year ago bled for the first time.

The clan made noise that blended into a single noise. The women looked at each other, wondering who would act first.

But the bear restated its presence. Below Kira, it came into view. It prowled, feeling the pillar she was standing on. She knew what came next; it would stand up and rock at the stone. This is where all the combatants fell.

For years she had watched men and women wait to act. The bear would rock it, and it would not stop until they fell. And once fallen, the exchange was over in seconds.

Kira leaped to a pillar towards Bonal.

She smiled at the young woman.

“How eager are you to prove yourself, young one?” she said while almost losing balance.

Bonal stood low, ready.

“How much longer will you live, old woman?”

“I have paid my dues, and you will not stop me from having the child I deserve.”

The bear was following Kira, and she leaped towards Bonal again, now only four feet of empty space was between them.

“What is your plan, old one? I will outlast you, here. You will tire before me, and the bear will eat you,” she gloated.

“But you forget, naive one, that you are light, and I am strong,” Kira smirked.

Before the young woman could react, Kira was already in the air.

The older woman grabbed her fancy leather straps over her chest, and used her to cushion her fall.

Bonal’s breath fell out of her, and her eyes burned with rage. She clutched at the older woman’s hair, grasped at her eyes. But she could barely see, barely move, or breathe.

Kira grabbed Bonal by her upper arms, lifting the smaller, younger woman by the upper arms above her, like playing with a child.

Bonal’s arms lashed about, and her legs tried in vain to move her.

But Kira’s grip was strong, and her strength dominated the whelp.

The bear came and eagerly took the gift.

Bonal’s back was torn with claw, and she screamed. She screamed and screamed, until no sound came from her at all.

Kira slid out from under the corpse and slinked away from the grisly scene. She only had a couple slashes, and nowhere vital.

She approached the door to the pit, covered in blood that was not hers and her groom-to-be waited for her at the cage-door.

He began to clap, and the clan joined in behind him.

Kira sighed. A true-blood warrior was hers to raise.

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