Over the next few days, Kevnos continued to teach Nyx more about hunting, trapping and tracking. Zyx did not care for the tasks and so he chose not to participate. Not only did he not enjoy the physical exertion that was necessary to keep up with their ranger leader, but he did not enjoy learning about the skills that Kevnos had mastered. He was preoccupied with the whispers in his mind that whirled all about him like a breeze that he could not catch.
Not about to tolerate laziness and lethargy in his new tribe members, Kevnos gave Zyx the task of preparing the fire and cooking. Zyx was not especially thrilled to be the cook, but he learned the basic task from Kevnos quickly and he soon was proficient in skinning and cooking the beasts that Nyx and their new goblin king captured or killed on their daily trips through the caves around the Sharpspear town.
This new job gave Zyx a chance to get to know the anatomy and more important the spirits of the beasts he had the opportunity to handle. Zyx did not know it yet, but all living creatures have a spirit of sorts. Some are stronger than others, but all have one. Even plant life has a spirit, though many times it is called an aura. These are not typically the focus of priests, shamans or clerics but the druids and often even the rangers of the world are sensitive to the spirits and energies of plants. The Deep had very little plant life with no light to enjoy so Zyx had no chance to feel flora energy.
Even though the beasts Kevnos and Nyx brought to Zyx were already dead, he could still feel their spirit. He even noticed that it felt as though the animal spirits were fading the further they got from life. It was as though the spirit clung to the physical form for a time and gradually separated from the corporeal world. The young goblin was eager to receive new beasts to prepare for their meals every day so he could interact with their spirits.
The process Zyx used was very rudimentary. With no training and no real knowledge he could only learn through experience and trial and error. He knew that closing his eyes to the physical world helped focus his spirit sensitivity so he often spent time with his hands hovering over the animals and his eyes gently closed. He body relaxed and his breath slowed and then his ability to feel the auras of the beasts grew. He did not learn much from these experiences as the spirits of the animals did not speak to them, but he could feel what they felt. Mostly there was a sense of disappointment and pain in the spirits he sensed. Zyx learned that the animals caught in Kevnos’ traps and with his arrows and spear were afraid of dying. Their own death confused them and they clung to their physical bodies as long as they could. Zyx wondered if a spirit could be reunited with its body but had no idea how to explore that question.
Another bit of wisdom that Zyx gleaned from his new job as clan chef was that even the bones of the beasts contained some of their essence. With the Sharpspear clan eating like kings, there were many bones left over when their meals were completed. When Zyx was cleaning and disposing of these bones he could feel energy in them when he held them in his hands. The larger the bone the more energy was contained within. He found the blood as well held energy of the creature that created it.
Zyx experimented with these bones while his brother and Kevnos were hunting and trapping. He used the totem he stole from Nakbor during the skirmish far in the distance back at clan Trickyfoot to compare the energy. Zyx could feel very strongly the energy from the totem and it certainly empowered him to strengthen his spirit and focus his own energy. The bones from their meals were much less powerful. Zyx could not sense much with them beyond the animal’s own existence. He figured that the more powerful and strong the animal, the stronger the energy in its bones and blood.
Back out in the caverns and caves surrounding Sharpspear Clan, Kevnos was busy teaching Nyx all he knew. The pair were filled with energy as they roamed together in the Deep. Kevnos was eager to show the whelp all about the world of a goblin hunter. They worked with their spears early on being one of the simplest weapons they could train with.
Kevnos showed Nyx how to thrust, slash, parry, block and all sorts of other maneuvers with the spear. Nyx internalized the moves easily. His balance and strength was already sound for a whelp his age and he was growing even stronger with the solid diet he was now on with the abundance of food they caught. When not searching for prey, they practiced basic sparing.
Besides the spear, the goblins practiced with their short bows. They were small, given the goblins’ relatively short stature, and did not have great range, but they fired an arrow with decent velocity and they were effective in the narrow and low caves of the goblin world. With this weapon too, Nyx was proficient quickly. He was already comfortable with the weapon, having found one earlier, but with the ranger’s training, he became quite accurate and deadly with one. That skill would soon be put to the test.
One day, while Kevnos and Nyx patrolled the caves around the Sharpspear clan, Kevnos halted his protégé with a hand signal. Nyx froze in his steps and immediately drew and arrow and notched it in his bow, quickly scanning their surroundings. Nyx saw no threat, but Kevnos studied the tracks intently and eventually pointed to them.
Nyx looked with eye squinted but the tracks appeared to be little more than some light scratches on the cave floor. When Kevnos looked up at him, the young goblin merely shrugged.
“Cave centipede,” the hunter whispered. Nyx didn’t really know what that meant. His ignorance did not allow him to be afraid. If anything, he was curious.
Kevnos studied the tracks for a long minute then decided they should had back in the direction they came. They turned and silently began back towards the clan village but they had already been detected.
From a crack in the cave ceiling, a clicking suddenly began like the sound of rain on glass. Nyx looked about trying to find from which direction the sound was coming but it was undetectable to him. The clicks echoed off the cave walls and through the stone and Nyx continued to spin about trying to find a target, bow readied.
Kevnos was more experienced and knew precisely which direction the sound came from. He readied his spear, pointed at a crack above him as the sound neared. The hunter looked back however, in a moment of strange concern for another goblin, Kevnos looked back.
“Whelp!” he shouted, “Run!”
Nyx looked at his mentor just as huge long antennae came poking through the crack followed by legs, fangs and many more legs.
The centipede bolted through the crack like lightning, legs cracking against the stone, mouth wide, ready to attack and kill the goblin hunter.
Kevnos got his spear up in time but the centipede knocked it to the side with a swing of hard sharp legs and lunged at him. The ranger dove to the side with the spear and barely managed to avoid a quick bite from the beast.
Nyx shrieked and loosed an arrow at the attacker but it struck a hard tergite, a hard plate that protects the centipede’s body, and fell harmlessly to the floor. He shouted a primal bellow and fired again and again as Kevnos scrambled away from the beast. One arrow finally hit the soft tissue as two plates separated and the creature cried out in pain and swung its head to face Nyx.
The young goblin stepped back when he saw the large fangs dripping with venom and the hungry mouth waiting for soft goblin flesh, but his mentor would not let the beast feast on him.
Kevnos hopped to his feet and threw his spear at the monster hitting it near its head and burying the weapon deep in his body. Once more a scream like scrapping rock echoed through the halls and the centipede turned back to his first, and larger, target.
Kevnos gripped his bow and drew an arrow but was not quick enough to escape the many legs of their attacker which was on him before he could get his weapon up. The centipede toppled Kevnos to the ground and buried his fangs into the ranger who yelped as his eyes went wide and his face contorted in agony.
Nyx, seeing the attack, gripped his spear and sprinted toward the centipede. He leapt over the beast’s body and then drove his spear into a spot just under his head plate, deep into his brain. It made no sound except for the clanging of its hard exoskeleton as it collapsed lifelessly to the cave floor.
Nyx rolled from the beast’s back and pulled his mentor from under it.
“King! No die! I kill it!” he cried, but already Kevnos’s eyes were rolled back and foam spat from his throat and mouth. The venom rushed through his veins seeking to smother the life from his body.