The Hunter

The Hunter by Rose Estes

Book: The Hunter by Rose Estes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rose Estes
     ready to strike.
    Carn screamed and brought the rock down with full force, but Braldt threw himself to one side and grabbed Carn’s ankles, jerking
     them out from under him. Grunting and panting with exertion and emotion, the two men grappled on the hot, dusty earth, searching
     for a hold while attempting to elude being pinned themselves.
    Carn’s face was close, his dark eyes full of undisguised, bitter hatred. Braldt was deeply shaken for he had not even suspected
     the depth of his brother’s feelings.
    Gasping and panting for breath, the two men rolled back and forth on the hot earth, neither able to gain the advantage. Although
     Braldt was by far the taller and heavier, Carn was lithe and strong and his hate gave him added strength. Suddenly a knife
     appeared in Carn’s hand, its point pricking at Braldt’s throat. But then, just as suddenly, he was gone, his weight removed,
     and he struck out repeatedly, the knife rising and falling as Braldt threw himself forward, catching Carn around the waist
     and hurling him facefirst onto the ground.
    Yapping shrilly, Beast rose up on his hind legs as the adults of his kind were wont to don and skittered sideways, then dropped
     to all fours and lunged, snapping at Carn, his double rows of teeth already stained with Carn’s blood.
    Carn rolled sideways, knocking Braldt off, and then rose to his feet brandishing the knife. Braldt cursed and struggled to
     his feet, but neither Carn nor Beast paid him any attention, each fixed upon the other. A steady stream of blood pulsed from
     a wound on Carn’s ankle and Beast’s flank was scored by a long, shallow cut. Neither was hurt badly but Braldt knew that it
     could get much worse, quickly.
    Braldt ripped his robe free and threw it over Beast, enveloping him in its folds, and held the struggling bundle against his
     chest while backing away from Carn. He backeduntil he was stopped by the smooth warm surface of the stone.
    “Do you hate me so much, brother?”
    “That much and more,” replied Carn as he sheathed his dagger and looked into Braldt’s eyes. The killing rage had dimmed, replaced
     by something more easily maintained over a long period of time, hatred.
    “You are not my brother and never will be. No words will make it so. You are an outsider. You were not born of the Duroni
     and have no claim to the throne, no matter what Uncle says. He is old, weak, and useless. He grieves that he has no son to
     take his place and carry on the family name. He has picked you, but by all rights it should have been me, and
have been me had you not appeared so mysteriously. And it will still be me, brother,” he said, twisting the word and spitting
     it out like a bitter seed.
    “Carn, I have no wish to be chief. You may have the throne and my allegiance as well. I never asked for the honor. I tell
     you that it is not what I want.”
    “Oh, and what is it that you do want, brother?”
    “I want for things to be the way they were between us. I want you to stop hating me. How can such a thing be? I have no hatred
     for you! You are right, I am an outsider, that is plain enough to see. But I cannot control what happened when I was but a
     babe. Am I to be punished and reviled for the events that robbed me of my own parents, my birthright, my own history? Do you
     not think that I lie awake nights and wonder who my parents were and how they came to be found in the desert, and wonder what
     killed them?
    “Fate or the gods robbed me of my own family and then gave me into the keeping of yours. Would you deny me the right to love
     and honor them, the only family I have ever known? Do you think it is easy knowing that I am different and do not belong?
my brother, Carn, and even if you hate me, it will not change the way I feel.”
    Carn stared at Braldt, measuring his words, weighing them, and then he turned away, his back to Braldt. When he turned back,
     the hardness had left his eyes, or was

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