Sav held one hand to his mouth, pretending to hold in a guffaw, eyes bulging with mockery. Deets simply leaned back, arms crossed over his chest, that wide, missing-tooth smile of his. “Good thing you didn’t waste none. Pig’s blood’s just your shade.”
The man dropped his spear at Deets’s feet, mouth hanging slack with sending the wordless message of exactly how over this moment he was. “Give me your knife, Deets. The good one.”
Deets chuckled again, this time with a hint of incredulity. “Hear that, Sav? He wants my knife.”
“The good one,” the hunter reminded the pair.
“The good one at that,” Sav agreed.
“Whatchu need it for, then, eh?” Deets said, his good humor over his clansman’s appearance slowing the eventual slide into violence that was Deets’s particular idiom. “The pig’s well dead.”
“You blind, Deets?” he picked the spear back up and shook its naked end in Deets’s face. “I gotta go fishing and I thought I’d use the prettiest hook around.”
“Use your own.”
“Mine’s flint. I’ll have to sharpen it six times before I get that point out.”
“Hear that, Sav?” Deets mocked without taking his eyes off of the bloodied man.
“Sounds like he best get to sharpening, eh Deets?” Sav said, rotating his head on his neck like a featherless owl, a taunt, a provocation. Sav took a prancing step, strange and exaggerated, head twisting, as he moved around his clansman.
“Come the fuck on, Deets. I can do it clean and quick with your knife, just let me see it.”
“Why should I?” Deets said. His humor had fled him now. The confident disdain that settled over his face told the hunter that violence was inevitable. “Why not just stick it in your throat and take that pig for myself?” Deets harumphed once to himself and dropped his hands to his side, not so much as advancing toward the bloody man as leaning in toward him.
“For fuck’s sake, Deets, really?”
The hunter heard a squelch in the mud behind him and to his left, he felt the force of weight shifting on his feet. Right about where Sav should be.
The tipless haft of spear still in his hand, he struck. In one motion, he brought the butt end of the spear around to strike Sav in the gut while the tip-end of the spear – the fraying slot where his old obsidian blade had been fitted – raked across Deets’s eyes. The groan from behind him presaged the plop of Sav’s body into the mud, the lithe man writhing in pain on the ground. Deets roared in pain as he reeled from the attack, shielding his eyes with his left hand while his right drew the knife in question.
Obsidian was still rare, though it was becoming more common, and was prized far above flint and other stones for nearly every purpose. It held a razor edge far longer than even flint could and was quick to sharp again, to knap back into shape. Every hunter of the tribe had at least one piece of obsidian, and he guarded it jealously. The clan itself was the hunters’ only source of the stone; the clan had no inheritance mores, and a dead hunter’s obsidian was always returned to the clan. Our hunter had but the one spear tip, not even flake tools; he'd hoped this boar would change that. He was right.
Deets waved the short obsidian knife wildly in front of him, peering out from behind the arm that covered his eyes. The hunter could see that Deets still had at least one good eye, though how good – or the state of Deets’s other eye – remained to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, seen. He backed up from Deets’s lunatic swings and took the opportunity to stomp his bare heel once more into Sav’s gut. Glancing down swiftly, he could see that Sav had already drawn his own obsidian blade, which now rested a few comfortable lengths from Sav’s hand. If he had been a moment slower, hesitated for the blink of an eye, and knife would have been in his back. Or across his throat. Or stabbed into his ear. Or his eye. Thank the spirits for squelching mud.
He spun his spear haft on Deets again, this time berating him with the butt end of the haft about his head and shoulders. Deets, half-blind and all anger tried deflecting the blows, tried shielding himself from them with his knife, but in his anger, he could only lash out where he had just been struck, rather than where he was about to be struck. In the clan, you took what opportunities presented themselves. Just when Deets had focused all of his rage on warding off the blood-covered man’s rapid strikes, he changed tactics and swiped Deets’s feet out from underneath him. Deets – and his knife – joined Sav in the mud.
“Well, mates,” he said, huffing from the exertion on top of his existing exhaustion, “good to know I can rely on you two, after all.” He knelt down in the mud, feeling it cool his naked knee, and grabbed both his opponents’ knives. “I ask for one knife, I get two.” Deciding that Sav was far too lonely, he gave Deets a matching kick in the gut. “I have had worse birthdays.”