When Marcus woke up the following day, he was feeling much better.
First of all, he wasn't starving anymore. He was hungry and thirsty, yes, but tolerably so.
Second, he had managed to make some improvements on his shelter. First of all, he had covered the cold ground with leaves and grass, basically making some kind of rustic bed, and then he had covered the entrance with various sticks held together by grass strings.
It wasn't elegant or even that well made, but it was much more comfortable than sleeping on the dirt, and having a door, if you could call some flimsy sticks a “door”, actually made it feel safer.
So now, despite it all, he felt a bit optimistic.
Sure, he was still stranded in a weird, wild world, but at least he thought he could take care of himself. The victory over the snake had given him a much needed boost in confidence.
He looked around, wondering what he should do now. Same as yesterday, his priorities were finding food and water. But now he could start making plans for the future too.
He didn't want to stay in that forest indefinitely, so he'd have to explore around to find some traces of civilization, or even better a way home. But to do so he needed provisions, most importantly a way to carry water, like a canteen or something. That meant that he had to craft some equipment, but he didn't have any tool to work with. And he needed at least a blade to start building something.
He knew that in ancient times people used to craft flint blades, but he hadn't seen any flint around here.
But maybe he could just make do with a sharp rock or something.
He remembered that he had seen various rocks on the top of the hill, so he went that way, hoping to find something that fit his needs.
A couple of hours later, he was silently cursing against all rocks in existence.
On the top of the hill he had found some sharpened rocks which seemed to be just what he was looking for, but when he actually tried to use them to cut wood he found out that it was much more difficult than he had imagined.
He had been trying to sharpen the end of a long stick to make a wooden spear, but the rocks' edge always broke after a few hits. Now he was almost out of rocks, and the stick was nowhere near as sharp as he needed.
He hissed in frustration. Clearly, the kind of rocks that he had found on the top of the hill wasn't durable enough to be used for blades.
But where could he find other kinds of rocks?
He searched his memory, and recalled that the river in the gorge was full of stones and pebbles.
Since he was thirsty, he decided to get there right now, hopefully avoiding the deer and any other possible animal that was there to drink.
So he grabbed his incomplete spear and started getting down the hill.
About half an hour later, as he was approaching the gorge, Marcus heard some weird noises.
It was as if someone was fighting near the river.
With caution, he approached the source of the noises, moving ever so slowly in order to not attract the attention of the ones that were fighting.
Using the cover provided by the bushes he stood hidden while observing what was happening.
The scene before him was unreal.
The majestic, crystal horned deer that had always threatened him was struggling against three unlikely opponents: some kind of giant hermit crabs, that stood on long, stilt like limbs longer than Marcus himself, and that had huge, red pincers that once closed were utterly similar to boxing gloves.
The crabs fought like boxers too, throwing powerful punches at the deer with their long arms, and dodging by sidestepping whenever the deer was charging at them.
Marcus observed the fight with fascination.
The boxing crabs were clearly more skilled than the deer, and they were using their number and coordination to deliver blow after blow to their opponent.
But the boss of the river was taking their punches without showing any discomfort, and kept charging at them with his crystal antlers.
That stalemate went on for a while, as the punches didn't seem to affect the deer, while the crabs dodged its charges like a matador.
But then one of the crustaceans was a bit too slow, and it was pierced by the crystal antlers of the deer. The deer immediately raised his head, lifting the unfortunate crab from the ground.
The immobilized boxer tried to free himself, punching repeatedly the deer, but the latter simply stood still, while his horns were getting brighter and brighter.
Finally, a blinding flash came from the crystal antlers, and the crab suddenly exploded in every direction, sending a splash of boiling guts and charred shell fragments on the rocks around the river.
The other crustaceans seemed hesitant for a bit, but when the deer turned to them they turned to their side and started scuttling away.
The deer ran in pursuit of them, and the gorge was suddenly empty.
Marcus, after he heard the galloping disappear into the distance, came out of his hiding place, and approached one of the broken, yet still smoking pieced of the crab.
A delicious smell came from those shell pieces... a smell of cooked crab that felt almost intoxicating to the young man.
Quickly, he grabbed one of them: he could see some grilled meat still attached to the shell, and he put it into his mouth with voracity.
"OUCH!" he cried, almost spitting it.
It was still very hot. Whatever the light that came from that antler was, the heat it released was certainly impressive. Thinking that those same antlers had been about to stab him, Marcus couldn't help but shudder.
But once it cooled, the crab meat felt like the most delicious thing in the world to him, and he hurried to collect all the shell fragments.
While he was doing it, he noticed that most of them were actually pretty sharp, not to mention one of the biggest ones was actually shaped like some sort of bowl.
"Well, this was a stroke of luck!" he said with a smile "Not only do I get a free meal, but also knives and a bowl! Now, if only I could get some booze, it would be the perfect gift!"
But that was asking too much, so he quickly emptied the bowl shaped shell of its meat, putting it all in his mouth, and then he filled it with water.
But now he was facing a different problem: it was very difficult to carry all of the shell pieces with him, and it was outright impossible to do it without spilling the water.
But he needed to get out of the gorge as soon as possible, to avoid being chased by the deer.
Marcus stopped there for a moment, wondering about what to do, and then he made a decision.
First of all, he carried all the pieces into the bushes, where he could hide. Then, he proceeded to silently consume all the crab meat there.
The meal took a while, and it wasn't exactly abundant, but it was too delicious to complain about it.
When he finished (too soon, he'd have kept eating for a while), Marcus drank all the water in the bowl, and then proceeded to fill it with the other shell fragments.
His reasoning was that he could return to fill the bowl later, but now he needed to get the fragments to his shelter.
Once he was prepared, he left the gorge in higher spirits than he had been in a long time... even before he actually arrived in this world.