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The rolling trees, they’re a problem. I wasn’t prepared for them. This place should’ve been easy to approach: no traps, no fence, no prey keeping watch. But with one tree, the situation changed. A lot of others were disabled. They didn’t die. But they can’t walk, can’t move. Some did die. And there’s more trees to watch out for, lots more. They’re propped up on the wall. One prey is fighting off the others that didn’t fall over. Two prey are preparing to drop another tree on us. The others are dumb, not knowing to spread out. If only I could tell them what to do. But I can’t. They only know to move as a group, clumping up, going the same way. I could lead them in a spiral; the rolling trees wouldn’t damage so many of them. But the others won’t listen to me, not when there’s prey in front of them.

Though the rolling trees are a problem, there’s an easy solution. The prey don’t have any bows. Only a shield and short spear. I can kill them with arrows. But they aren’t clean. I won’t be able to preserve the prey; they’ll rot, turn into others. It doesn’t matter. It’ll be hard to preserve the prey with so many others around. As long as I can eat their brains, it’s enough. I haven’t eaten brains in a long time. I miss the taste.

First, I’ll move off to the side, avoid standing near the others. The trees won’t roll my way if I separate myself from them. The others are dumb. But they’re a good distraction. The second rolling tree came down, knocking the others over when they were almost up the hill. The prey with the shield and spear came forward, stabbing the others that were on the ground. Now’s the time. I readied my bow. It doesn’t matter which prey I hit. If I hit the one with the shield, the others can get closer to the two rolling the trees. If I hit either one of the prey rolling the trees, there won’t be anymore trees rolling down. The choice is obvious. Aim for the ones without the shield.

Twang!

Lucky. The arrow hit on the first shot. Practicing was useful. The prey dropped to the ground, clutching its thigh, its hands around the arrow. It was too far to hear if it screamed, the others groaning too loudly. But I’m sure the prey did. The two uninjured prey stopped what they were doing, looking at their fallen companion. What are they going to do? All prey are different. But they all behave the same; they’re going to flee—the question is whether or not they’ll take their injured companion with them. It’d be nice to know beforehand. Maybe there’s something about the prey’s appearance that indicates their behavior. I haven’t noticed any. Most prey are selfish, running to save themselves. Only the last five prey I saw cared about their companions.

The prey did something unexpected. The one with the shield and spear passed its weapons to the injured one. Then it helped the uninjured prey prepare another tree to roll down the hill. The injured prey stood up. It was watching me. It was wearing a dome—they all were—but I could tell from the way its body was positioned. It made sure to stand between me and the prey behind it, holding the shield out. When an other got close, the prey stabbed it. The tree rolled down. Others groaned, collapsing into another pile. I didn’t spend time counting how many others were damaged. But I guessed a hundred were too injured to move. Not only that, the trees prevented the others in the back from approaching, acting like a fence, a low fence that tripped the others.

I prepared another arrow. If hitting one prey didn’t work, I’ll hit two—three if two isn’t enough. I’ll wait for the right timing. The prey with the shield lowers its guard when it stabs an other. It already stabbed the closest others. It’ll be a while before it has to attack again. The others are gathering slower, giving more time for the prey to prepare. After putting one tree into position, they had time to take another off the wall. The whole time, the defending prey never stopped watching me.

When the next group of others went halfway up the hill, the prey pushed the tree down. It crashed into the others. But unlike before, it didn’t continue all the way down. The prey didn’t react, stunned when they didn’t achieve the result they wanted. It was thanks to Big Other. The big prey from before, it turned into an other. After a month, its injuries healed. Unlike most others, it didn’t become any skinnier after turning. Usually, prey are fatter than others, shrinking after turning. Big Other is what I call it. It’s taller than all the others, wider too. It’s big enough to stop a rolling tree in its tracks.

The defending prey turned its head to look. Its shield was still in front of its body. One of the prey was completely exposed. Chance.

Twang!

The arrow struck the prey hard enough to make it stumble. But it hit its dome. Unfortunate. I was struck in the head while wearing my dome once. An arrow isn’t enough to kill through the dome unless it goes through the visor, deep into the eye, reaching the brain. Since I hit the side of the prey’s dome, there wasn’t any chance it was dead. After stumbling, it whirled around, its body facing me. I readied another arrow. But by that time, the defending prey recovered its wits, watching me again. Then it looked away. The others were climbing over the tree. Big Other didn’t even stumble, its legs long enough to step over tree without a problem. The tree didn’t move despite Big Other leaving. The bodies of the others that had already been run over were in the way, keeping the tree in place.

And that’s when it happened. The prey finally reacted like prey. They pushed the second log they had prepared, then they ran away. The injured prey stumbled after them. But how could it stumble faster than the others chasing it? It couldn’t. I was far. But this time, I heard the prey’s screams.

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Virlyce

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