You stand beneath the hot sun, looking longingly at the tree-line meters ahead. The cool shade is enticing, but you’ve always had more success hunting in the open savanna. Leeu, your lion familiar, looks up at you expectantly.
The water hole is a few minutes run away from the edge of the jungle. The yellow stalks of tall grass lie flat in the wake of a passing herd. From Leeu’s sense of smell, you suspect wildebeest. Hard to bring down, but you’ve often found gazelles or antelope nearby. Hunting near the water hole will by hot, sweaty work, but you think of the prize: Every bit of food you bring back means freedom from the pit fights for you, and freedom from the diamond mines for your family.
Things used to be different. Before the Apex, your family was prosperous. You were never rich, but your father and mother got by trading away goat meat and milk from their familiars. You lived a happy, simple childhood. Bonding Leeu meant keeping her from eating your parents’ goats, but the companionship was worth the extra work. Besides, Leeu’s bond always filled you with a sense of power. The lion evoked security and safety. Nothing attacked when it smelled Leeu nearby.
But the Apex wants you to join up, and several Apex members pressure your family’s friends and neighbors to stop trading with you. Just the other night, wild dogs attacked your parents’ goats. You stopped them with Leeu, but not before three goats were killed. You couldn’t prove it, but you think the Apex was behind the attack, trying to harass your parents into sending you to the Apex.
You push thoughts of the Apex from your mind; you need to bring home much-needed food.