Getting to the forest was the easy part. Sort of. Simple movement was getting easier now. She still got into trouble if she tried to control it herself, but when she let her new instincts take over completely, it wasn't a problem. The real problem came when she tried to process everything her instincts and senses were telling her. Her senses were all...different. More intense. Her hearing and sight were the strongest, but even her sense of smell was better than it had been before she changed. And the sounds were deafening. She could hear the sound of running water, but there was no water in sight, so it had to be coming from a good distance away. She just couldn't tell where. She could hear sounds that her instincts told her were prey, but she couldn't even begin to guess where they were...or what to do should she manage to stumble across something she could hunt. What did caracals hunt, anyway? Did they fish more than they hunted? Cats loved fish, after all, and a caracal was a big cat.
Kirei had no idea what to do, and she hissed in sheer frustration. Then she took several deep breaths, and forced herself to calm down. She wasn't going to get anywhere if got so overwhelmed that she gave up before she even tried. Giving herself over to her instincts had worked when it came to balance, and moving around, so maybe it would help her now. It certainly couldn't hurt, at least. So she closed her eyes, counted to ten, and did her best to calm her mind. Once she had made some progress in that regard, she forced herself to stop thinking, and allowed the instincts that were screaming at her to take over.
It worked. Kirei's ears twitched as she heard something rustling the bushes several feet away. Her instincts told her it was food, and without even realizing what she was doing, she crouched down, and began to creep towards the sound slowly. As she gave herself over to her instincts, it wasn't that she walled herself away, and stopped thinking or feeling. It was more that she was a passenger in the caracal's head. The caracal knew what it was doing, so Kirei let her do it. For her part, she watched...and did her best to learn.
She continued to stalk her prey. As she got closer, something about the sound of the rustling told her instincts that it was a rabbit. Kirei had no idea how the caracal knew what the animal was by sound alone, but that seemed to be the case. She tried to pay attention to the sound so she would recognize it again when she needed to. Every once in a while, the rustling would pause. When it did, Kirei's instincts made her freeze as well, waiting patiently until the animal the caracal was stalking went back to whatever it was doing. Finally, her caracal instincts seemed to feel that she had gotten close enough. Under their guidance, she committed herself to the kill, and darted forward at full speed. Her paw stepped on a bit of dry grass, making a sudden noise that alerted her prey to its danger. It bolted, but her instincts knew how to handle that. Rather than chase after the fleeing rabbit, she leaped into the air, allowing her momentum to carry her forward. She landed on her prey, mauling it with her claws.
Well...that was successful. Sort of. Kirei thought ruefully.
The rabbit was most certainly dead, but it was in no shape to be suitable to be brought to Cally's to serve to their guests. She stared at the mangled rabbit for several trills before eating it herself. If she was going to keep hunting until she had something she could bring back to Cally's, she was going to need to keep up her energy.
The next nine attempts were equally unsuccessful. Five of the rabbits escaped completely, and the four she did catch were too mangled to be presentable. She ate those too. The one good thing that came out of the effort was that Kirei was learning how not to hunt. That, and she was now certain that caracals were ambush hunters. They hunted by stalking their prey quietly until they were close enough, then leaping, pouncing, or darting forward in a short run to catch it. That knowledge would be of great help when she tried to hunt without using the caracal's instincts to help her.
Her tenth try was successful in producing a rabbit that she could sell to Cally's. The next three attempts were failures, but after that, she had a lucky streak where she caught six rabbits and a mouse in a row. Four of the rabbits were in good enough shape to be sold to Cally's. By then, all of the prey in the area was aware of her presence, and she couldn't hear a single thing moving around. After a quarter of a break more searching, she decided to take the rabbits she'd caught so far home, and go try another part of the forest.
It was the right decision to make. After five breaks more, she had another three rabbits that were in good enough shape to be sold to Cally's, and a fourth that was not, but that could be given to Aiden to make a rabbit stew out of for her family. Kirei was ready to call it a trial, so she gathered up the rabbits she'd caught, and started to make her way home.
As she passed by a bush, three good sized birds exploded into the air. By the time Kirei's startled mind recognized them as game hens, her instincts had taken over, dropped the rabbits she'd been carrying, and leaped into the air. Her body twisted in mid air to allow her to change position as the bird closest to her changed direction. And it worked. As she landed next to the corpse of the bird, she couldn't help but think that she had seen acrobats with less ability than her body's instincts had just shown. It reminded her of all the times she had seen her cat twist in mid air as it pounced on the shadows it loved to hunt. Her cat was an acrobat, and it seemed that caracals could be, too.
That's certainly a handy skill to have if birds are part of your diet. she mused.
And it would probably be good for hunting prey that was hiding among rocks, too.
Kirei made her way home slowly, carrying the prey she had caught. She felt that she had learned a lot from giving herself over to her new form's instincts, and watching the caracal hunt. But it would take time for her to process everything that she had learned, and she knew that she was nowhere near ready to try hunting on her own yet.