A MEAL AND ITS VISITORS

Scene 8  1560 4D

Inkurisar finished his broth, sipping from the tin from his kit. He stood up. “Good broth, but not enough meat. I’m going hunting. Mouths to feed.” He inclined his head towards pregnant Tellina.

“It’s getting late,” Derizan stood also. “I’ll join you.”

“All right. Here’s my spare handgun. Can you use it?”

“Show me. I’ve used others like it.” The two men huddled for a moment, then ducked out the cave opening.

Inkurisar led the way up a steep slope to a jutting rock slab above the cave, kicking away the snow. The sun, now low in the winter afternoon, cast long mountain shadows that obscured parts of the upslopes the men faced as they looked northwest. Between steep mountainsides Derizan glimpsed twilight-dim lands far beyond. “Not up that way,” Inkurisar said. “That’s through the High Pass.” He turned to look southwest and down, and pointed. Not too far below them, Derizan saw what looked like five heaps of snow moving against a slope that faced the two men.

“Queeves.” Inkurisar raised his rifle slowly, braced, and fired one shot. Four of the heaps leaped gracefully away ahead and behind as the fifth sank slowly to the whiteness, almost invisible in the fading light except for one tiny dark mark now expanding on it. “Now for the hard part: getting to it and bringing it back.”

“Are these like the ones we shear for wool?” Derizan recalled his childhood visit to an uncle’s farm.

His companion laughed. “About the way a shereking is like a lakepuss. These can weigh over a hundred kilos. The one I shot looked bigger. We might have to get help to cut it up and haul it back, but it will last us for days, especially in the cold.”

With the help of some others from the cave, they struggled through the descent and ascent to the carcass, carved it and cleaned it, and carried large chunks of mountain mutton back to the cave. Two of the men foraged for whip-pine wood to build a real cooking fire in the cave, the moving air outside drawing the cooking-smoke out and away. It was now dark on the mountainside, with only the steady thrumming of wind and the fire’s crackle to clothe their conversations.

At last Tellina belched, patting her swollen abdomen. “Ah, I needed this, and I’m getting kicking. I think my baby is happy again.”

Inkurisar asked her, “How long have you got? We have a long way to go.”

“It’ll be soon,” Tellina shifted onto her side where she sat. “I’m not sure. Our womens’ terms seem to run long.”

Derizan muttered to Inkurisar, “We don’t even have a direction or a route picked out yet, do we?”

“There’s one I want to try tomorrow. If it works out, we’ll be coming down into big woods northwest of here. We’ll make better time there.”

Nakiran hummed an old Arcus song over the wind. Astina picked it up and her voice raised words.

Ten thousand years,
Ten thousand years,
Long and deep are the ten thousand years,
Long with the longings of long-loving hearts,
Deep with the blood of the sacrificed loves…

The women all came to singing. Then, a long discordant note wove in, undulating, ragged, soon joined by others. The singers stopped.

“Wolves.” Inkurisar grabbed his rifle and stepped to the cave opening, his fire-shadow flaring and shrinking ahead of him. “Let’s get these boulders in place with just a vent at the top. They got the scent of our mutton.” He sighed and looked around as Selech, Daryuz, and Derizan helped him shove the boulders into place. “We need to get rest now. It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow.”

 

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Last Updated Friday, June 21 2024 @ 02:43 pm  22 Hits   
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