MEETING THE ESCORTS

Scene 9  1560 4D

The night crawled as the winds blew outside the cave. Derizan could not sleep. Sounds of snuffling and scratching shot him awake and alert more than once, with Inkurisar’s handgun at ready, but he settled back when he’d hear a companion turning restlessly on the gravelly cave floor, sometimes groaning or muttering. The boulders blocked nearly the whole cave entrance, so the smoke from the damped fire wasn’t venting well, even with the gusts tearing at the bitter air, and coughs punctuated the long night.

At last Alumaras struggled to his feet, relieved himself in the back of the cave, and put the last sticks of wood on to burn and warm them all.

“What do you hear outside?” Daryuz, to Astina as she stood on tiptoe listening at the opening above the boulders.

“Nothing but the wind.”

Ajina wrapped her coat close. “Are those… wolfbreeds?”

“Not up here,” Inkurisar said, “They’re wild wolves, but I have an idea.” He motioned Astina aside and came to the opening with a long chunk of cooked meat.

“You’re not going to open for them to come in!”

“Watch and listen.” Inkurisar paid out the meat strip through the vent opening. As he did, his voice rose into a three-note song that repeated, undulating gently, in tones the wolves had used in their howls. He released the meat strip, and it slowly slid out and disappeared. Moments later, the wolves responded, their tones dropping lower at the end of each belling.

“Open the way,” Inkurisar told the others. “I’m friends with this pack. We’ve shared food. Stay still, and let them get acquainted. They’ll travel with us. We’ll share food.”

Derizan looked around at all the wide-eyed City faces, and asked the obvious. “They won’t attack us?”

Inkurisar laughed. “Not these. Others, yes. But the others won’t come near us when we travel with this pack.”

Selech, Denzari, Daryuz, and Alumaras rolled back the boulders, and stood back. With slow, cautious steps, seven wolves entered the cave, their eyes taking in the travelers, their noses inhaling the many scents of human life. The first came to Inkurisar, who offered his hand in greeting. Denzari clutched his handgun in his pocket as another wolf approached him. “Give him an open hand,” Inkurisar prompted, and Derizan released the gun, slowly opening his extended palm to the wolf, trying to keep from trembling. The wolf’s gray eyes stared into Derizan’s for a moment as if to say, “It’s okay.”

In this way the wolves and the members of the party greeted and came to a pause, and then the wolves lapsed into dogginess, all of them circling the cave, inhaling the aroma of the leftover meat, sniffing into all the corners of everything, getting the pungent scent signals from the latrine corner, adding their own, and even wagging tails now and then as the humans started to relax.

Daryuz started to reach to the head of the wolf nearest him. The wolf swiveled away and stared at him. “Don’t pet them,” Inkurisar warned. “They will let you know how and when to approach. Treat them as equals.”

Denzari asked, “Do you speak with them? I heard you before.”

“Only a few things. Their language is rich, and they make fun of me.”

“The wind has lessened,” Nakiran said. “Inkiu, dear, shouldn’t we get started?”

The party filed out into the snow. The winds had dwindled to a gentle, steady, chilly flow, and the sky was brightening to its best blue-violet. “Aaahh – this is a lot better. My old bones feel it.” Alumaras stretched. “Are we going down, finally? That would feel good.”

“The news is not quite that good,” said Inkurisar. “The ways down are blocked with troops. We follow the wolves. It looks as if we’ll have to take the High Pass.”

 

Next scene.

Last Updated Friday, June 21 2024 @ 02:42 pm  26 Hits   
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