DOWN TO FORNONCK

Scene 11  1560 4D

“We have to move now,” Inkurisar said. The winter shadows were rising ahead, across the forest below and ahead of them. The trail sloped and twisted down and along descending tiers of granite, snow over fallen rubble, in the darkness.

Derizan looked closely at his father. Alumaras seemed more aware. His ashen pallor had turned to better color. But Derizan, turning to the trail downward, saw only a dangerous struggle ahead. To Inkurisar he called, “Can’t we protect the burdened ones?” He gestured to his father and to Tellina, whose husband was trying to get her to her feet.

Inkurisar pointed. “You, Daryuz, Selech. Help these two. Nakiran and Munizkara, you too. Ajina, Astina, you’re with me. Mentrianos, stay by your wife.” He looked at Derizan and then at Denzari. “You two are brothers, right? You take the rear and keep a good lookout behind and beside us.”

As the afternoon passed, the wind lessened, giving them some relief from the cold. The rock-strewn path, covered with uneven snow, slowed them to a stumble winding back and forth, often holding each other’s arms for balance, especially where the trail narrowed as it traversed past a steep dropoff.

“We never thought this far ahead,” Denzari muttered, steadying Derizan past a gravelly snowslide. “Now look at us. Night is coming, it’ll be cold, there are wolves who are not our friends, and we don’t even know where we’re going.”

“Our guide must know,” Derizan said. “He’s done this before.”

“I’m sure he has. But he hasn’t told us everything, has he?”

“If we stop talking and keep walking with care, we’ll be in Fornonck an hour after sunset.” Inkurisar’s voice came back to them as clearly as if he had been beside them. “Now shut up. Wolves have good ears and better noses. We’ll make better time below the whip-pine tree line, but we’ll get there just when the wolves are hunting.”

There were no signs or sounds of wolves when they reached the pines. After a brief pause for water and rest, they started on their way again, relieved that only a modest layer of snow lay over their now-smoother path. By now the darkness had crept over the forest, and through the treetops Derizan could see stars wink among the branches. He took a deep breath, exhaling gustily, and at that moment a howl sounded behind them.

In a flash Inkurisar was back beside the brothers, his rifle at the ready. He handed Denzari the small beam weapon he’d used earlier to start the fire at noontime. “You know how to use these?”

“Yes.”

As Denzari checked the weapon’s cartridge feed, Derizan asked him, “When did you…” He got only a mysterious grin. Derizan pulled out the handgun Inkurisar had given him. Another howl.

Nakiran had halted and silenced the party the moment her husband had joined the two rearguards. Everyone stayed still, their whispers lost in the light wind. Inkurisar’s hand, raised in a warning, waved back and forth. Something’s coming.

From the trees at left burst a leaping series of one-horned goats – voltiari – racing frantically past Derizan and the others, one bounding straight over his head, to disappear into the trees at right, pursued closely by a pack of the mountain wolves, silent but for their breathing.

As the wolves bounded past, a shock ran through Derizan’s head, electric, bright, and the clear thought bit through him: We will be back to see you – we’re busy. Derizan stammered to Inkurisar, “They said they’ll be back!”

Inkurisar turned to him. “You have quite a gift with the wolves! I only have a little of it. I never heard of City people with it.” He held up both hands, turning to the others. “We’re safe for now. They’re hunting the goats. Let’s go. We have to get to Fornonck. No time to waste.” He strode back to lead them, kicking vigorously at the snows under the drooping heavy needles of the trees.

On his first step, blinding light flared across their path, and an explosion of bark burst from the nearest pine. A man’s voice shouted, “Stop! We’ll shoot!”

 

Next scene.

Last Updated Friday, June 21 2024 @ 02:56 pm  13 Hits   
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