Archive for the ‘Green Ones’ Category

I snapped to attention and time seemed to slow down. The world faded around me until all I saw was the cloth hurling toward me, lit by the blazing blue bonfire.

The fire rune leapt to my mind. Control it, Dorua! A small amount, not a fire, just the heat. Steam billowed from the cloth as it sailed toward me in slow motion. Wind next. A big gust at first, then slow as the cloth dries. Snuff the heat, and bob the cloth into the air.

The rest of the world came into focus once again as I heard a collective gasp from the group. All five of the dark-robed wizards stared at me. I turned toward Mhorik, who just stroked his beard with one of his more enigmatic smiles on his face.

“I see you are not to be underestimated,” Amberstone said, regaining her composure. The wizard who had hurled the cloth frowned and narrowed her eyes at me. Murmurs erupted from the crowd.

Mhorik motioned for me to follow him. I quickly snatched the cloth from the air and handed it back to Ambermoon. “I believe courtesy dictates I should return this to you.”

A slight smile crossed Ambermoon’s face as she took the cloth. I turned to follow Mhorik.

We returned to our seats. The wizards talked some more, but I barely heard a word. I was giddy. I controlled the magic perfectly. Perfectly! I felt the ebb and flow of magic around me, and I was lost in the currents for however long we were there.

“Let’s go.” Mhorik’s voice drew me back to the present as he got up and followed the crowd out of the clearing. We walked back along the paths, out of the grove to the field, and back to the fire.

“Well,” Mhorik said as we got back. “That was some show. You certainly will be remembered after that.”

My face cracked open with a smile. “I did good?”

“The magic was amazing. The politics you stumbled into, however….” Mhork’s voice trailed off.

“What do you mean?”

“That other wizard was Riversdepth. Let’s just say she doesn’t like me much. I think she wanted to embarrass you, but instead you made a fool out of her.”

I sat quiet for a moment, the glee of victory ebbing. “Is this bad?”

“No worse than usual.”

We sat quietly for a bit. i stared into the fire, when a timid voice with a heavy accent interrupted my thoughts.

“Can we join you, yes?”

A painfully thin man stood nearby, with a young boy. Their robes were colorful and foreign, but worn and still dirty from travel.

“Yes,” I said without knowing why. “I am the apprentice of Starwise.” I had learned my lesson.

“Could any not know who you are?” the young boy said in a similar accent to the other man as he sat down. “Everyone saw you!”

My hands flew to my face. Everyone did see me up there, didn’t they?

“She’s a bit overwhelmed right now.” Mhorik laid his hand on my shoulder.

“I see. It is nice to meet you, Starwise. I am Cloud’s Reflection from the empty plains.”

“I am not familiar with the empty plains,” Mhorik said. “Where are they?”

“To the far south. Few wizards in that land. They have bad reputation, and people are as willing to hunt them as to ask their assistance.”

“What brings you so far north?”

“Our village was attacked and burned. A warlord attacked, and our magics were powerless against him. He enslaved the village, and we fled for our lives.”

“I am sorry to hear that, Cloud’s Reflection. What happened?”

“The warlord lead an army of green skinned brutes. They were savage.”

“Green skin? Sounds like Kobolds, but would not be so easily controlled.”

We sat in silence for a bit, until Mhorik asked, “Is this your apprentice?”

“Not truly. He is my son, although he does show some promise with spells.” The boy smiled.

“Well, I hope you find shelter in these lands. Be wary, some tribes distrust traveling wizards, as my apprentice and I learned on our travels here.”

Cloud’s Reflection nodded. “Let us hope to find some good news here. Thank you for your kindness, Starwise.”

The events of the day finally crashed down on me. Fatigued weighed me down as I struggled to get my sleeping furs spread out. Worry about the next few days gnawed at my stomach, but sleep took all the same.

The two elder wizards talked late into the night, but thankfully sleep overtook me not long after the meal. I slept luxuriously that night.

Mhorik and I set out early the next morning, and truth be told, I was glad to be away from that place. We waved to the last few villagers who had guided us as they walked back. They were barely out of sight when I turned to Mhorik.

“What did she mean when she said you were a ‘generous master’?”

Mhorik continued walking, different emotions playing across his face. He gave a small sigh and answered, “Some wizards aren’t kind to their apprentices. Some believe that hardship makes an apprentice more focused.”

He saw the scowl on my face and chuckled to himself. We walked on in silence as I thought about this. I never really thought about other wizards much, let alone apprentices. A thousand questions flooded my mind: Why was Mhorik generous to me? Was it because I was a girl? Was it because he thought I’d become too powerful? Or not powerful enough?

We journeyed on for a few more days while I was lost in thought. Mhorik seemed to understand I needed distance, and there was no idle chatter. I started going through everything in my head and questioning it. Was Mhorik a good teacher? Did he push me too hard? Not hard enough? Was he a capable wizard? Despite being male? Because he was male and had to work harder? More and more questions came to me with each passing day, but no answers.

I was broken out of my thoughts suddenly when we were walking along a hunting path one afternoon. Mhorik suddenly pushed me into the underbrush with him. “Shh!” he hissed into my ear.

I shifted around and looked just above the foliage to see a small band of Kobolds marching along the path ahead. They were armed with large clubs and crude spears; a marauding party looking for targets.

“Fight?” I breathed the question to Mhorik as I ducked my head down.

He sucked a bit of air between his teeth, poked his head up quickly, and then back down. “Yes,” he said decisively, his knuckles white from gripping his staff.

My mind raced as I considered the magic I should wield. I felt Mhorik wrap some magic around us. “Protection,” he whispered.

I took a steadying breath, then pulled aside my sleeve and looked at my rune scars. Fire, ground, wind…. Wind! I did a simple counting spell to count the number of short spears in the group. Five came to my mind and I nodded to myself. “I summon wind,” I whispered. “Then fire.”

Mhorik looked at me, thought a moment, then smiled. He nodded approval.

We sat for a while longer as Mhorik stole glances at the approaching group. “Fifteen,” he whispered into my ear. “Ready?”

I swallowed hard and held my breath. He tapped me on the shoulder, once, twice, three times….

On the third tap, we sprung out of hiding and into the open. The wind spell on my lips as we stood, causing the air between us and the group to churn. One Kobold shouted in alarm, and a few hurled their spears at us, easily knocked aside by the wind.

I concentrated on my next spell, tracing the rune on my arm. I didn’t really need the rune to summon the fire, but I did need it for control. I planted gouts of fire all around the enemies, discouraging their advance without trying to kill them all. One of the Kobolds went into a frenzy and charged anyway, consumed by flame before he even took five steps beyond.

A few more spears hurtled toward us. My wind spell was weakening, but still potent enough to knock the short spears aside. I concentrated more fire around the group, trying to force them away from us. I inhaled deeply, concentrating hard but feeling the strain of the magic. A quick look at the field let me know that Mhorik had not cast any magic at the group. What was wrong?

As if on cue, Mhorik uttered a final word of power. It shook the air around us as a bolt of lightning struck the ground near the Kobolds. The explosive force drew in the fire and then expelled it in a wicked blaze of destruction. Bodies hit the ground, and the others went running off the path, into the tall grass and away from us.

I sat down hard, letting my concentration drop. A few flames still burned, sustained by the bodies instead of my own will. The smell was terrible, but I was too tired to care. I pulled out a bit of water and drank deeply. Mhorik reached down and I handed the skin to him.

Then I laughed. Had Mhorik been a good teacher to me? The fact I was still alive to ponder the question after that answered it quite decisively for me.

It was the third day with the strange animals. The small one kept making contented noises, seeming to grow bolder as he interacted with the smaller animals. One of the wolf-like ones, colored white, had started to make noises like the group. He couldn’t quite communicate fully, but they all had very basic conversations. The old one learned more about them, about their leader and their young ones. The concept of “young ones” was hard for the group to understand; could they make their own young ones?

The animals were also curious about the group. At a rocky outcrop, one of the animals had used her claws to carve out part of a figure that looked like the hard one. The group made the pleased noise as they looked at it, and the animals seemed to enjoy the company of the rocky ones.

Instead of seeking the quiet of a cave, the group had been sleeping in the open with their new friends. There was a vein of rock that was exposed to the open air, which gave them some comfort. But the night in the open brought unfamiliar sounds.

A new noise cut through the air that night, a loud piercing sound, that made all the animals sit up alert. The bigger animals grabbed the smaller ones and put them on the small table of rock, then formed a tight circle around them. The leader was making loud noises and searching around as one of his partners stood guard over the little ones.

There was a crashing through the brush as a small cat figure emerged into the open, chased by two small green creatures making the screaming noise. Their sharp claws swiping to try to catch the young one finally caught him on the side, sending him tumbling with a yell. The leader looked in the direction of the yell and dropped to all fours, running to his little one, but could not make it in time.

The hard one moved faster than anyone anticipated. He swung his harm and connected hard against the side of one of the green beasts, sending it sprawling. It made gasping noises and red fluid flowed out of its side. The other green monster ran into the hard one and bounced back, but made an even louder screaming noise. It dove toward the fallen green beast and bit at it, tearing chunks of meat from the fallen. Suddenly a small pack of the green ones leaped out of the bushes and descended on the fallen one. In short order, there were only broken bones and a splash of red where the body had been. The green mob turned their focus to the group.

The fast one and the hungry one had joined the hard one, forming a wall between the green monsters and the animal friends. The leader had grabbed his little one, leaking red fluid on his side as the green monsters had, and put him with the rest. The leader took his place in the group, facing the monsters and preparing for an attack. But, the group had decided to protect their friends and stood close, blocking the direct approach. The whole group were standing together by now, even the timid small one. They made an aggressive sound together, which made the green ones hesitate slightly before one launched an attack. Where one went, the rest followed.

The group swung their arms, crashing down upon the heads of the green monsters. More of them poured out of the underbrush, but the wall formed by the group held firm against the incoming tide. Any that got through were met by the small one who could still deal significant damage against the soft flesh of the green ones. But, the wave of monsters kept coming. Some would throw themselves at their fallen kin, devouring them in large chunks, while others would throw themselves against the group. The green ones could see the animals in a group behind the rocky wall and charged to try to get to the prize.

It happened so suddenly that nobody could react. A particularly large green one hit the old one while he was fighting and pushed him aside. Through the temporary breach that large one and five others rushed through before the old one regained his balance and closed the gap. The small one moved to block them, but they proved too much for him. The smaller creatures tackled him and knocked him over. They set upon him, digging their claws deep into his stone and pulling at his arms. The large one lumbered up and raised its foot, stomping hard on the small one. The force drove the small one into the ground with a crunch as splinters of rock flew everywhere. The large green monster pulled his foot back and howled in pain, but only a bunch of broken rock remained where the small one had fallen.

A cry came from the animals as the leader and a few others ran forward. Their claws dug into the flesh of the large green one, and it was brought low with repeated blows. The smaller ones were too quick, and dodged past the attackers to run toward the group. Murder was in their eyes as they ran forward, claws slashing the air and teeth biting the air in anticipation of more flesh. Just as the pack of green ones almost reached the group, a cry of surprise came from the small animals in the middle.

Leaping out from the group was the small one! He had used the carved rock of the outcropping to form a new body. It was more refined than his old body, taking on some of the form of the partially carved figure. But the rest of the group immediately recognized him. He swung his new arms in the air and brought them down hard on the green monsters. He crushed their bones and knocked them aside. He moved back toward the wall, catching any of the green ones that had broken through. Eventually, as suddenly as it started, the green ones started to run away off into the gloom of the darkening night. Their mad screams fading into the night.

The animals stood at the ready for quite a while longer as the group gathered together to examine the young one. The group went to the nearby water source to wash off the red fluid that had covered them. They went back and saw the animals starting to wind down and try to get some sleep. The large white one came forward and made the appreciation noise. The group returned the noise and spread out. They were energized by the fight, and would spend the night on the watch for the green monsters, but they did not return that night.

The group stayed with the animals for a little longer, but the green ones didn’t bother them anymore. Eventually the group decided that they would move on, leaving their animal friends for a while. But, the friendship between the animals and the group endured for a long time afterward.

Heena set a brutal pace for the group. Wod had to convince her to stop because Prin couldn’t take it anymore; the girl had broken down crying as they neared the location she described. The battle happened several nights ago, but Heena felt an urgency to find her sister. The sun was already low in the sky and she knew they had to be close.

Walking over to Prin, Heena put her hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Prin,” she said, trying muster patience and understanding for for the girl. “I wish to find my sister and make sure she is okay.”

Prin swallowed hard and nodded. Heena stroked her tangled hair and pulled her into a caring embrace. “I need you to find her.”

Wiping her eyes, Prin stood up and nodded. “I am scared,” she said, sniffling. “But, I will go on.”

Heena nodded and went to collect her pack. “We run again!” she yelled, prompting her tribe to pick up their gear and start moving.

Prin moved slowly to the front, taking deep breaths to steady herself. She looked around, taking in her mental map, and then pointed in a direction. Heena nodded then started the run as Prin had pointed, the young girl following close after.

Heena slowed down from her run when she recognized the precise location Prin described. She moved to the side as others came along and stopped nearby. The group dropped their packs and caught their breath.

“Here?” Tama asked, looking around. Prin nodded.

“I found blood,” Wod called out, crouching near the ground near a bush. Heena rushed over and saw the traces of dried blood on the vegetation.

Prin shook as she fought her tears unsuccessfully. “Oh, Bralla,” she cried, falling to the ground as the strength left her. Sobs racked her body. Heena dropped down beside her and lifted Prin’s head to her chest, making made quiet, comforting sounds.

“No bodies?” Tama whispered in Heena’s ear from behind.

Heena shook her head, but then said, “Dees must have taken them to a sacred place.”

Tama stood and walked off to talk with the others. Heena just held Prin close, letting the grief wash over her. “Sorry,” she whispered. “So, so sorry.”

They sat next to the bush for a long time as the sun moved down to the horizon. Heena heard the rest of the tribe setting up camp some distance away from the bloody site, but she didn’t move until Prin finally sat upright and wiped her eyes.

“Hungry?” Heena asked. Prin nodded, so the two stood up and went to the fire to get some food.

The meal was simple and quiet. Something wasn’t right for Heena. Even as the others went to sleep, she got up to walk around.

“Cannot sleep?” Wod asked as she walked near where he was keeping watch.

Heena looked at the moon and nodded. “I wish Ree were here,” she said quietly. “She would be able to comfort Prin better.”

Wod gave a quiet laugh. “I think you give good comfort.”

Heena shrugged. “Maybe.”

“The girl is scared,” Wod said, the mirth leaving his voice. “After what she saw….”

Heena nodded and shivered. “Let us go nearer the fire,” she said as she got up. The fire warned her body, but the growing sense of unease was not dispelled by the heat or light.

They sat in silence for a good part of the watch. Near the time of the deepest night, Wod went to get Skiro and wake him up for his watch.

After the old man had gone to relieve himself, he came near the fire to warm up and wake up. He saw Heena sitting there and grunted a curt greeting. Heena just nodded.

Wod was just about ready to go to sleep when he heard something. “There!” he whispered, pointing beyond the fire. He took a spear and went around the fire to the other side. Skiro grabbed his spear and went the other way, while Heena moved back carefully.

She heard the footsteps clearer now, most likely the sound that Wod had heard. The moonlight showed a figure moving in the night, heading toward the camp. Heena squinted and moved away from the fire, trying to get a better look at the figure. Hope welled up in her as she saw what seemed to be a familiar figure.

“Dees,” Heena gasped, tears coming to her eyes. She jumped up and started to move toward her sister. But, then, something in her mind screamed in fear.

The figure had finally come within the range of the firelight. It was Heena’s sister, but it was not Dees anymore. The face was frozen in a mad expression, her face a pale mask of flesh that once belonged to Dees. The thing faced Heena, blank eyes not focusing on her, but the figure still shambling toward her.

“No, no, no, no, no, no,” Heena cried. Not Dees!

Then the creature opened its mouth and screamed. It screamed for an eternity, leeching away all hope. Darkness swallowed Heena, blocking out the light of the fire and the moon. She felt as if she were falling in endless space. The darkness surrounded her, suffocated her, squeezed the life from her.

Heena caught her breath as she saw Skiro standing where the thing that had been her sister was. His spear had pierced through the thing’s body, and the stench of rotting and death filled the area. Heena doubled over and retched the contents of her stomach to the ground.

Wod gave a shout as other figures appeared in the night. The rest of the tribe was rapidly waking up and leaping to action. The two men barked orders as the others grabbed spears. In the distance, she recognized the forms of others from her sister’s tribe: Erdt, Natik, even Bralla shambled in the darkness toward the camp.

“No, no, no,” Heena sobbed, the acid taste still in her mouth. She fell to the ground in mindless fear as shouts and screams came from all directions.

The green beast jumped, claws stretched in front of it. The spear wasn’t swung around in time, and claws found their target in unprotected flesh. One hand dug into the shoulder while the other reached up and gashed the throat. Blood sprayed across the dry grass and she fell over, limp and lifeless. A few of the green ones swarmed to the body, biting and clawing at it.

Dees lost the last of her self-control; seeing Shae fall to the beasts was too much. Not even her consort Natik’s death had touched her so deeply. But Shae, her sister in all but blood, fell to the ground and was savaged by the frenzied green swarm. Her vision darkened as grim reality set in. The jeering green beasts were all around her and she became a spirit of death.

Dropping her spear, Dees took up two stout clubbing sticks and ran toward the body. Swinging with reckless abandon, she caved the skulls of two of the green ones. Another jumped back out of range, then leaped at Dees in a vicious attack. She easily side-stepped the attack and then brought one of the clubs crashing down on the creature’s skull. It fell to the ground and twitched a few times before finally expiring.

The body was still there, blood still weakly gushing out of the gaping wound in the neck. A blank eye stared upward at nothing; the other burst in it socket, pierced by a claw scratching at the face. She would have been overcome with grief it the battle rage hadn’t taken control of her. A scream of another green one charging drew here attention away from Shae’s body.

She spun around and flung out her leg in a savage kick, catching the green one in the face and throwing it to the side. It landed rough, but gained its feet quickly and jumped at her almost instantly, only to catch a club on its shoulder and crumple to the ground. Dees stepped forward and crushed its neck under her foot.

Looking up, she saw two other green ones near by; their bloody mouths showing that they had been gnawing on the fallen. Her eyes narrowed and with a shrill battle cry she charged toward them. One fell as she beat it against the side of its head, but the other dodged out of the way and ran off. She gave chase, her long legs allowing her to outrun her small green prey. Raising her club over her head, she swung hard and brought it crashing down on the back of its skull, dead before it even reached the ground. The body tumbled a few times then landed in an ungraceful heap.

She looked to the left to find other prey as another green one crashed into her from the right. It pinned her arm against her body, claws digging into her ribs. She swung wildly with the other club, but the awkward angle made it difficult to hit the beast. It grasped tightly, digging claws deeper as she fell over on top of the creature. She jammed her shoulder into the creature, crushing it beneath her as it dug its claws in one last time before going limp.

Dees stood up and looked back to where she had last seen the others, but nobody was there. She started to run back, but a pain in her side slowed her down. Panic built up as she didn’t see any of the rest of her tribe near the area she had left them.

Behind a bush, she finally found what was left of her tribe. Erdt was slumped on the ground, a pool of blood around him in addition to a pile of green corpses. She heard Prin sobbing and followed the sound to the other side of the bush, where the young one was bent over. The body of Bralla with dark stains over her clothes finally brought Dees to her knees. The battle frenzy had worn off, and the horrible truth finally sunk in.

Dees tried to speak, but couldn’t get enough air. She felt as if she were drowning in the middle of land. Dropping one of the clubs, she grabbed Prin’s clothes and yanked to get her attention.

A tear-stained face met her gaze. “Dead, they’re dead,” Prin wailed. “Oh, why?”

“Prin,” Dees said, finally finding her voice. “Go to the Slow Fishers. Find my sister.”

Prin blinked, then muttered, “Heena?”

Dees nodded. “Go!”

“The bodies! We must go to a sacred place!”

Dees shook her head and coughed. Pain shot through her side and she heard an unnerving crackling noise from inside her chest. “No, go. I’ll do it.”

Prin just looked at her, then looked down and turned pale. “Dees, you’re….”

A scream announced the arrival of a new group of green ones, cutting Prin off. “Go!” Dees said with all the force she could muster. Prin stood, grabbed a spear, and started to run as fast as she could.

Dees leaned over Bralla’s body and whispered a word for the dead. “I will see you soon, wise one.”

Grabbing her club, she struggled to her feet and faced the direction the scream had come. Let them come, she thought. Let them come and meet their doom with me.

A few of the pack were cracking open bones in their jaws to get at the sweet marrow inside. Most were sitting quietly in the last of the fading sun, satisfied after eating so much, while others were watching the young ones slowly romp around before night fell. Growl and Fangs were leaving for the last patrol of the evening.

Something bothered Hunter. A sense of unease that kept him pacing around the area when the pack was digging in for the night.

“Problems?” asked Leader quietly as Hunter came pacing near.

Hunter sat down and exhaled. “Something not right,” he said, looking around with his ears standing straight up.

Leader pricked up his ears and listened as well. There, in the distance….

Suddenly, Fangs’ roar and Growl’s warning howl sounded from a short distance away. Their warning told of a band of green ones coming this way.

Leader ran toward his mates to help them gather up the cubs. They were already settling in together near a low stone outcropping, so it was easy to get into a defensive position. Leader gave a quick growl of warning as he ran by. He went to move all the mothers and young ones together and quickly organize the defense.

The hard part was the waiting. Leader frantically searched the distance for any movement. The low light of the setting sun was perfect for his eyes. Long moments passed as everyone sniffed the air and scanned the distance for the inevitable arrival. Leader looked to both sides at the line of eight other defenders of the pack, ready to meet the onslaught.

It happened all in a jumble. Two familiar figures crashed through the underbrush and ran toward the pack. Behind Growl and Fangs, a great surge of bodies burst into view. The screeching and screaming that accompanied the green ones on their hunts were unmistakable at this distance. About two dozen of them were running at full speed, digging and clawing at the ground with frenzied speed.

Leader had a shameful feeling of elation as he finally saw the enemies; the waiting was over. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the seething mass running toward him. Giving his packmates and the horde a few seconds to close the distance, Leader then stood up and gave a roar. Towering over the small green ones by almost twice their height, he felt powerful. He then crouched down and leapt forward into the surging mass of bodies.

Claws extended from his paws and slashed at the mass. He felt his one hand connect, the sharp weapons digging into vulnerable skin and ripping deep gashes. Bits of green skin clung to his claws as he used his forward momentum to crash into two other enemies. He tumbled forward and used hind claws to disembowel one of the enemies.

He twisted to get up when he felt a pain in his leg. The other green one had bit him deep, and he felt blood splattering on the fur of his thigh. He reached down to beat the head of the green one to make it let go. Sharp teeth dug in, threatening to rip off a chunk of flesh, but eventually the grip went slack with enough vicious blows.

Leader was in a wild frenzy and his vision filled with the red haze of fury; he attacked without hesitation. He lashed out at the nearest target and ripped the small green head from the body. He was fighting for his life, for the life of his children, for the life of his whole pack.

It was his favored mate’s scream that brought his focus away from the scattering enemies. Wiping the blood from the fur around his eyes, he saw one of the green ones had broken through the line of defense, dodged around the mother’s occupied with another green creature, and snatched one of the young ones from the group. Leader realized in dismay that the young one in the green one’s claws was his own Young Cub. He moved to leap toward the thief, but his legs were tangled by corpses and he fell hard on the ground. A yell of fury directed at the green one was all he could do.

A savage growl from the far side of the battle gave notice that another of the fighters had seen the green one’s attack. A streak of pale gray fur moved toward the offender; Leader was shocked to see the Old One moving faster than he thought possible. Her bloodied jaws snapped shut on the arm of the green one, yanking it savagely. Young Cub dropped to the ground, dazed, as the Old One whipped her body around and yanked the green monster off his feet and away from the cub.

But, a grasping green hand had found her fur and dug in as it swung back around. It pulled its own sharp teeth toward the exposed flank of the Old One and bit in deep. A yelp of pain came forth as she opened her mouth and flailed around to try to dislodge the attacker. Leader found his feet and ran toward the Old One. With a powerful leap, he closed his jaws around the neck of the green one and bit hard. The body went limp and the Old One’s thrashings finally dislodged teeth from her flesh.

It took Leader a moment to collect his wits. Looking around, he saw bloodied bodies everywhere. The green ones had been killed or driven off, and other pack members were catching their breath. As some started licking wounds, Leader went over to where the Old One had finally collapsed in fatigue.

Leader gave a low, calming purr as he inspected her wounds. She had a few scrapes, but the last green one had opened a large wound on her flank. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow, punctuated by an occasional whine.

“Calm,” Leader said as he started licking her wound clean. “Rest.”

“Young one safe?” the Old One asked after a moment.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Young ones more important than old ones,” she muttered, laying her head back down and closing her eyes.

“Old one important to me tonight,” Leader said as he saw his mate carrying Young Cub back to a safe location. The pack moved back into a defensive position and tended to the wounded as night fell.

The fast one was the first one to move from his position overlooking the cave below. The group had been watching the strange creatures down near the sea for several days now, and a few of their group had come back with dead animals. The fast one had moved to get a better look at the scene below.

The creatures seemed to move around a lot more now that the others had returned. They had the bright, hot fire burning well into the night, which made them much easier to see as they moved around. At one point the small creatures below started making a new noise, pleasant and kind of like listening to the sea with a certain rhythm and flow.

The old one made a pleased noise. The small one echoed the soft noise immediately, as usual, and the rest followed suit. They carefully backed away from the edge as to not attract attention and found a group of nearby boulders to rest against.

The next morning, the fast one was the first to start moving. He looked around to make sure there were no threats nearby and went off to explore a bit. Far away, near the far edge of the sea, there seemed to be a rock outcropping that looked promising. As the others started to move around, the fast one circled around them and then lead them toward the outcropping.

The sun was high in the sky as they approached their destination. As they turned the corner, they saw a bunch of the violent green creatures. One of them turned and bared its teeth, waving its claws in front of it in an aggressive posture. The hard one advanced on it, making a low, rumbling noise to warn the creature away. It swiped its claws but they did little damage to the hard one’s rocky body. He started to push the green ones away forcefully, and eventually they took the hint and left the area. After getting a short distance away, the biggest green one turned and yelled harshly at the small group, then ran off into the distance.

The fast one moved to the outcropping and made the questioning noise. The old one approached and looked around. After a bit, he made the negative sound; the rock would not be good to create a hole to live in as the other strange creatures had done. The small one made the disappointed sound as the group continued along the coastline.

After a bit, the hungry one stopped the group to try to find something to eat. There was very little soil here, only sand that did not taste very good. The hungry one found a piece of wood to satisfy his hunger while the rest nibbled on nearby things. The water did not taste the same as the other water they had enjoyed before, but it helped cool their bodies down a bit. After everyone was done eating, or trying to eat, the group moved on.

The darkness came again. The old one wished he could make the warm, bright fire like the other creatures did; it gave him a comforting feeling to remember it. The group found some rocks to rest between until the light came again.

The small one was the first to start moving in the light of the next day, but he froze when he saw one of the large animal creatures prowling around. The prowler seemed interested in the group’s location. The small one made the alarmed noise and got the attention the rest of the group. They stood motionless, hiding between the rocks while keeping an eye on the furred one. It got close to the small one and the hard one was ready to make a move, but the old one made the negative sound to stop the conflict. This sound startled the creature, causing it to retreat a distance, look worriedly at the group, then run off away from the sea. The group got together and continued to travel along the coast.

Four more days passed uneventfully until the group found another promising outcropping, this time noticed by the hard one. The group approached carefully, looking for any dangers in the area. After searching around a bit, the old one made a positive sound, and the whole group joined in. They had found the site of their current home. Now, they had to form the cave they would live in.

Heena closed her eyes, took a calming breath, and strained her senses. She could almost feel the nearby sacred place, but something hindered her. She could feel her tribe around her, quietlysetting down their burdens, knowing that this could take a while. Saska stood nearby, copying Heena’s actions and straining her own senses.

In the distance, barely audible, the vicious scream of one of the green ones was cut off suddenly. Realizing the problem, Heena let out her breath, opened her eyes, and said, “Our kin, the Green Hunters tribe, is near.”

Her tribe shouldered their loads again and made ready to move in easy motions. The meet of the tribes wasn’t for a while yet, but when two tribes were so close to each other it was proper to greet each other. Even if the other tribe were the crude Green Hunters, those that use their weapons to kill instead of for hunting food.

Ree looked concerned as she laid her hand on Heena’s shoulder. “We don’t have to go.”

Heena looked down at Ree’s large belly. “Can you not make it?” she asked with concern. The pregnancy had lasted since the summer season, but she had not complained yet.

“I can,” Ree said defensively. “But I know you don’t like them.”

“They do not respect the work. Our sacred ground.”

Ree nodded. “So don’t go.”

“No, we must. They know we are near and will not easily forgive the insult.”

At her sign, the tribe started running in the direction Heena indicated. More violent screams filled the air as they got closer and closer. Outside a narrow cave they saw the Green Hunters tribe and a pile of the small green bodies of their victims. Heena frowned and almost spat a curse when she saw one of the sacred cairns had been knocked over.

“Hail!” Duni shouted in her role as leader of the hunt. “The Sanctifiers meet you.”

Only one of the five hunters turned to notice. The others stared at the cave holding spears with shiny stone spearheads and heavy clubs at the ready for any of the green ones that dared get too close to the opening. Illis backed two steps away from the cave and the rest shifted position to block any way out of the cave.

Illis planted her spear in the ground and started unwrapping the blood-stained, supple leather that served as padded armor. Taking some water, she hastily washed blood off her skin that had soaked through.

“Hail, kin. The hunt is good, see?” She showed a savage grin.

“You disrupted the sacred site,” Heena said, dropping formality.

“I didn’t notice,” Illis said, a smirk replacing the grin from her face.

“The cairn,” she pointed to the rocks, “the sign we agreed on.”

“It was the green skins,” Illis shrugged. “They came here first and we followed.”

“Their blood fouls the area. You shed the blood.”

A sudden scream pierced the air as a small green blur rushed from the cave. The hunters moved as one deadly force: a step here, a dodge there, a brilliant spear thrust then the sudden end of the scream. The green one convulsed on the end of spear then fell limp.

“Spoiled, spoiled, the sacred place is spoiled,” Saska moaned from the back of the group.

“Ha! The young one should learn to hunt, not pile rocks,” Illis said as she looked back at Saska with barely contained scorn.

“She recognizes sacred places better than I,” Heena said with a hint of anger in her voice. “She has a talent.”

Illis shrugged and looked back at her own tribe. They were putting away their weapons and unwrapping their padded armor as well. Some remembered the courtesy of quickly washing before meeting with their kin. Only Sana stayed back, taking ears from the corpses as trophies for their accomplishments.

“I see the useless tribe is here,” Tanham said as he approached the group with a mocking grin on his face.

Illis’ hand struck his face with a blow that made Heena wince. “Respect, Tanham.”

“Yes, leader,” Tanham mumbled through his clenched teeth. He bowed low before Heena and backed away. He turned quickly and moved away, hands checking his face.

“Sorry, my kin. I do not approve of speaking insults to other tribes.” Illis frowned and glanced off to the side.

Duni broke the awkward silence, “Any news, Illis? Have you been as far as the sea yet?”

“Yes. Saw a tribe of cave dwellers, the hairy ones, over toward the sea. Saw them hunting.”

Heena’s attention was focused on that. “Did they fight with you?”

“No, they hunted the animals and left.”

“Oh. Can we reach the sea and not see them?”

“Not sure. Probably.” Illis shrugged. “You do like the sea.”

“It is calming,” Heena said. “You should join us.”

Illis sighed. “No, we cannot stray. Other green skins are on the move. What news from you?”

“We saw some of the walking animals the other night. They were huddled together in the darkness as we traveled.”

“They do not fight us,” Illis said. “They do not pose a harm like the green ones.”

“They seemed… scared….” Heena started. “They are not like other animals.”

“Things change, Heena. But, now we must go. Good travels, kin,” Illis said as she started to gather her gear together.

“You, too,” Heena said without much warmth. She motioned to her tribe and they continued their trek toward the sea.