Nightmare: 2/10/10

The hunters came to them at dawn, when they were still peeling themselves out of their beds. Only Silk had seen them come, and he crouched in the center of the camp, watching them silently.

Chance stumbled to his feet, his bladder uncomfortably full.

“Silk,” he said, “I do not know their tongue.”

“I do,” said Silk. But he said nothing to the hunters, and the silence stretched as other men dressed and gathered around Chance.

“Tell them–”

“Hush,” said Silk.

Seething, Chance obeyed. After a few moments, he walked away and relieved himself. Much more sanguine about the affair, he returned.

As the sun rose, one hunter rose from where he crouched and glanced behind him, into the crags. His bare chest glistened with oil and beads and feathers hung from his dark hair. When he turned back again, the bear claws embedded in his chest became visible. Running from throat to hips, they averaged the length of a woman’s hand, each. Tattoos edged each claw. The pale-skinned hunter nodded to Chance.

“Soon,” said Silk. “They are waiting.”

A white Runner rounded a bend in the trail. Pink edged the flaring nostrils, the sun shone red through her ears. She was more delicate than any beast Chance had ever seen, and the woman on her back matched her in appearance.

Pure white hair, unnaturally white skin and red eyes, the sun lit the woman’s cheeks with red. Clothed in white fur, she nearly disappeared into the snow.

Beside him, Silk dropped to his knees, his head inclined. The hunters watched him.

The woman spoke to Silk, her voice delicate and thin as her appearance. Silk listened.

“She says that the land has watched us and does not trust us,” said Silk. “She says that the Sky People wish no part of the southern witch’s wars.”

“We did not come seeking the Sky People,” said Chance. “We seek the Wind People.”

Silk smiled. “We found what we sought.” He turned back to the woman and spoke to her in the ice-edged syllables of the north, the cold, biting language that Chance had never understood.

“They will take us to their city,” Silk said. “She is Voice of the Land, sister of Voice of the Sky.”

Chance turned to the rebels. “Pack up, men. We go to their city.”

By the time he turned around, the white Runner was gone. He was glad, for both Runner and woman reminded him of Silver-Face, and he wondered if she had been of Sky-People stock.


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