Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chapter Seven

This uncommonly short chapter builds upon the character development of Chapter Six, and we get a sense of who and what the Northern Ridge Pride is, what they are doing in the region as they prepare for a hunt. Amara is made aware of the Western Ridge Pride, a source of a drawn out feud, and finds herself of some greater use.

In Dreams The Solitary Road A Serial Novella By S. I. Hayes

Copyright 2013 Shannon I. Hayes



           With the ice sufficiently broken the questions were traded, it was explained to Amara that they called themselves Raepuwa, which roughly translated to Stripes and Spots, being the over all characteristic of many of the Pride group’s bodies of fur. Their colors ranged from Graw’s black and white stripe to tawny auburns and pale blondes. For the most part the males were not capable of speech, but the occasional throw back did occur. When it did, those males often ventured far beyond the scope of the rest of the Pride. The Pride group Amara traveled with was only a small part of the whole; they were thirteen in all, including Graw. The group had been traveling back on a supply run, gathering wood and stone for building and herbs for their specialty wines. Something Amara quickly came to appreciate. The wines were sweet and spicy, combined with cinnamon and allspice, bayberry, chokeberry and many other herbs. Each distinct, smooth and very potent, which came in rather handy, as it dulled Amara’s senses during her healing process. 

           She had been most fortunate that they, the Northern Ridge Pride were the ones to find her, as another traveled along this route as well, the Pride from the Western Ridge. An opportunistic group that would have treated her most unkindly. But they were more than a league ahead. The Northern Ridge Pride was a strong Pride, strong in magic, so they knew when they found Amara, that she too was capable.
              Amara admitted that she did not understand her magic. That it came and went of its own notions, but that she had managed with work to force it when she needed it in the cavern and with the attack, she survived.
             Khane wanted to bring her before Bas a’ Rhinn, the Pride Shaman and Healer, but he refused her audience; he would not bother with one he could not communicate with alone. If Amara wanted his aid, she was going to have to learn the language, to which of course she agreed to try.
              Within a day, the Pride picked up camp, ready for the month long journey back to their home at the base of the Braithorian Mountain range. Since Amara was in no condition to walk, Graw pulled her behind him in a cart of furs and pelts, which helped to keep her warm. It was mid-winter, and the days were short, and often filled with snow showers, some light, others blinding, but the Raepuwa were built for their environment, to their surprise, Amara was able to succeed in the harsh land, putting up with Bas a’ Rhinn, and his nightly treatments. By weeks end, her voice returned, and the Pride was eager to hear her tale of the incident on the cavern.
                The moment she told of the thing knowing what was in her mind, the group became uneasy, telling her that what she had encountered was what they called an Echo. Not using the word, as she knew it, this creature, which none had ever seen, was known to torment the minds of travelers forcing them over the cliffs. Although it stayed quiet when faced with a group, which was why they never traveled alone.


              On the nights when they made camp, Amara spent much of her time with Graw and Khane, quickly learning the Raepuwa language; it was a combination of hand signals, murmurs, and purrs. There was a subtlety in body language, but once understood, conversation flowed like with any other. Amara did not completely understand, but took to repeating what she did, the Raepuwa correcting her when needed.


              The frozen tundra was alive with both predators and prey, but here the fiercest was the Raepuwa, a storm forced them to detour slightly bringing them in upwind from a herd of Woolenbeasts. Giving Amara, a rare opportunity to see the Pride in action, they stopped several meters back, keeping the herd in sight as they grouped for a hunt. Graw made sure Amara was comfortable with Khane, Bas a’ Rhinn and a young whelp called Fangsong, before they parted.
Amara watched as six of them strip down, both male and female, so that only their fur separated them from the cold. Their bodies were streamlined, with powerfully muscled legs, as they dropped to all fours, their markings and colors masking them as they stalked low against the snow covered rocks. Amara wondered if those with her could hear her heart as it pounded in her ears.


        Taking slow precise steps toward the grazing animals, they boded their time, for the opportunity to strike. Even in their number and size, this could prove disastrous. The Woolenbeasts were in close, protecting young between them. Taller than the average man and more than twice as wide, their legs, of which there were six, appeared thick and sturdy with cloven hooves. If this were not enough, each was crowned with two pointed spirals and tusks, which could easily, and fatally, gore an opponent.
Amara tried to keep her eyes on Graw, who led one part of the group. Until suddenly, the beasts reared up, Enwa, one of the young males starting too soon. The animals spooked. Forcing the hunters into a full assault. They chased the herd. Splitting it in two. The air now riddled with the sounds of meager cries and ravaging snarls.
          Graw followed by two others forced one of the lagging beasts to turn. Its own weight causing the animal to fall, sliding in the snow. Immediately he was upon it. His mighty jaws grasping it by the throat as he wrapped his arms around its shoulders in an attempt to wrestle and keep it down. His hunting mates sprang as well. Their claws both front and back grasping it by its rump and mid-section. In an attempt to survive, the animal thrashed and bucked, throwing off one of them. Causing Graw to lurch his body in a twist that to Amara looked as though his back should have snapped. But this twist allowed him to turn the frantic animals head and it fell back to the ground motionless.


              Those who did not hunt cheered on, as the snow became a lake of blood. Eventually the bulk of the herd disappeared beyond the sight of Amara and the onlookers, but the hunters succeeded in bringing down four of the massive Woolenbeasts. Now it was time for the rest of the Pride to do their part. The hunters took down the animals and the others were tasked with cleaning, dressing, and collecting the parts into bundles and wine barrels, which they emptied along the journey. In this Amara found her self of use. She knew how to skin an animal; it was considered useful knowledge to anyone who traveled. So it had been part of her education, having on occasion dealt with cows, she went to work on the beasts in the same skilled manner.
               Once the tasks were finished, the Pride made camp. When Amara inquired about other predators to Graw and Portia, they smiled, explaining that there was nothing much left to draw any. They used nearly every organ, bone and sinewy piece, even the blood in the snow was gathered and packed for later use. What little they did not keep was left out some distance to feed whatever might be scavenging. They wasted nothing. Those hides not used by the Pride were sold or traded to others in the spring, and the bones, tusks, and horns made excellent tools and decorative items.
            If they had not been held up by the storm, they may have run the risk of running into the Western Ridge Pride group. Who would not have missed an opportunity to cause a skirmish over the littlest of trades or exchanges, however Bas a’ Rhinn was sure they were back in their own territory by now, and assured the rest of the Pride group that this was not a time to dwell on could and maybe. It was a successful day and the Pride was poised for a celebration. Tonight they would feast, drink, and tell tales at the bonfire. 

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