Chapter 1: Windshift : Loris and Morg
He stood in the pines, in the dark, just back from the edge of the meadow. They couldn't see him there. If the light breeze weren't in his face, he wouldn't have known they were there.
'Oh, Gods ... don't let the wind shift.'
He could see them, just making out their slim forms, as they moved from his left to his right. They were short, almost emaciated, with haunting ice blue eyes that seemed to glow in the dusk.
Silver blond hair, like the fringed moss in the trees, wound and fluttered, breaking up their silhouettes. If he hadn't smelled them they might have seen him ... that would be dire, likely fatal, but absolutely dangerous.
He had thought he was silent ... his woodcraft, excellent. They were ghosts to his blundering.
It amazed him that he was so frightened of them. There were many in his pack, band, tribe. These were different, his had dark hair. These were not of his tribe, therefore they were less.
A few passed, spear carriers ... minutes later, several more ... they were hunting ... so was he, for that matter. The third pack passed in the twilight, thirteen. He counted a hand, a hand and three fingers. Surely that was all. He had seen no bows, only spears. Thirteen to hunt. Thirteen their tribe could spare. Unless ... but they still hunted with spears ... Unless ... A War Party? Send 13 females on a war party? Thirteen women hunting men? Thirteen was more than his pack held and his pack was large. A tribe with thirteen women without mates?
He waited ... waited ... waited. Dark, dark, darker, not so dark that he might stumble, but dark enough he had to be very careful. He stepped from the trees and turned left.
They had gone right, left should be safer. He moved across the meadow, always moving to the left but looking to the safety of the far trees. A step, turn, lift the long grass. Watch. Step again, leave no sign he has passed. The path opened up ... there was a well traveled path, hard packed, wide. No wonder they had been so silent.
A path came from a place, went somewhere ... another place. Did these silvered ghosts stay in a place long enough to pack a trail?
Surely not! The ground would stink. The gather plants would be farther and farther away. The game would move or be meat ... Stay? Never.
His band moved ... twenty suns, thirty at the most and the gathering would be too far, too risky. The ground would have messes, walking would be 'messy.' Pressure on the animals would push them away.
The band moved. Always the band moved forward, back was nothing. Two or three greetings would make the last place livable again.
Moving was always dangerous. The others may have gone before, leaving nothing. The babies would starve, the tribe would be less. Yet they had to move.
He was not on the scout, he was a band hunter. Still, one had to notice, and this packed trail was not going to be good for the next move. A warning ... forward NO more!
Loris rose, the thin light was more than he wanted, but waiting for the others delayed him. Morg would be rising soon. She was much brighter than Loris. Morg was danger. Still, the path. The path intrigued him.
It must go somewhere. Where?
Curiosity trapped the monkey.
He could move much faster on the path. The thirteen were moving right. He moved left. In the time it took Loris to move three hands above the far mountains, he had moved 1000 trunks ... a goodly distance. Without the path he might have only a hundred.
There was an opening in the meadow. The trees fell away from the path. There was a long plain, shallow sloped away in front of him. In the distance were many fires. Just to his left were three tree trunks, stripped of bark and polished.
The light of Morg lifted above the mountains behind him ... Loris in front, Morg behind. Around the base of trunks were bones. A pair of wild dogs rooted in the bones. They moved away at his approach.
On two of the trunks, some few armlenghts off the ground, were bodies, dead, eye sockets already picked clean by the carrion crows ... tied to the trunks with vines. Tied too high for the dogs. When the vines rotted, the bodies would join the pile at the bottom ... wrong doers, punished by death. They must have done evil things.
The third trunk was adorned with a live creature, she struggled against her fate. She was speaking, mumbling.
Her accent, while exotic, was not unacceptable.
"I will not ... I did not ... I will not ... I did not."
"And what did you not?" He asked her. "What will you not?
"I am hearing things, a voice..." she shuddered, "a man."
"What ... did ... you ... not?" He asked again.
"I did not steal."
"What ... will ... you ... not?" He repeated.
"I will not confess to that I did not do."
"I believe you." He asked, "What will you have me to do?"
"If caught, to cut me down would put you on the next pole, to give me water would cost your right hand, to feed me would cost your tongue. If you do all these things ... I will..." She shuddered..."bind myself to you for all our days."
"Hey, no problem. I'm looking for a wife." He slid his belt knife from it's sheath.
"Be careful ... there are poisoned stakes in the bones."
"Thanks." He scrabbled around in the bones and found stakes already broken. He bound his knife to his bow and cut the vine. With her last strength, she pushed off from the trunk and rolled on the ground.
Loris and Morg were in conjunction.
He tied her hands together, pushed his head through and settled her on his back. His bow he tied to the front of his belt. He grabbed her thighs, rested the bow on her knees and carried her back the way he had come. Her breasts felt smooth on his back, her thighs, strong, muscular.
Loris and Morg, crossing in the night sky, always held surprises. The combined pull of them caused trembling in the earth and mountains in any case. Tonight, the third moon, a tiny weighty solid iron globe, crossed between the two.
This happened so rarely that the 'three crossed lovers' were myth.
Behind our fleeing couple, the ground opened up. The three punishment poles were swallowed in the gap. The third moon rocketed past and the ground closed up ... no trace of bone or pole was left ... except for a cut end of vine sticking out of a tiny crack where the chasm had closed.
The sun came up, the wind shifted. From the many fires, the people climbed up to look for the missing poles. The headman and woman eyed each other, they had known she was innocent. Her fault was her beauty.
The shaman eyed the cut end with trepidation.
One had got away.
Was it She?