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             The Kodiak’s point legion always left for the north about the same time each year. This was because each thaw they had to divert to the volcanic regions to the northwest. They had to arrive during the annual eruptions—lava flows that provided for the smelting of brave iron. Unknown to any snomad, the magma flow beneath the Tranca’s distant Verdanta originated here under the smoldering peaks where the brave iron awaited Golanka and his legion. Among their number were the clan’s miners and armorsmiths. They brought with them the shovels, bellows, hammers and molds with which they cast the Kodiak’s special armor. By the time the main body of the Kodiak clan arrived, there would be swords, arrow points, spearheads, and a hundred sets of new armor cooling in the snow. But this thaw the clan was leaving late, so the point legion was too far ahead to adequately protect them.

            In the Tranca’s valley in the frozen north, fires burned constantly outside the six thousand huts that had been erected in the darkness upon the snow. The Tranca were settled in and it was time for Tyree to leave.

            “You have served us well,” Shuyah said to Tyree as they warmed themselves before her fire, each of them bundled in all they could wear against the bitter cold.

            Tyree smiled, looking over her pleasing features as the firelight filled the dark hollow created by the hood of her fur cloak. She looked up, caught his eyes with hers, and returned his smile.

            “These have been pleasant times,” she said, ironic though the statement was amid the endless night and air so cold it snapped away one’s breath.

            “There will be little new snow to bother you,” Tyree offered. “The clouds hold little moisture this far north.”

            “I know,” she sighed, “but you now go to the south, back into the dangers of the thaw.”

            “My people are there.”

            “A people who have abandoned you. Isolated you.”

            “Yet my people, still.”

            “Will you return to us once the thaw has ended?”

            “My heart cannot be dissuaded,” he genuinely said.

            As Koleefus worriedly watched from the door of her hut, Tyree took the edges of Shuyah’s hood with his gloved hands. He pulled her face to his. Within the pocket of warmth their two hoods created they kissed for only the second time. This time the kiss was long and passionate and sadly the last for some time. Tyree took off his glove and touched her face.

            “Will you think of me?” he whispered.

            “Only as much as you think of me,” she coyly responded.

            “Then it will be constantly,” he smiled.

            Tyree left all but one snow pony and one pack pony with the Tranca. He returned south to the daylight to seek out the Kodiak clan. From distant hills downwind of the clan he watched their journey. Eight thousand Kodiak, ten thousand horses, and ten thousand caribou, sheep and goats, trekked north, confident that the other clans were well ahead of them. Tyree shadowed them from a distance, camped when they camped, and always concealed his fire from their distant, but able eyes. Four days out, Tyree came upon the tracks of a huge army. It was Logalla, and it was moving south. For the Logalla to move south at this time meant they had a major objective in their plans, Tyree thought to himself. What could it be? He decided to track the Logalla to see what their purpose was in braving the thaw. After a day’s ride, he sensed a path he’d taken recently. The Logalla were making for Verdanta, and were two days ahead of him!

            Tyree rode hard, but could not overtake the wind. His senses told him of what he would find in Verdanta. The Logalla were smart to strike when the main Tranca armies were in the north. The massive Logalla army’s wide path could be seen in the snow. The hoof prints of ten thousand war horses continued onto the hard ring of rocky ground surrounding Verdanta. Rushing now into a gallop, the Logalla rode into the mists. The thousand Tranca warriors protecting Verdanta’s citizens would have had no chance.

            When he approached the tower of steam surrounding Verdanta, he sensed no humans alive inside. He felt sad knowing that, in a few months, Shuyah would discover the catastrophe with her own eyes. Verdanta had been massacred, Shuyah’s father, two younger brothers, and all the Tranca killed. Bodies lie strewn around burnt and smoldering huts. Some of the crops and forests were burned, now as black as the soil that nurtured them. The Logalla had begun their great push to eliminate their enemies. Tyree saw sign that the last of the Tranca, two hundred or so, broke out through the Logalla lines. More evidence revealed that all the Logalla went after them. None wanted to miss out on the final kill. Thus Tyree was the last one living in paradise.

            Tyree knew that the Logalla would be coming back. Still he took the time to bury Zorgon and his two sons beneath the rich black earth where they died. The others would have to await their final rest until the thaw ended, or the Logalla were so inclined. Tyree quickly mounted and left Verdanta to return to his clan’s migration route. He’d gone half a view when he heard the thump of the bow string and the arrow’s approach. He ducked. The arrow passed a whisper over his unprotected head. His snow pony interpreted the sounds as well, and lurched into full gallop without prodding. Tyree could not lead them north to his clan. Leaving his pack pony behind, Tyree arced to the south toward the deadly thaw.

            Tyree found twenty Logalla pursuing him at full gallop, most in their ranks shooting whistling arrows at him. As he rode, Tyree turned in the saddle and unleashed arrow after arrow of his own. He downed three before his arrows ran out. Still they pursued, relishing, as the Logalla always did, the opportunity to kill Kodiak.

            South of Verdanta the thaw had encroached to within ten views. Tyree made for the thaw as the only course he could take and hoped to find in it an ally. A portion of the ice in the distance fell into the sea, sending up a wave of white froth that fell upon the plain. The shudder of the ice shelf caused some of his pursuers to stumble, but Tyree’s trusty snow pony kept its footing with ease. He arced his path as close to the sea as he dared, the Logalla sending arrow after arrow in his wake. Then he heard it: a great rending marking the next collapse. He turned and drove his snow pony north as fast as the tired creature could run. A quarter view ahead, he saw the fissure stitch its way across his path, then crackle back toward the sea. His timing had to be precise. As he approached the fracture widened. He urged his tired snow pony on. They leaped the crevasse, the pony’s hind legs not clearing the opposite edge, scrambling to finally find footing. They lurched to safety, then rode on a bit to distance themselves from the last of the Logalla arrows. Together, Tyree and his snow pony stood watching.

            The crevasse had widened too much for the Logalla horses to leap. One tried, but horse and rider fell into the abyss, barely brushing the opposite wall. There came a final fracture of deafening proportions. The mountain of ice fell away, and took with it Tyree’s terrified tormenters. The wall of water rose up and came upon the land, washing half a view to splash at the feet of Tyree’s tired snow pony.

            The war party’s demise paid a partial price for the Logalla’s destruction of beautiful Verdanta. It was the main body of Logalla that now worried Tyree. Where were they? There were far too many of them to winter in tiny Verdanta. What was their next objective? He went to a snowy ridge overlooking Verdanta. He found the Logalla main body. Tyree was so distant, he could not be seen if he stood up and waved his arms shouting. Tyree’s eagle eyes saw clearly. He could not pick The Scar out of the masses, but he could see that they were leaving a major force behind to occupy Verdanta. There was a great deal of confusion and that made Tyree smile. The Logalla were puzzled by the disappearance of their scout legion—what Tyree had assumed was a war party, and disposed of in the sea. They’d found Tyree’s Kodiak pack pony. Looking about warily for sign of Kodiak upon the snow, the Logalla main body began to move. They went northwest. Tyree found that troubling, and followed. Soon, he knew. The Logalla were marching to overtake the Kodiak clan from behind. Tyree could not discern if this was somehow planned by the Logalla, or if it was just incredibly bad fortune for the Kodiak.

            The Kodiak clan was camped upon the snow near the volcano fields two days short of their safe harbor in the north. They had rejoined Golanka and the point legion. The Logalla were approaching the Kodiak camp downwind, keeping the Kodiak from sensing their approach. The wind always blew violently north to south at this time of year, air being sucked out of the frozen north toward the warmth of the thaw. The Kodiak would not hear them, nor smell them, until it was too late. It seemed even the wind was on the Logalla’s side.

            The Logalla were between Tyree and his clan. He didn’t have time to slip around their flanks for they were readying for the attack. His only hope was to venture through their lines. Tyree read the wind and found several sentries fanned out in an arc, protecting the Logalla’s rear. He discovered two that were out of sight of the others and slipped easily within range. He flung his snow star, downing one of the sentries. The other whirled his mount and headed north to warn his army. Tyree rode in pursuit. With each stride his snow pony gained on the outrider. He had to overtake the Logalla before he could warn his legions. They started up a rise beyond which Tyree knew the Logalla army lay. The rise slowed the Logalla’s horse just enough. Tyree overtook the fleeing warrior, leaped from his snow pony, and dragged the Logalla off his mount into the snow. The Logalla’s horse stopped atop the rise. If the main body of Logalla should see it, they would be suspicious. Tyree and the Logalla warrior rolled down the tall drift, both coming to their feet swords in hand. They dueled sword-to-sword for several moments. The Logalla tired quickly. He sent out a desperate sweep of his blade. Tyree ducked under it and sent his own blade deep into the Logalla’s heart. The Logalla was dead before he fell into the snow. Tyree scrambled up the rise, quickly took the Logalla horse by the reins and led it back down behind the incline. There, he took the Logalla’s cloak and put it over his own. The stench of bear grease, and more repugnant odors, filled Tyree’s sensitive nose. It was a small discomfort to suffer in order to save the clan that had raised, and then banished, him.

            Tyree rode the Logalla horse directly into the Logalla forces. He kept his distinct Kodiak features hidden in the hood of the black bearskin cloak. He ventured a peek now and then and found himself passing through the Logalla’s ranks with little notice. Then, he saw The Scar.

            The Scar was fanning his troops out for the attack. Tyree could have ridden right up to the Logalla that killed his parents and found revenge, but he resisted the clawing need. He brushed right by The Scar and down to the Logalla scouts who were creeping ever closer to the Kodiak camp. Once he cleared their ranks, he put the Logalla horse he’d commandeered into a gallop. The Logalla that saw him were so surprised, inaction was their only response. Soon, the disguised Kodiak was beyond their view.

            Konka saw the lone approaching Logalla first. Knowing their rear could not be protected by the reading of the wind, Golanka had disbursed several units to guard the south. Chabo’s unit, now consisting of himself, Konka and Drinda, were the furthest outriders. It was fate that Tyree’s former comrades should be the first to see his return. But Tyree wore the cloak of a Logalla, rode a Logalla horse!

            “Kill him,” Chabo whispered to Drinda.

            Drinda notched her arrow and pulled the bowstring taut. She paused. There was something familiar in the way the lone rider sat his horse. Drinda let her bowstring go lax.

            “Why do you hesitate?” Chabo hissed.

            Before Drinda could answer, Tyree threw back the hood of the Logalla cloak. He had read the wind, blowing in his direction, and sensed the three Kodiak outriders. He knew Konka and Drinda were among them—knew their intent as if reading their minds. Their own acute vision recognized their friend and former unit leader instantly.

            “Tyree!” Konka shouted grabbing Drinda’s arrow by the shaft should she reconsider her shot.

            Less than an hour later the Logalla attacked. They found the Kodiak camp deserted, the huts empty. The wind whistled a frightening tune in the Logalla’s ears. Their mistake would not go unpunished. Kodiak arrows fell upon them like new snow. Few missed their mark, and Logalla tumbled from their mounts as though touched by lightning. Mounted Kodiak warriors attacked from all sides. The Logalla themselves were suddenly surrounded. A thousand Logalla met a grisly fate from lance and arrow and sword. Snow stars whirred through the frigid air downing Logalla warriors by the score. The Scar led the retreat as the battered army of Logalla escaped. They gave up their plan to annihilate the disconcerting Kodiak, who always seemed to thwart Logalla schemes.

            “You make our decision most difficult,” the spokesman for the Council of Elders sighed after Tyree was ordered before them and Golanka. “Your bravery and resourcefulness surely saved the Kodiak from, if not destruction, surely a most cruel attack. Still—”

            “Still, the council has already spoken regarding my status,” Tyree said, quite forward now that he knew nothing had really changed, “and once spoken, your decisions forever stand.”

            “It is regrettable, but unalterable. I am sorry. If we rescinded our decisions, or even took them again under vote, our initial judgments would have little significance.”

            “No matter,” Tyree said hurt, but unbowed. “I go in pursuit of the Logalla, anyway.”

            “Your foolishness has not been tempered by your banishment,” one of the female elders noted.

            “I saw the murderer of my parents among the Logalla who attacked you,” Tyree said, drawing a wide-eyed look from Golanka. “I have no choice but to find and kill him.” He then turned to go.

            “Tyree,” Golanka called out, causing the boy warrior to turn back. “After you have dealt with the one we call The Scar, will you return to the Tranca?”

            “They have taken me in,” Tyree shrugged.

            “Should Zorgon, himself, come to us with offer of an alliance,” the spokesman said, “We might reconsider.”

            “Zorgon is dead,” Tyree said, “killed by the Logalla. The Tranca’s outpost of Verdanta, massacred. Though he is as yet unaware of it, Zorgon’s son, Rolak, is now leader of the Tranca. He will not come to the Kodiak except to kill them.”

            With that Tyree left the council hut. The Elders all looked at each other. They said nothing, but all knew that they had let a great opportunity escape when they refused Tyree’s alliance. As Tyree prepared to leave, Drinda and Konka approached on foot. They found Tyree folding the Logalla cloak into his pack on the Logalla horse he had procured.

            “The council is still unswayed,” Konka sighed.

            “It wouldn’t have mattered,” Tyree said. “I would leave nevertheless. I go in pursuit of The Scar. My Logalla disguise brought me within a sword’s length of him once. It might do so, again.”

            “Is it foolish for us to again ask if we may join you in your quest?” Drinda asked.

            “Konka might pass for Logalla without alteration, but it would take more than bear grease to disguise you.”

            The three friends laughed, even at this melancholy moment. Tyree mounted the Logalla horse, took up his pack pony’s leader then, turned to look down upon his two friends who stood in the snow, faces upturned to him.

            “We have been great comrades. But you must first be Kodiak. Must obey the will of the council. Protect them, my friends. Save them from themselves.”

            Tyree turned his Logalla horse and rode away from the Kodiak camp, away from the people he knew all his life, away from the people who had betrayed him.
 
 
CLICK HERE FOR CHAPTER 9: "LIGHTS"

 

   

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