[Story] A Story a Week 7

[[ Prompt: A story about a journey

This week revisits Tamazi and the fox wizard from Week 2, on their journey to the Temple of the Moon. Well, it’s part of it. It was getting a bit long so it’s only part of their journey. Again, I’d originally planned a NaNo story for these two so I’ll likely write more of them later on! ]]

Tamazi stared intently at the marks on the map. They didn’t mean anything to her yet, but she thought if she memorized them, it would help. She’d assured the small animal — Harvian, he said he was called — that she could bring him to the place he wanted to go. But in truth, she had no idea where it was, other than south. Tamazi had never crossed the borders of their clan’s territory, let alone been further than that. She had heard stories of what lurked there, all the cubs had, but she didn’t know how much of them were true. Nor was she sure how they would eat. The small creature certainly wasn’t going to be bringing down any prey, and Tamazi had not yet either — technically speaking. He had some dried meat and fruits in his pack, but that was hardly enough. Tamazi looked up at the night sky, broad and quiet. The Huntress’s eye would close soon.

She worried as well that Harvian might not be able to keep up with her; she trotted in long, loping strides as Kamara had taught her, covering the ground quickly. But despite his short legs and his obtrusive clothing, he scampered rapidly, hopping over obstacles in the way. Perhaps she needn’t worry about him keeping up, he seemed to have boundless energy. More, he wanted to talk. A lot.

“Where are you from?”

“What’s your clan like?”

“How old are you?”

“Have you ever been to the temple?”

These he asked, and many more. Tamazi lowered her ears and focused on the task of moving south. She could figure out the specifics later on. When she didn’t reply, Harvian talked about himself instead. Admittedly, Tamazi found this a bit more interesting. She was curious about the little creature, but didn’t want to admit it. He was from the forests, far to the north. It seemed a very long way for such a small creature to travel. Tamazi wondered if he had walked all that way on his own, and alone. Had he had help from one of the mountain clans? Tamazi had heard about them, but never actually seen one. They were rumored to be big, brutish and muscular, their fur colored like the stone they lived on. They were also nomads, living alone. Tamazi doubted that one would tolerate Harvian’s presence for long, if that were true. He spoke of the cities he’d traveled to, and Tamazi had difficulty imagining such places. Still, it might be interesting to visit one day. She could become a wanderer, go where she wished, because she could never return to her clan. Was that what her mother had done? Tamazi suddenly wished she had asked Karama more about her, but she guessed that she had already told her as much as she knew. Whoever she was, she had left Tamazi as an infant with the Shoulder Scar clan.

They could not sleep in the open. There was danger from the herds, and the possibility of patrols from the neighboring clan. Though they were not yet across their border, Tamazi knew that they were not far. Their scent could attract attention if the wind was not in their favor. She leapt up into a lightning-struck tree and stretched out on a cracked branch there. Harvian climbed with surprising nimbleness and found a branch of his own, though he looked doubtful. She heard him tossing and turning and muttering to himself through the dark hours, so he must not have slept very well. Nor did Tamazi, but because she was worried. She worried about what lay ahead of them, and she worried what her clan must think of her now. Mostly she worried about  Karama. Was she afraid? Would she share Tamazi’s shame for failing her blood hunt? It wouldn’t be fair if she did, Karama was not her true mother and status was passed down, not up. But it still weighed on Tamazi’s mind, and it was a long time before her eyes closed to sleep.

The sun was too bright. Normally Tamazi’s clan slept during the day, resting to save their strength for the hunt in the evening. Tamazi felt tired, and Harvian looked tired as well. But the scent of a Ear Notch clan patrol caused every nerve to be on alert. It was likely from the previous night, but there was no doubt they had crossed into another clan’s territory. Tamazi would need a good excuse to avoid trouble, and she did not have one. Worse, she was unmarked, the sign of a wanderer, so there would be no repercussions should they decide to hurt her. They would have to get out of here as quickly as they could. There would be other clans, of course, further south, but maybe they had different ways of doing things. Tamazi could only hope. She turned her head back to look at Harvian. He still followed at her side, though with less enthusiasm than the day before. Get on my back, she told him. It will go faster. The little creature blinked in surprise, but did as she said, clutching the loose skin of Tamazi’s neck to hold on. She could only imagine what a sight they must make! But there was not time to pause to consider this. Tamazi broke into a run, a full outstretched gallop across the parched ground. A cloud of dust trailed them.

According to Harvian’s map, there was a canyon at the southern edge of this clan’s territory. Tamazi could remember the black marks on the map in her mind. She did not know any way they could get across it, save for climbing down and then climbing back up again. She hoped she would discover a solution before they arrived, else she look foolish. They paused in the shade of a small tree, Tamazi flopping onto the ground heavily, her sides heaving. She had run until she thought her lungs would burst, and she needed to rest. Harvian looked at the map again. No doubt he saw the canyon ahead of them. His small black ears twitched to and fro. Had he found a way across? He looked into his pack, opening some of the small pockets and sniffing the things he found inside. Tamazi didn’t know what they were, but they smelled acrid and dusty, like dried plants. Definitely not food. Her stomach rumbled in protest, all the same. They would need to eat soon, especially if Tamazi planned to run the whole way. She decided it would be best to make it across the canyon first; though she had no way to know whether the clan on that side would be any less hostile than this one, it seemed like a good idea.

“I need a minute,” said Harvian, gathering his strange-smelling herbs. “Or, well, a few.”

Now? Tamazi asked, incredulous. Of course he couldn’t fully know the danger of being trespassers in a strange clan, but still.

“Keep a lookout for me,” he said, taking out a small glass bottle and dropping some of them in. He put in a liquid as well, some sort of oil that Tamazi could not identify. She lashed her tail in frustration, but got to her feet, scenting the breeze for any signs of danger. Hurry, Tamazi said. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she smelled someone. The wind wasn’t cooperating.

Harvian didn’t answer, but continued mixing things in his bottle. Tamazi could not imagine what he was doing that commanded such urgency, unless it was somehow going to be something to eat. As if in understanding her, stomach grumbled again. Then all at once, Tamazi could smell them: not one but three, and they were close by. They’re coming! she hissed to Harvian, who seemed completely unruffled as he took a pinch of something and dropped it into his bottle.

Tamazi squared herself, ready for the onslaught. She would surely be killed, or at the very least dragged before their Chief Huntress. They had no doubt noticed her scent the night before, and sent three huntresses to deal with the threat, rather than a lone patrol. Tamazi saw the grasses part before them, fanned out to attack her flanks. She startled as Harvian scrambled onto her back again. “Go, go! To the canyon!”

She turned on her heels and ran, not daring to look behind her to see how close they were. No doubt Harvian could do it for her, as he kept urging her forward. She could feel his little paws clutched tightly to her neck. “Just a bit more–” he chattered. Tamazi could see the canyon before them, the earth yawning wide in either direction as far as she could see. There was no bridge, no path to climb down, and even if there had been, the patrol was on their heels. Just what did Harvian plan to do now? She felt something wet between her shoulders, and for a brief moment of panic thought that she was bleeding. Instead, she felt the breeze rise and herself with it; as if she was fighting a very strong headwind. “Go!” Harvian barked again, and Tamazi could hear the footfalls of the Ear Notch patrol behind them. “Flap!”

Flap? What did he — but somehow, her body did what her mind didn’t quite yet understand, and she flapped her wings. Great, illusionary wings sprouted from her shoulders, shimmering in the bright sunshine. She flapped once, twice, to stabilize herself and then leapt forward, over the canyon. It sprawled below them and Tamazi could only look down in awe as they passed over. No doubt the Ear Notch patrol was just as stunned as she was. As her paws touched down on the ground on the other side, the wings vanished in a wisp of smoke. She looked, wide-eyed, at Harvian. You did that. It was a statement, not a question.

He nodded, looking more exhausted than ever. “I need to rest now.”

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