Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
The Chase




Chapter 40
The Chase

Gargantuan trees grow everywhere on Tuell. Giant whales swim the vast oceans of Unna’tu. The massive space factories of Kazoski churn out behemoth vessels. But everything on Raheem is human-scale, by design.

—The Biology of Raheem: Lessons in Terraforming.

For two hours, they ran uninterrupted. The tracks were easy to follow. The man had not tried to be stealthy. Maybe he imagined no one would follow him. They had drawn closer to the hills, and now the terrain was less grassy, more rocky, with exposed patches of limestone.

The sun was still rising, and they were sweating. If the man had walked all night and all morning, he would have covered about the same distance. They felt he could not be very far.

“Wait, wait,” Yigars said, holding his hand up. They stopped running, and he crouched, studying the ground and finding traces of the wild man’s passage. “That way”

Yigars rose and pointed at the ground. He turned to face the mountains, which rose gently before suddenly shifting to sheer rock for hundreds of meters.

“He went in there?” Ipsena asked.

“Perhaps some cave or shelter hidden within the rocks?”

“Should we follow?” Agra asked, no force in the question.

Yigars looked around, then sighed.

“There’s no trail, and it’s hard to find footprints on the rocks.”

Ipsena shielded her eyes as she looked at the mountain peak.

“There’s also the risk of those creatures,” Agra said.

Ipsena kept her eyes steady on the upper rock face.

“What creatures? The ones Trion told me about in the ship you explored?”

“Yes, those creatures.”

Yigars took a step back, looking down into the valley they had come from. They had left the safety of the grass, clumps of trees, and scattered bushes behind.

“We should leave. I sense a different danger.”

Ipsena lowered her arm.

“I feel it too. Some ancient presence watching us. I don’t like this place.”

Holding her spear in the crook of her arm, Agra wrote in her notebook: ‘Sensed Danger near Mountain.’

They had traveled east some distance, slowly shifting northward. Further north-east lay yet uncharted land. As they made their way back down to the grassy stretch, Agra smoked a Genoresis Macraw leaf.

“Didn’t feel it while we were running. Leg’s aching.”

“Do you want to take a break? We can rest a moment,” Yigars offered.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.”

Agra’s face told a different story. Ipsena touched Yigars’ arm.

“We should wait.”

Agra straightened. “It’s working already. I’ll be okay. You two go ahead back to camp. I’ll go explore down that way.” She pointed south.

Yigars looked at Agra, pondering what she had said.

“Go, I’ll catch up. Go on ahead.” Agra began walking away to the south.

They watched her as they walked back to camp, one moment walking, another turning to see her.

“She’s limping.”

“She is,” Yigars stated. “She’s tough, and proud, and won’t be happy if we hang around.”

“What if she gets in trouble?”

Yigars looked back to where Agra had been just a moment before she’d stepped into the foliage. “She said we should go. She made her choice.”

Ipsena turned to look at Yigars, searching his eyes.

“You care about her, don’t you?”

“I do.”

Ipsena squinted, looking north at the mountains. She began humming the tune of her lament to Esiron, then slowly began walking back to camp.

Agra stopped by a creek, her leg on fire despite the herb. The chase had exhausted her, and she knew she needed rest before beginning the long walk back.

She had two more Genoresis Macraw rolled leaves. She’d rest and smoke another one before heading back. Spotting a thick tree with grass at the base, and after warily searching the area, she lowered herself and sat against the trunk, stretching her legs on the ground with a wince.

Suddenly, Agra opened her eyes. The sun had shifted. The shadows had lengthened. The air bore the stillness of the late afternoon.

“You’re awake.”

An unknown voice.

She still had her bow and spear across her lap.

Two figures appeared on her left, the sun behind them not allowing her to see their faces. From the headgear she saw the shape of wolves, the pointy ears clear in contrast.

“Your veil.”

Agra realized she was still wearing it.

“What of it?” She reached to touch it.

“Where did you get it?”

“It was a gift.”

Agra stood. Her leg no longer aching.

“We watched over you as you slept.”

“Thank you.”

The tall one spoke, the shorter did not. However, she could tell it was the shorter one who led.

“You are of the wolf clan—”

“What’s your name?” The short one interrupted. The voice was higher only by a touch.

“Agra. I am—”

“We know who you are.”

Agra remained still. The woman, for it was a woman, wore a nearly replica of her own veil.

“Are you Pallas?”

The tall one stepped back, but the woman only chuckled, stepping forward and extending her hand.

“You know who I am.”

Agra shook her hand.

“How is Daroo?’ Pallas asked.

“He is fine. He’s waiting for my return at our camp.”

Agra saw the smile in Pallas’ eyes.

“Come with me and see him yourself.”

“I… I do not wish to see Yigars.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Please tell Daroo I am happy he is well. And please—” She touched Agra’s forearm. “Don’t tell Yigars I mentioned him.”

The man looked away, as though distracting himself.

Agra saw Pallas had more to say, but that now was not the time. Her eyes told stories enough.

“It’s a long way back. I should get started.”

The walk back was pleasant. On her way, she found four extra pemmican balls in her bag, courtesy of the wolf clan.

Just before reaching camp, she saw a small brown fox watching her from atop a boulder. It remained still as she approached.

She’d come to appreciate their presence, imagining they watched over her or guided her through the wilderness. She jotted on her map “fox sighting.” She half expected it to vanish before she looked up from her map, but it didn’t. It was still there, simply sniffing the breeze.

“Good evening Mister Fox,” she said aloud.

When she arrived at camp, Daroo was standing on the roof of the kitchen and waved at her as he spotted her. She told them all of what had happened, omitting that Pallas had mentioned Yigars, though she promised herself she would tell him later, in private.

Next chapter: Boars

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