This Sight is Continuously Evolving

Children of the Coyote

Chapter 15

            Two young people sitting in a cave miles away having lunch, stop eating. The girl looks over at the boy.
            "Some thing has happened." She says. "Do you feel it?"
            "Yes," the boy says. "I feel a great sadness. What do you feel?" Lizardfoot asks softly.
            "I feel sorrow like some one close to me has died." Tagalong answers.
            "Yes but who?" He asks, looking into her eyes.
            After a moments thought they both whisper, "Speaks First".
            The girl covers her face with her hands and sobs. Lizard moves closer and puts an arm around her shoulders. She reaches out, encircles his neck and bares her face against his chest still sobbing. Unsure what to do next he simply holds her caressing her hair and stares out of the entrance to the cave. Memories of the ancient leader of the people come to him and a tear runs down his cheek. He wipes it away with the back of his hand sniffs and clears his throat.
            "How much longer before the meat is cured sufficiently to pack?" He asks quietly.
            She sits back, shakes her head to clear the hair from her face. She wipes her eyes, then after a few deep breaths, she says with a catch in her throat. "Maybe tomorrow, or the next day. Why?"
            "We must be on our way soon." He says seriously. "I have a feeling of urgency that I can't shake. I feel that some thing very important is about to happen and we are a part of it."
            "I want you to show me how to use the new rock thrower that you and the old man developed. The one that I have is almost useless. I can't hit any thing with it." He continues.
            She reaches behind her and pulls her pack to her. She retrieves the bag of rocks and hands it to Lizard.
            He opens the bag and removes the hide sling. He holds the flimsy looking tool before him and looks at it sidewise. "I don't know, are you sure this will work?" He asks suspiciously.
            "Of coarse it works I have been practicing and I can hit almost any thing I throw at. It is really very easy, almost like throwing a rock with your hand only with much more force. Let's go outside and I can show you how to use it." She says rising to her feet and starting for the entrance to the cave. Lizard follows.
            Soon they are standing at the base of the cliff in front of their cave.
            "What shall we use as a target?" She asks as he joins her.
            "How about that large boulder over there." He suggests, pointing to a house sized chunk of rock nearby.
            "That is a little big don't you think and a little close too." She teases. "How about that little one over there she says." Pointing to a pumpkin sized rock forty paces away.
            "You can't possibly hit that little rock from here." He says
            "Oh yeah? Well you just watch." She replies as she centers a stone in the pouch of the sling.
            "Stand back," she instructs.
            Tagalong starts twirling the sling above her head. Once, twice, then on the third she releases the loose end of the sling. The projectile whizzes through the air and with a loud crack knocks a large chip off the target.
            Lizardfoot stands with his mouth agape. He turns to Tagalong. "Just luck." He says. "I bet you can't do that again."
            "Oh yeah? What do you want to bet?" She asks, smiling at him.
            "If you can do that again on your next try, I will bring in all the firewood for tonight." He replies with a smirk on his face.
            She winds up again, throws and "THWACK" her aim is good once more.
            He looks at her incredulously. Then he shrugs his shoulders, shakes his head and mutters to himself. "I should know better than to bet with you by now. Okay, show me how you do it." he requests.
            She complies, and after a short time Lizardfoot is able to occasionally hit the small target.
            "This is much better than the wooden rock thrower that I have. I will have to make one of these for myself, but now I have some fire wood to collect." He says with a smile.
            "I will take the pup and go check the snares to see what we will be having for supper." She says as she stuffs the sling into the bag and attaches the bag to her belt. "Come on pup." She calls to the little canine. "Let's go for a walk."
            The puppy rises from where she is sleeping under a bush. She stretches yawns and follows Tagalong.
            Lizard watches them as they walk away. He can't help but notice the sway of Tagalong's backside as she moves. Again he feels that now familiar tingle that he gets when he looks at her.
            He sighs and begins looking for firewood.
            Lizard is in the cave dumping his last load of wood when Tagalong enters. She is carrying two rabbits. Tag, sets the rabbits down near the fire pit then walks to the cave entrance and peers out at the oasis that has been their privet domain for the last few days.
            Lizardfoot notices her standing at the cave mouth with her arms across her chest, her hands griping her elbows as if she were hugging herself. He approaches her and places a hand on her shoulder. At his touch she spins around to face him, her eyes wide and full of fear.
            "It's back" she whispers.
            "What? Whose back?" He asks.
            "When I got to first snare I found a rabbit. I took it and went to the next; there I found another rabbit. All the time I had the feeling I was being watched. When I came to the third snare it was empty so I went to the next. There I found a pile of feathers. Some thing had stolen the grouse that was caught in it. I began looking for the tracks of what ever had raided our snares. I expected to find the spore of a coyote or bobcat." She says blandly then a shiver goes through her.
            "What is it?" He insists. "What did you find?"
            "Puma," she whispers.
            "Are you sure?" he asks with raised eyebrows.
            "Of coarse I'm sure." She snaps.
            "I'm Sorry, I didn't mean to question your tracking ability I was just hoping that you were wrong." He says gently.
            "What do we do now?" She asks, ignoring his apology. He thinks a moment then says, "it's too late to go any where now. We are safer here tonight than we would be out in the open. We will just have to be careful and keep the fire going high tonight. In the morning we can leave early and maybe we will not have a problem with the Night Killer. I have been collecting a supply of pitch knots for just such an emergency. We can set them up at the cave opening. They will burn bright for a long time and will likely keep the cat away." He continues.
            "Are you sure?" She asks. "I am frightened." She goes on, another shiver rattling her frame.
            Lizard looks at the ground and shakes his head. "No," he says. "I only now that Bringer of Fire, told me that the four legged ones are afraid of the flames and the fire will protect us."
            "I sure hope Bringer of Fire is right." She says quietly.
            "Me too," he mumbles. "One of us will have to stay awake to guard while the other sleeps. We can take turns, that way if anything happens we won't be caught unaware. The one on guard can also keep the fire going." He continues.
            That evening in the cave it is as bright as day what with the burning pitch torches arranged across the opening and the fire in the pit burning high. The two young people huddle together in fear and watch the cave mouth for any sign of the big cat. Sensing the tension in the two humans, the pup lies with her chin resting in her paws, her eyes wide open ears forward. Every now and then the little dog rises and walks to the entrance. For a few moments she sits, looking into the darkness, then whining uncertainly she returns to her former resting place.
            Fatigue is catching up with Tagalong. She can no longer keep her eyes open. Soon she sags against Lizardfoot. He puts an arm around her and supports her head on his shoulder. He leans his head back against the rock wall of the cave listening to her steady breathing. Soon, he to is fighting to stay awake. He shifts Tagalong so that he can lay her down on her robe. He covers her with his own and stands up. He walks to the opening of the cave, steps passed the torches and standing on the lip he relieves himself over the side. The only sound he hears is the rumbling of the waterfall and the crackling of the fire. He inspects the torches and finds two that have burned down. These he takes into the cave where he adds them to the fire pit. He takes up two fresh ones and returns to the entrance where he sets them in place. As he turns back to the fire he sees the pup standing between himself and Tagalong. The pup stands with her ears perked watching the opening a low growl rumbling in her throat. 
            Lizardfoot stops in his tracks listening as hard as he can.
             "Was that a noise outside or did I just imagine it." He wonders.
            He strains his ears but still can hear nothing except the waterfall and the fire.
            "It's okay," he says to the pup as he approaches. "There is nothing out there."
            He reaches down to scratch the pup behind the ears. A screaming roar freezes him in place for a split second. Tagalong sits straight up. Throwing the robe from her she jumps to her feet. 
            Lizardfoot grabs his spear in his right hand, pulls a burning torch from the fire with his left and pivots to meet the intruder. He rushes at the cave entrance where the great cat can be seen pacing back and forth, growling, confused by the smoke and flames.
            The Cat screams and again Lizardfoot feels his knees buckle but he fights against the fear. Leading with the spear and feinting with the burning brand he lets out his own battle cry, some what puny compared to that of the monster at the door but he keeps up the harangue as he pokes first the spear, then the firebrand at the animal. The cat easily defends it self against Lizards attack, swatting the spear out of the way and dodging the burning stick. The torches effectively keep the cat out side the cave opening. The battle continues for many minutes, Lizard jabbing, parrying and yelling, the cat swatting, dodging and screaming. The pup wades into the melee adding to the general confusion by barking and charging the giant Puma. The cat takes an effortless swipe at the pup and the little animal is hurtled into the blackness out side the cave.
            Behind him Lizard hears a scream only slightly less terrible than that of the great cat, a scream, not of fear or loss but one of vengeance.
            Some thing buzzes passed Lizardfoot's left ear. The torch in his hand explodes into a shower of hot embers. The stone from Tagalongs sling carries them into the face of the cat driving one large coal deep into the creatures left eye, destroying it.
            The giant Puma leaps back into the darkness from the lip of the cave. It can be herd screaming in agony as it thrashes on the sand below trying to extinguish the pain in its ruined socket. Then the two young people here the terrible beast moving away. Soon it is quiet once more; all that can be heard is the crackling of the fire and the tumbling of the falls.
            Tagalong sinks to the ground. Covering here face she begins to sob. Lizardfoot steps to her side. Dropping to his knees he takes her in his arms, she berries her face against his neck.
            "It's okay," he says gently. "It's gone, we are safe."
            She only sobs harder.
            "The...the pu...puppy," she manages to blubber.
            "Oh, yeah," he mumbles. "Brave little bugger," he says soberly.
            A noise causes them to look around. Behind Lizard, stands the soaking wet little dog.
            Tagalong squeals with delight and holds her arms out to the whelp. The puppy runs up to her. When it is between the two humans the dog begins shaking the water from her fur. Holding their hands before them to ward off the spray, the two young people start to scold the pup. They stop, look at each other and laugh heartily. Tagalong picks up the wet little canine and cuddles it to her. Lizardfoot reaches out and takes both the girl and the dog in his arms. The two humans embrace with the puppy between them happily liking at both their faces.
            After a long embrace Lizardfoot sits back and says; "I think it will be safe to get some sleep. I don't believe that the cat will return again tonight. By dawn I want to be packed up and out of here."
            Tagalong agrees. "I'll stay awake for a while. I don't think I can sleep right now, I'm still too frightened. You try and get a little rest, I'll begin packing the meat so we will be ready to leave at first light." She says.    
            "Okay," he says but if you hear anything don't hesitate to wake me.
            "Don't worry I will," she answers emphatically.
            Lizardfoot lies down on his robe and in a short time he is asleep, breathing softly.
            Tagalong sits near the fire holding the puppy, her eyes wide staring at the entrance to the cave. Despite the heat of the fire she shivers as she recalls the fight with the giant Puma. Luck alone had saved them. Had she missed the creature or worse yet, had she hit Lizardfoot with the rock they would both be cat food by now.
            "Well," she says to the pup. "I can't sit here holding you all night or I will go to sleep."
            She sets the little animal down, stands and walks to the meat smoking rack. She checks the moisture content of the jerky and decides that it is sufficiently cured to be packed away. Walking back to where the packs are stored, she picks them up and returning to the rack she places equal amounts of the food in each pack. Done with that, she carries the packs back to their place against the wall behind the sleeping area.
            "What can I do now." She asks her self.
            Looking around she notices that some of the torches at the entrance are burning out, so she pulls two from the fire and moves to the cave mouth to replace them. As she stoops to set the torches in place, she is brought to attention by the chilling scream of the huge cat, far away. Quickly she sets up the beacons and retreats to the fireside. She grabs her spear and sits down on the side of the fire furthest from the opening. The pup sits next to her and whines to be petted. With the spear clutched tightly in her right hand she scratches the pup behind the ears. The pup rolls onto her back so that Tagalong will rub her belly. Tagalong complies.
            As the gray light of dawn begins to seep into the cave, Lizardfoot wakes up. He looks toward the fire and sees Tagalong curled up on the ground with the puppy curled against her. He reaches over and gently touches Tagalongs shoulder. The girl sits straight up, eyes wide with fear. Grabbing her spear she looks around.
            "What's wrong?" She asks with panic in her voice.
            "Nothing," he says. "It's okay. It's morning and we should be leaving here soon."
            "Oh," she replies rubbing sleep from her eyes. "I already packed the meat." She says as she rises to her feet. "All we need to do is eat something and fill the water bladders. Then we will be ready." She continues
            In a short time they are ready to leave. As they pass out of the cave mouth the two young people turn and look at their snug camp. They sigh in unison.
            "This was a good camp." Lizardfoot says as they turn to leave.
            "Yes," she agrees. "Except, that it is also the home of the Puma." She continues with a shiver.

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