This Sight is Continuously Evolving

Children of the Coyote

Chapter 17
Followed Across The Lava Flow


        Lizardfoot and Tagalong begin their struggle across the lava flow via the rout that Lizardfoot had found on the day they arrived at the oasis. When they reach the top of the rock slide that allows egress from the canyon that had contained their camp, Lizard points out a large conical smoking peak.
        "Do you see that tall burning mountain?" He asks pointing at the smoldering peak on the horizon.
         "Yes," she replies hesitantly. "What about it? It looks frightening."
         "That Is our destination." He announces.
         "Oh," she mumbles. "I was afraid you were going to say that."
        At first there is a fair path where all the animal trails heading for the water hole converge but further out on the flow the trails separate and eventually disappear. After a short time, Lizardfoot and Tagalong's feet become cut and scraped by the rough lava. They put on their grass sandals and hobble onward. The going is much more difficult than Lizardfoot had foreseen. The black rock becomes very hot from the sun that beats down from a crystal clear sky. They are forced to make many detours around large chasms that appear suddenly in the apparently flat black surface of the flow. Surface water is nonexistent. Occasionally the two can see water running in the bottom's of some of the huge cracks as they work their way around them. Twice they hear the sound of a running stream below their feet in the bowls of the earth. The entire day is consumed crossing the flow. By sunset they find a way to descend the northern wall.
        They are now in a land of Pine and Juniper forests. The ground is sandy and porous with very little prospect of water. Our Travelers have been very conservative in their use of the precious liquid when crossing the flow. By only drinking from one of the bladders that they carried, they were able to preserve one for future use.
        Their first concern is to find a safe place to camp. Lizardfoot suggests that they separate to look but Tagalong emphatically declines, pointing out that there is no way she will get out of Lizard's sight as long as the night killer is still alive and possibly waiting to take revenge for the loss of it's eye. After a short hesitation Lizardfoot agrees with her. They follow the edge of the lava wall to the West.
        Just as the sun is touching the tops of the Western Mountains they find a suitable cave high on the shear wall of lava. They search the face of the cliff for hand or foot holds to use to access the cave but find none.
        Looking up at the opening Lizardfoot suggests that if Tagalong stands on his shoulders she may be able to reach the cave. With his back to the rock he makes a step by entwining the fingers of both hands together. She places her foot in the hand stirrup and he easily lifts her to his shoulders. In this way She manages to scramble into the cleft. The cave is not large but there is enough room for the two people a fire and the pup.
        Once Tagalong is in the cave she calls down to Lizardfoot to throw up the rope. When he complies she ties one end to a piece of rock that is jutting out of the side of the wall.
        "Pull up the packs first and I will collect some fire wood." Lizard calls up to her.
        "You just wait for me Lizardfoot!" She calls back to him sternly. "You aren't going to leave me alone as long as that cat is out there some where."
        "Oh, okay but hurry we are running out of light and you know how long it takes to get a fire going." He says.
        Tagalong drops the loose end of the rope to Lizard. He quickly ties one of the packs to the rope and she hoists it to the opening. The operation is repeated for the second pack then she lowers herself to the ground next to Lizardfoot.
        "Well what are we waiting for." She teases. "Let's get some fire wood."
        They each bring several armloads of wood back to the base of the cave.
        "That should do it" Lizardfoot proclaims. "We should be able to keep a fire all night."
        Soon all the wood is stored and Lizard is sweating over the fire making tools.
        Tagalong watches him work shaking her head. "We have got to find a better way to do this she mumbles to herself."
        "Why does this rubbing of sticks make fire?" She asks.
        "I'm not really sure." He answers. "It has something to do with friction causing heat. According to what Bringer Of Fire taught me the faster you rub the wood together the hotter it gets until it begins to deposit hot dust onto the pile that collects at the bottom of the base board. Eventually the pile becomes an ember and then can be used to ignite the tinder and finally produce fire."
        "What If instead of scraping the wood back and forth with the branch, you twisted the branch rapidly in one spot, concentrating the heat and possibly speeding up the process?" She asks innocently.
        Rubbing for all he is worth, Sweat dripping off his nose he looks at her sideways. "Well it might work that way but for this fire I will use the old tried and true method. We can experiment when we have more time." He pants.
        After long minutes of hard work, he finally has a glowing ember that he carefully transfers the nest that he has previously prepared. Soon the two young people are sitting in the warmth of a cheery fire crackling away at the entrance to their cave.
        They share a meal of dried meat, nuts, dried berries and sips of warm slightly acrid water from the lamb's bladder. After the meal they sit leaning against the back of the cave staring into the flames and listening to the sounds of the night. The hoot of an owl the mournful howling of wolves in the distance, and the singing of a lone coyote not far off, All these sounds are the normal background noise of this land. There is only one sound that their ears seek and that they do not want to hear. That sound is the scream of the night killer.
        The two young people are beginning to dose. Presently Lizardfoot suggests that they take turns keeping the fire alive.
        "I will take the first turn," he says. "You get some rest. I will wake you when it is time."
        Tagalong rolls up in her robe and quickly drifts off to sleep.
        The night passes quietly, discounting the normal screams and hoots and howls of this violent world. Nothing offers the two travelers any harm.
        Only once does the little canine stir from its sleeping place curled up as close to Tagalong as possible. Lizardfoot doses with the back of his head resting against the wall and his feet pointed at the fire. The pup lifts her head ears erect a low growl rumbles in her throat. She rises to her feet and cautiously moves toward the lip of the cave, growling. Lizardfoot hears her steering, opens his eyes and gets to his feet. Holding his spear in his right hand he throws some fine kindling and tinder on the fire with his left. Quickly, the flames flare illuminating the cave but not penetrating the darkness out side. He strains his ears trying to separate what the animal might be hearing among the other sounds of the night. After a short time the pup whines and returns to Tagalongs side. She sits down between her adopted mother and the opening, still growling softly and staring into the night.
        Lizardfoot stands listening a while longer, then he turns and is about to sit when he freezes straining his ears.
         "Was that something or just the wind in the trees?" He thinks. "There it is again, a kind of swishing sound at the base of the cliff."
Stomach knotted with fear Lizardfoot approaches the lip and peers over the edge. He can see nothing in the darkness below him. He cocks his head and listens intently but hears nothing odd. Lizardfoot turns to go back to his seat. Tagalong is sitting up staring at him with wide fearful eyes.
        "It, it is back." She declares with a quavering voice.
        "No, it's all right. I thought I might have heard something but I must have been mistaken." He assures her. "Go on back to sleep."
        "No thanks." She replies. "I think I'll stay awake for a while. You go ahead and get some rest, I'll wake you if I get tired or if anything happens."
        Nothing more occurs that night.
        When Lizard wakes sunlight is just touching the tips of the trees in front of their cave. He looks over at Tagalong. She is sitting with her knees pulled close to her chest and her head resting on her knees. The spear rests against her shoulder with the but on the ground and the sharpened end above and behind her. She is snoring softly.
        Lizard picks up a large pebble and tosses it at Tagalongs feet. The pebble strikes her big toe bringing her to instant wakefulness. She looks around quickly and she sees Lizardfoot watching her. When their eyes meet, she looks at the ground.
        "I, I slept," she admits apologetically.
        "We could have been eaten." He says softly, watching her. "That's once," he continues with a serious expression on his face.
        She looks up quickly starring into his eyes.
`       As hard as he tries, he can't keep a straight face. First the right corner of his mouth begins to twitch, and then he starts to chuckle. Soon he is laughing heartily. She picks up a hand full of dirt and throws it at him playfully then joins him in the laughter.
        When they are composed once more he suggests that they eat and be on their way.
        Tagalong lowers herself to the ground using the rope. Lizardfoot then pulls up the end, ties their gear to it and lowers the packs, one containing a nervous puppy. He unties the upper end of the line and drops it to her.
        He sits down on the lip of the opening and slipping over the edge he hangs by his fingers for a moment then drops to the sandy earth. When he regains his feet he sees Tagalong kneeling a short distance away studying something.
        "What is it?" He calls, walking toward her.
        As he reaches her, she looks up at him with wide frightened eyes.
        "It was here last night, look." She whispers looking about. "It followed us," she continues.
        Lizardfoot drops to one knee and inspects the track.
        "There was definitely a large cat by here last night but we don't know that it was the same one that attacked us." He says in an attempt to soothe her fears.
        "I know!" She answers defiantly. "I knew last night." She whispers almost to her self.
        "What do you mean, you knew last night?" He asks.
        "I'm not exactly sure," she says. "Last night while you were on guard as I slept. I had what I can only call a dream but it was not the same as a normal dream." She rings her hands and looks into his eyes for support.
        "Go on," he prompts her.
        "Well, I had these feelings and images in my head. I felt malevolence, and thoughts of revenge. In my mind I could see flickering lights, then there was much noise and confusion. Then there was a bright flash. That's when I sat up and saw you returning to the fire." As she finishes her explanation she looks to him for answers.
        He stands there scratching his ear for a moment. "Lets get moving," he finally says. "Maybe we can get out of this cat's territory. Maybe then it will leave us alone." He continues not to convincingly.
        They gather up their equipment and start off toward the smoking peak in the distance.

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